Matt Smith On Last Night In Soho, Doctor Who, Morbius And More – Exclusive Interview
“Last Night in Soho,” director Edgar Wright’s new psychological horror film, is set in London’s once seedy and now hip Soho district in two time streams. It follows an aspiring young fashion designer named Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) as she travels to Soho for her studies, finds a room in a bedsit after being ostracized by her roommates at school, and promptly begins having vivid dreams of a young woman named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) who found her own way to Soho back in the 1960s — with terrifying results.
Sandie dreams of being a star and she thinks that she’s found her lucky break when she meets and is wooed by Jack, a local charmer who promises to help Sandie fulfill her desires. But Jack soon reveals his true, awful intentions for her, and Eloise can only watch in horror as the lines between the past and present begin to blur in her mind.
Jack is played by British actor Matt Smith, who has previously carved out two indelible roles for himself: From 2010 to 2013, he traveled through space and time as the 11th Doctor on the legendary “Doctor Who,” and from 2016 to 2017, he played young Prince Philip in the Netflix drama, “The Crown.” He’s also appeared in films such as “Terminator: Genisys,” “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” “Charlie Says,” and the eerie Netflix horror film “His House,” while upcoming projects include the Sony Spider-Man Universe movie “Morbius” and the “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon.”
Smith tells Looper in our exclusive interview that working with Edgar Wright — whose previous films include “Shaun of the Dead” and “Baby Driver” — has been a longtime wish of his, while his character Jack is timeless in all the wrong ways: “There are Jacks everywhere in every big city in the world,” he says. “I think you’ll always find a Jack somewhere hustling and trying to turn people over.”
Working with director Edgar Wright
Was Edgar Wright a filmmaker you had wanted to work with? Had the two of you spoken about doing a project together before this?
Edgar’s always been in my top 10 to work with. I love his movies. I think he is a generational British talent that we are just so lucky to have because he has such flare. I knew him personally and he was a friend. Obviously, I’d had desires to work for him, but I never thought it would happen, to be honest, so I was just thrilled, and I’m thrilled to be part of this movie.
What do you think sets him apart from other filmmakers?
He has a forensic knowledge of film for one thing, encyclopedic for the history of cinema and an understanding of story, ultimately, that is very deep and very nuanced. Added to that, I think he has a technical wizardry and great taste and flare for what appears on screen, both visually and musically. He’s got a wonderful sense of innate filmic rhythm, really. He’s just got a good taste in cinema, I think. He manages to assemble great casts. He’s a filmmaker that I turn up to see. Do you know what I mean?
Why Smith was drawn to Last Night in Soho and his evil character
What drew you into the story of “Last Night in Soho”?
I’d read it and I saw this villainous and interesting character of Jack who got to do a dance in the middle of the movie, which I thought sounded really cool. I love doing all that. This fantastical time traveler element of it was up my street as well. I was really excited about the prospect of working with Anya and Thomasin. Of course, the great draw really was the opportunity to work with Edgar Wright.
Was the character of Jack already there on the page or did you add bits to him as filming went along?
Yes, of course. You’re always building, along with someone like Edgar, little flourishes, cigarettes on the dance floor, whatever it might be, and these things start to take on a life of their own to some degree. But I think Odile Dicks-Mireaux did a fabulous job with the costume and the costume designs, and that really helped me to settle into the part — those big, boxy, flashy ’60s suits and tie pins. Got me feeling very Jack-esque.
How important is that costume? Hw much does it help in getting you prepared when you walk out onto the set?
It’s a huge tool in your armory, really. Everything comes from the way you feel. When you put on a costume or in this instance, where you start getting into these slightly iconic looking suits and good shoes and getting your hair quiffed, it really lends itself to being able to think and imagine what it would be like to be this nightclub act owner in the ’60s. He’s driving around in flash cars and doing the dirty on people.
Learning to dance with Anya Taylor-Joy
How were your dancing skills before doing this film? Do you fancy yourself a dancer?
Absolutely not. I had to work hard to learn all the moves on this. There was a wonderful choreographer, Jennifer White, who was fabulous and very patient and put me through my paces. But there were lots of rehearsals with Anya as well, who picks it all up very easily and can do it standing on her head, whereas I think it takes a degree more practice and study for me.
How did you find working with Anya overall?
I love Anya. I think she was really generous as an actress and as a soul on set. I think she’s just fabulous in the movie. She suits the period so much, you can’t take your eyes off her really. So yeah, I was of course really excited and it’s been wonderful to watch her do such quality work elsewhere as well. We’re very lucky to have her in the movie.
Jack is a predator. I think we find that out pretty early on. In that sense, is the character timeless in a way because that kind of man hasn’t necessarily changed much from the 1960s until now?
I suppose there is a universality to a character like Jack. There are Jacks everywhere in every big city in the world. If you peer under this dark underbelly of Soho or get to New York or Chicago, wherever it might be, I think you’ll always find a Jack somewhere hustling and trying to turn people over. It’s always interesting to play characters on that side of things.
Do you remember the first time you came to London and what that was like for you?
Yeah. My sister lived in London before me, so I used to go and stay with her a lot and go out and stuff. I was so thrilled by London. I was so excited by it architecturally, and the energy, the pace, the buzz, the rhythm of it. I still live in London and I’m still very grateful to live there, actually. It’s still a really exciting city and it still feels new and undiscovered in many respects.
Does Smith watch Doctor Who?
Have you kept up with “Doctor Who?” Have you watched Jodie Whitaker as the Doctor and do you have any thoughts on what direction they should take after she leaves?
No. I must confess, I haven’t seen a lot of “Doctor Who” of late, so I’m not really equipped to talk about that really. But in terms of the new direction … I think it’s exciting for the show that Russell Davies is back. I think Chris Chibnall and Jodie did a wonderful job, but now it’s exciting to look forward to a new era under Russell, who I think is a phenomenal writer and particularly brilliant at delivering that show. I think he totally gets what it is and I’m sure they’ll just choose a really exciting new Doctor. It’s always exciting to think that there’s a new Doctor coming.
What do fans approach you about the most? “Doctor Who” or “The Crown” or something else?
I’d probably say those two really. “Doctor Who” and “The Crown” are the things that people probably have tuned into the most, I would imagine. I think “Doctor Who” is its own unique thing. When you’ve played the Doctor, you’re part of a very select family of 13. So that comes with its own history and association and I’m obviously very proud to have played the Doctor. It’s one of the great parts out there in TV, I think.
Smith has two huge projects on the way
You’re about to show up in a couple of pretty big franchises. First, you got “Morbius” coming up early in 2022, and I believe you’re still filming “House of the Dragon.”
Yeah, we are still filming.
Let’s start with “Morbius.” What kind of tone do you think that movie has? Is it more of a horror movie or a superhero movie?
Well, I think it’s a bit of both. It’s a horror and superhero movie. Also in many ways, it plays out as a quite contained family drama on some level as well, but with flying vampires and bloodlust and all that sort of stuff, and a few scares along the way. Very excited for that to come out, actually.
Then obviously, “House of the Dragon,” there’s dragons and swords and all of the intrigue and dastardly goings on that happen in the court of the Targaryens.
How would you say that show perhaps differentiates itself from “Game of Thrones?”
I suppose fundamentally, it’s a different story. We’re 300 years before “Game of Thrones.” We’re spending time with a smaller group of characters to a certain degree … I think it’s up for other people to decide how they’re similar or different. I just turn up and try and get the lines in the right order.
Going back to what we’re talking about earlier with costumes, I imagine the costumes for that are pretty elaborate.
Brilliant actually, yeah. We have a wonderful costume designer called Jany Temime, who did lots of the “Harry Potters” and she did [the James Bond film “Skyfall”]. I have to say the costumes in “House of the Dragon” are just absolutely beautiful. She’s done such great work. That’s one of the things that I think we can really be proud of in this show, is the costumes have really delivered.
“Last Night in Soho” is in theaters now.