We chat with Gillian MacGregor on The Stolen and filming in New Zealand…
Originally from Ayrshire, Scotland, Gillian MacGregor is an award-winning actress with her best-known work including A Lonely Place to Die, Beyond and Street Fighter: Resurrection. She even won a Best Actress award at the International Valencia Film Festival for the popular series, Nikola Tesla and the End of the World.
Her new film The Stolen is a western adventure in which she shares the screen with a roster of talent including Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness, Men in Black 3), Graham McTavish (Preacher, Outlander), Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean, Kingsman: The Secret Service) and Richard O’Brien (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Crystal Maze).
In The Stolen, Charlotte Lockton (Alice Eve) has settled in New Zealand with her wealthy husband in 1860. But her life’s dreams are shattered when he’s murdered on their farm and her baby son is kidnapped. After paying a ransom and frustrated with the authorities, she decides to track him down, and so begins her journey through the wilds of an untamed New Zealand. She’s forced to join a convoy of ex-convicts, whores, hustlers and a native Maori warrior heading for the rough mining community of Gold Town. There she meets Joshua McCullen (Jack Davenport), the owner of the mining town: a man who is key to uncovering the truth behind the disappearance of her son, forcing her to fight for what she holds most dear.
In this exclusive interview, Gillian discusses her role and experiences filming this sweeping, cinematic movie.
Tell us about your character Heather and her role in the film…
When Alice Eve’s character, Charlotte, discovers she’s being blackmailed and decides to find her baby she joins a group, including Heather, heading to Goldtown to seek their fortune. Charlotte is like a fish out of water among these prostitutes and hustlers but Heather welcomes her and the women form an uneasy alliance with her as the details of Charlotte’s predicament are revealed.
I had no idea there was a New Zealand gold rush and one of the reasons I found Heather so interesting was because I was fascinated by the circumstances that may have brought a woman from Scotland to New Zealand in the 1850’s and what kind of person she must’ve been to survive in that landscape. Pretty tough it turns out! Having recently been released from prison where they cut off her hair and branded her neck with a tattoo, Heather turned to prostitution when she couldn’t get any work.
Heather is an early feminist, a natural businesswoman and is always trying to make the best of whatever situation she ends up in.
How did you find working with the cast?
Working with Alice Eve and Jack Davenport was great. It’s always interesting to see how other actors approach things and the cast was enormous on this one so there were so many opportunities to learn. The characters are so varied and from all over the world, with different backgrounds, and the actors gave it their all to bring them to life. It was also amazing to be a part of another project with a great female lead and, actually, so many women in general.
The Stolen was probably the most fun job I’ve ever worked on because I was able to hang around with the funniest people all day, every day. I spent most of the time with the travelling group and we all clicked immediately. Graham McTavish is obviously an amazing actor but he’s also the coolest guy to be around. Cohen Holloway and Stan Walker are absolutely hilarious and so brilliant in the film. I am a Rocky Horror fan so working with Richard O’Brien was really cool and he gives a great performance in the film which is completely different to what you’d expect. Stig Eldred is compelling to watch, not to mention a great guy and Mikaela Ruegg makes her debut on this yet she seems like she’s been working in film for years as she was so confident and at home on set. Emily Corcoran, who plays Honey in the film and also co-wrote and produced it, is one of my closest friends and the rest of the group really bonded so it was such a fun set. They are a brilliant group of people and it was such a pleasure to be in their company every day.
SEE ALSO: Read our review of The Stolen here
What was it like working with director Niall Johnson?
Niall has such a calm air about him which immediately fills you with confidence. He’s always completely in control and even the inevitable last minute changes that happen on set don’t seem to phase him at all. We’d worked together before on The Fight Room so I knew what to expect and it’s such a comfort to know you’re in safe hands. It’s always a collaboration with him on the day. He’s comfortable allowing the actors to explore the characters and it’s such a pleasure to be able to make suggestions about characterisation or quirks in the spur of the moment. He obviously had such a clear vision of what the film should be and it was breathtaking to watch the final film as he’s captured a truly epic story.
The film was shot in New Zealand. How was that?
I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand so I jumped at the chance! Christchurch still bears many scars from the 2011 earthquake which is really upsetting. I honestly can’t imagine what those people went through at the time and the community is so resilient, it’s really admirable. It was quite a challenge to shoot in the Canterbury region for many reasons but the producers insisted as they felt strongly that they wanted to give something back to the area so insisted the film be shot there.
It really is an amazing place. Most of the film was shot on location so I loved having the chance to see these incredible places which Niall and cinematographer Alun Bollinger captured so beautifully on film. The schedule was packed so I didn’t get the chance to explore as much as I would have liked so I guess it’s a great excuse to go back!
In addition to acting, you’ve also done some writing. How did that come about?
I initially started writing because I was frustrated at the type of role I was being seen for but now it’s something I’m compelled to do. I’m such a harsh critic and particularly so of myself so I sometimes struggle to get over that in order to share my work, but it’s something I’m working on! My first thing that was produced was Hit Girls when the amazing actress and producer Rosie Fellner picked it up. It was directed by the late Adrian Vitoria who was the most wonderful man and it was such an incredible experience working with him and Rosie. I was so green at the time and I learned so much from them both. That film and part changed the course of my life and career and I’ll be forever grateful.
The Stolen is released in cinemas and on demand 3rd November 2017 from Ascendant Releasing.