Last year, A Monster Calls hit cinemas around the world after being adapted from Patrick Ness’ novel of the same name. Fifteen-year-old Lewis MacDougall played the lead role of Conor O’Malley, just a year after he played the role of Nibs in Pan. We spoke to him about filming A Monster Calls, working with Liam Neeson and Vera Farmiga, and his new movies, The Belly of the Whale and Boundaries.
What was it like filming A Monster Calls and how was it seeing your role and Liam Neeson’s finally coming together?
Filming A Monster Calls was a long, hard but also very enjoyable process. We filmed for one month in Manchester and some time in Barcelona where I had a great time and got to go around the city on the weekends. In terms of working with Liam, he wasn’t actually on set for the filming, but I did do Motion Capture with him for two weeks before filming started. When I got to see the film for the first time it was amazing to see all of the special effects of the monster with Liam’s voice and the work I did come together as one.
Did Patrick Ness have any input as to who was cast for the film?
Yes, Patrick was not only the writer but also an executive producer, so he had a big say in casting for the film. He was also on set a lot of the time during filming.
A Monster Calls was your first starring role, did you feel this was a big responsibility?
When I was told that I had gotten the part, I was obviously very excited but I was definitely nervous too because I was still relatively new to acting and this was a big role for someone my age to undertake. Also, because so many people loved the book, I didn’t want to let those people down.
How did you get into acting?
I got into acting when I joined my local drama group, The Drama Studio, at about eight or nine years old. One day that I went along, they were holding an open casting for my first film, Pan which I was reluctant to do as I had never auditioned before, but I did and I ended up getting the role of Nibs. Through doing Pan, I then got my agent and it all went from there.
You recently filmed The Belly of the Whale, can you tell us anything about it?
I filmed The Belly of the Whale in November of last year in Dublin, Ireland. I play Joey, a misfit teen who finds himself in some misfortune, he forms an unexpected alliance with Ronald, played by Pat Short, and they devise a plan to rob an arcade.
How long are you away from home while filming and do you miss much schooling?
At times it can be hard being away from home for long periods, especially not being able to see my friends. Whenever I do a film, I always get a tutor who makes sure I keep up with school work and don’t fall behind.
Your first role was in Pan, which was a major hit, was it fun to film?
Pan was extremely fun to film because there were a lot of other kids my age on set. Me and Levi Miller, who played Peter, would often explore London together on the weekend and we had a great time. One aspect of Pan that was really enjoyable was the stunts, I had to train and practise for them and I just enjoyed being in a harness and pretending like I could fly.
How nervous were you appearing on The One Show with Liam Neeson to promote A Monster Calls knowing it is broadcast live?
I was obviously a bit nervous as it was the first time I had ever appeared on live TV before and I didn’t want to make any mistakes, but Liam and the hosts, Matt (Baker) and Alex (Jones), were all very nice and made it easy and enjoyable for me.
You have been nominated and won awards, how does this feel?
I feel very honoured to have been nominated for awards and to win one. I think it’s important to know that I wouldn’t have got these if it hadn’t been for everyone else involved in making the film as it’s a team effort and not just me.
What was it like presenting an award at FilmG?
I had a great time presenting an award at FilmG. I got to meet so many talented young filmmakers who are making films in the Gaelic language, which I sadly don’t speak, but I would like to one day.
Are you a fan of YouTubers? What was it like being talked about for your role in A Monster Calls by Zoe Sugg and Alfie Deyes, two of the biggest YouTubers around?
I love YouTube. I watch it all the time and to be honest, I’m probably addicted. When I heard that Zoella and Alfie Deyes had talked about the film in their vlog, I couldn’t believe it and the next day I was showing all my friends.
Do you get fans stop you in the street for a photo?
No, I don’t actually, but whenever I’ve met any of my fans at premieres and things like that they’ve been lovely and I can’t wait for the first time I meet one of them on the street.
Boundaries is in post-production, a film where you play Vera Farmiga’s son. Had you watched her in any of her TV shows or films before working alongside her?
Yes, I’d seen her performance in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and when I heard I was going to be working with her I started watching Bates Motel which I loved. She’s a great actress and a super nice person to be around, I really enjoyed working with her.
Is there anything you can tell us about the film?
I play Henry who, along with his mother Laura played by Vera Farmiga, is forced to drive his estranged grandfather Jack across country and along the way they get up to a lot of trouble.
Are there any TV shows you would like to appear in?
I’ve always been a fan of Still Game, which for those of you who don’t know, is a very famous and much beloved Scottish comedy, so I’d love to have some sort of guest role in that one day.
What are your plans for the future?
I don’t exactly know what my plans are for the future but I think I’d like to continue acting, but I just take every day as it comes and we’ll see what happens.
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