After premiering A Private War at the Toronto Film Festival, Aviron brought stars Rosamund Pike and Jamie Dornan together for a panel to discuss the legacy of famous war correspondent Marie Colvin (played by Pike in the film), who was killed in 2012 after illegally crossing the Syrian border into the city of Homs with photographer Paul Conroy (played by Jamie Dornan).
Asked what attracted her to the role, Pike answered, “I think it’s a combination of things. Marie was a woman who I greatly admired, but I also thought it would be a story that other people, if they didn’t know her already, would find inspiring. Precisely because there’s the trope of the fearless war reporter, but here [in this story] is someone who is not fearless, who has tremendous fear, but also has tremendous belief and goes through that fear in the name of the cause she believes in.”
She continued, “When I heard that Matthew Heineman was going to direct it, I thought, ‘Well, this seems perfect,’ because I’m sure he’s someone who would have made a documentary about Marie had she lived, and I thought, ‘He’s going to be fearless. Or at least he is going to be ruthless in his examination of the subject matter. He’s not going to shirk from a very real portrait of both Marie and Paul and the war zones that they were covering.’”
Dornan felt a similar affinity with the material. “I think anyone who read the script and knew a little bit about that world would have felt very compelled to be a part of spreading the word,” he said. “I feel like a big part of doing this film is to shed further light on the magnitude of what these people put themselves through to tell the truth of what’s happening in these war-torn places. [Rosamund and I] definitely both done films like this before, where it’s just sort of entertainment and it provides some service, but then sometimes it goes a bit deeper than that, and you feel that opening people’s eyes to a certain cause, or a certain movement, can be a very good thing. And this was one of those.”
Just as it did for Pike, having Heineman as director sealed the deal for Dornan. “I think Matthew’s main focus, like most documentary makers, is to tell the truth,” he said, “and that isn’t always the case in film, so it’s a really refreshing element to bring in. Since 2012, when Marie was killed, half a million civilians have died in Syria, and it’s not getting any better. We’re sort of closed off to it. So having someone who wanted to honour the truth of that, rather than glamorize it or make it some sort of Hollywood version of what’s going on, was perfect.”