It’s Halloween season. Another year of countless horror films hitting theaters trying to become the “scariest movie of all time.” You might also have seen your Video on Demand (VoD) service pushing collections of classics like Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Child’s Play. Horror movies are everywhere this time of year. But Americans’ fascination with the genre has exploded so much, that horror movies are almost ubiquitous all year long. So what makes one of these movies worth seeing? For me, a film in this genre succeeds when it’s filled with psychodrama. Blood and gore are fine, but if you really want to terrorize me, get in my head. It’s increasingly difficult to pull off psychodrama, since our culture is bombarded with tragedy thanks to 24-hour news cycles and the omnipresence of social media. That being the case, when a film transcends the darkness of everyday life and gets me to invest in the world it creates, I take notice. The Windmill did just that.
The Windmill stars the talented Charlotte Beaumont, best known for her role in the popular crime drama Broadchurch. In the film, she borrows from her dramatic background to play the lead role of Jennifer, a young woman battling inner demons and external pressures. I was lucky enough to chat with Charlotte about her process approaching such a disturbed character, what it was like shooting in Holland, and her squeamish stomach. Not only was it a pleasure spending 15 minutes of my day with her, but I also learned what makes one of today’s biggest rising stars tick.
WARNING: We do discuss a few spoiler alert details, if you haven’t seen the film. But we definitely do NOT give away the ending.
CMR: Hi Charlotte. Can you hear me?
CB: Yes. I can hear you.
CMR: Great. How are you?
CB: Great. Thank you. How are you?
CMR: I’m very good, thank you. I know we only have 15 minutes, so I’ll jump right in. Is that okay?
CB: Yeah. Go for it.
CMR: Okay. Cool. So, ah, the first question I want to ask is — you know for many, especially in America, you are probably best known for playing Chloe Latimer on the crime drama Broadchurch.
CMR: So what drew you to a film like The Windmill?
CB: Um, well, I got the call about the script, and I kind of skipped through it first because it was a horror [film], and I read quite a few horrors that were not great. But the character [of Jennifer in The Windmill] was interesting. She had so many layers than your typical slasher film character. I just thought it was a really fun character and a challenge. It was another accent to do, and I really liked the characters and the storyline. And I really thought it would be something really cool to take part in.
CMR: Yeah, I really agree. It’s a lot more in-depth and interesting than a lot of the films that are trying to operate in the horror genre.
CB: Yeah. Big time.
CMR: Are you personally a fan of horror films?
CB: I’m not personally. I’m really, really rubbish. I’m the most squeamish person —
CB: — and doing this, I thought, “Oh, now I’ve seen the many [inaudible] prosthetics. I thought that now I know how it works, so I’ll be able to watch them.” I want to be able to watch them because they can be so fun. They can be such an adrenaline rush. But, personally, no matter how hard I try, I can’t do it. I’m terrible.
CMR: I feel much the same way about watching them. Absolutely.
CMR: So, one of the most beautiful parts of the film is the way that Holland is a character; the landscape is a character in the film. How would you describe your character shooting in Holland?
CB: Shooting in Holland?
CMR: Yeah, how would you describe that experience?
CB: It was the best ever. Cuz we shot some of it in Amsterdam, and then we got to go out to Holland and experience the real Holland. It was so much fun to have so many people around us. We got to see these amazing locations. We got to see our fair share of windmills and it’s such a brilliant backdrop for this particular horror film. And we just had the best time. I can’t believe how far we’ve come. It was really, really amazing fun. I can’t remember one of the little towns we stayed in, but it’s just really beautiful. A little community. It’s fun to see the little villages, as well as Amsterdam.
CMR: So, as you mentioned earlier, Jennifer is an incredibly layered character with a lot of mental baggage. She’s suffering from a deep regret. So I was wondering about your process to get in touch with such deep pain to play this character.
CB: Yeah. Well…that is quite tricky. She lost her little brother called Danny, as well. I did a lot of looking at the script to see what people say about her. I can see all [Jennifer’s] main qualities on paper of what I think this character is. That helped. Also, a couple of the scenes were improvised.
CB: And that doesn’t have to be right or wrong. The improvisation just helps you kind of find your way with finding a little bit of you in that character, and how you think she would react in certain situations, rather than just working from the script. You can have a little bit of free reign with it, and those scenes were really helpful. You know, the scene where [Jennifer] comes off the bus and I’ve just seen what happened to Jackson…that was improvised.
CMR: Oh, wow. Really?
CB: Nick [Jongerius, the film’s director] wanted that pure panic. We looked at the script, but then he said, “You know what…” and we just improvised. “You’ll find it better.” And I do think improvisation is such a key thing in finding your character. Because you can do a take and then go, “No. That wasn’t her. That was wrong.” But with improvisation you know. It’s just a good way of selecting what you want [the character] to be like…I hope that makes sense.
CMR: Yeah, absolutely, because I think it’s that thing of when you’re not thinking, you’re finding parts of yourself through improvisation very suddenly that you could search for, but still wouldn’t find in the same way.
CB: Yeah, completely.
CMR: Another really interesting part of Jennifer’s journey is this search for redemption. What’s your personal definition of redemption, and do you feel the character really finds it in the film?
CB: Um, I think — oh, that’s a good one — I think Jennifer finds redemption in a sense of owning up to what you did wrong and taking ownership of it. Not that you own it and don’t care about it anymore, but, you know, recognizing it and coming face to face with it and having that regret. Jennifer, I think, in part gets redemption from going back into a burning [windmill], something she couldn’t do with her own brother, [Danny]. She partly gets redemption there. But with her dad, you know, part of her redemption there is that she owns up to [killing her dad]. Oh, that was cut from the film, actually. The scene was cut at the very end, where she says, “I don’t regret killing my dad.” That’s kind of redemption. She’s owning up to that, you know, this is my fate now. I’m gonna get what’s coming to me, because I don’t regret that.
CMR: I was really enthralled with the kind of unexpected ending of the film that leaves you scratching your head and, you know, without giving too much away, did you have a general reaction when you read it in the script, along with a general way you were going to approach an ending like that?
CB: Oh, the ending. So, originally it didn’t end like that.
CMR: Oh, wow.
CB: The original ending — I’m not sure how much Nick would want me to say —
CB: But it ended quite nicely. It wasn’t a gorey ending in the original edit. Then, after feedback from different people Nick was working with, we did a reshoot, and they got [Adam Thomas Wright] that plays Curt, and they used a dummy and they filmed [a new] scene without me. The first time I saw that scene was when they did the preview in London. And that took me very much by surprise, when I saw it. I jumped up. But I do think the film needed that. I really love the original ending, but, you know, to go out with one final scare — and I don’t look like I’m gonna make it — I think it’s good for slasher fans. Plot-wise, maybe a drama wouldn’t have ended like that, but it’s just one more nod to that genre.
CMR: And I think, too, one of the things that makes this film successful more than a lot of other slasher films is that it does a lot to the viewer psychologically. So it’s not only just scare tactics, but, you know, the audience, there’s a lot of work put on them to invest themselves in the world that’s being created.
CB: Yeah. There’s a huge amount of work, because there’s plot, as well. Slashers are [usually] all about the gore and the scare factor, but this film has a kind of like a Grimm’s Fairy Tale feel to it, where it is quite surreal and story-like. I really like that element of it. And that sets it apart from other slashers.
CMR: By this point in your career, you’ve tackled a lot of different roles and done a lot of different genres. And I’m curious, do you have a sort of dream role, or do you have something you’d really love to do that you just haven’t had the chance to do yet?
CB: Well, I think, after shooting this, I like playing the character that is a leader and a strong, yet flawed lady that gets people out of situations and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. And I think a part I’d like to do is an action film. That’s a guilty pleasure, there. I’d like to do more drama, and I’d like to try comedy. But just for fun, I’d like to do an action-y, sort of Hunger Games-esque thing, where I can really enjoy running around and getting involved.
CMR: So we have about — a minute and half [of the interview] left. Is there anything that you’d like to say or that you can say about upcoming projects that you’re working on now? I know that you were taking a break from shooting to have our conversation today. So anything you’d like to add about where people can look forward to seeing you?
CB: Yes. We are just finishing Broadchurch Series 3 at the moment. So I was involved in that. I can’t say anything Broadchurch. But I think it’s gonna be really good. The scripts that I have read are absolutely brilliant. [Series 3] is set a little bit later on than the second series, and they’ve got an amazing cast. I think the aim of it — it’s the final one — and they really want to make it stand out on its own. You know, like a standalone series. That’s all I can say. That should be out next year.
CMR: I imagine everything with that show is under lock and key. Absolutely.
CB: [laughs] Oh yeah, big time! It comes easier not to slip up, once you’ve done it for the third time.
CMR: [laughs] Wow! Already 15 minutes went by. Thank you so much for sitting down and just having a talk.
CB: Thank you, Chris.
CMR: Have a great day working on projects and being awesome.
CB: You too. Bye!
The Windmill is in select theatres now. It is written by Nick Jongerius and Chris W. Mitchell. Jongerius also directed the film. And, co-starring with Charlotte in the film are Noah Taylor and Patrick Baladi.