Swept Away co-star talks about the Ritchies
Here’s an interesting interview with Michael Beattie, the actor that worked with The Ritchies in Swept Away and in Bmw’s Star, about working with the couple.
Article by Rebecca Murray
Guy Ritchie directs and Madonna stars in “Swept Away,” a remake of the 1974 Italian film “Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August.”
In this version, Michael Beattie co-stars as Todd, a close friend of Madonna‘s (‘Amber’) husband. Todd is part of a small group who take exotic vacations together. This year their vacation aboard a luxurious yacht is interrupted when Amber and crew member Giuseppe (Adriano Giannini), having taken a small boat out on their own late in the day and in bad weather, become shipwrecked on a deserted island.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with actor Michael Beattie about Madonna, Guy Ritchie and “Swept Away.” Beattie had previously worked with Ritchie and Madonna on a short Internet film and didn’t hesitate when the opportunity arose to work with the husband and wife team once again.
How did you get hooked up with director Guy Ritchie?
I did a short film with Guy and Madonna and BMW called “Star” on the Internet. I was just like ‘Joe Working Actor’ and I auditioned for it. The script, when I auditioned for it, was kind of in a working draft form. The guy running the camera said, “You know there’s not a lot to do here, Mike, so do you want to just do some improv?” I said “Great”. I went in to the hall and grabbed a model who was out there for something else. She came in and we did some stuff. Marvin, who was like this bald-headed guy of about 50 running the camera, played Madonna – so you have to imagine that. We joked around for a while and I said, “Well, I don’t know if that’s what they are looking for. You don’t quite do it as Madonna for me, but?” Anyway, we just had some fun and I guess Guy liked it. It was all shrouded in mystery at the time, too. I think Guy’s named was attached to it at the time – it was a big-name director. The first thing I heard was a big name director, then I think I heard it was Guy but they didn’t know who the lead was, and yada-yada.
I got the call and I booked the job, then my agent says, “You’re working with Madonna.” And I said, “Mr. Rogers?? He said, “No. Madonna.” I’m like I’ve got three kids – six, five and two – and I’m totally on another planet. So it was like, “Oh, yeah, right, Madonna, right” (laughing). It ended up being a lot of fun. I met Guy for the first time on the set and he said, “Everything you did on the tape, I want to do in the movie”. I was like, “Great – fun!” We started off like that. It was a lot of collaboration, batting ideas back and forth. I really had a great time.
Is that Guy Ritchie’s style? Is he pretty loose and does he allow you to improvise?
He has a really clear idea about what he wants and I like his comedic sensibility. He’s got this great comedic sensibility. But at the same time, anything you want to throw in, he’s very open to it. Sometimes he says yes, and sometimes not.
He doesn’t like to spend a lot of time. Sometimes it was like we could use one more take there, but he likes to move fast. Especially for the first one, for “Star,” that kind of energy and bopping back and forth really worked well.
Was that true for Swept Away or just the Internet film?
It was, but I’d say probably not as much. [“Star”] was basically just two-handed. In a two-handed situation you have a little more flexibility with improvs than you do with six people and a scene. We still did some of that in Swept Away.
So when he cast Swept Away, did Guy Ritchie call you right away or did you have to audition like everyone else?
I got a phone call, but that was a story, too. I was sent out in the ‘Actors Search’ section of the breakdowns. They were saying, “Would the agent or manager representing Michael Beattie please contact [the casting director in New York]”. This went out for a week or so and my agent was moving offices at the time and didn’t see it.
No, I’m serious. I was like, “What” Have you guys got me involved in the Witness Protection Program? You pick up the phone and you make 10% – come on!? They missed it. I got a call from the assistant at my voiceover agency, at William Morris. He said, “Did you know that Guy Ritchie is looking for you?” I said, “No”. So he said, “Well, you should call him”. So they found me – eventually.
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Can you describe your character and his relationship to the rest of the cast?
Todd is a fabulously wealthy guy from LA. The three guys in the film are all buddies and they go on these trips together. Tony [Bruce Greenwood] and Michael [David Thornton] always bring their wives and I’m always there with my latest squeeze who this time is a beautiful blonde that I just met named Debi, who’s like 26. I know that she’s not a Rhoades Scholar or anything but we sort of all discover over the course of the trip that she’s about as dumb as a bag of hammers, pretty much.
And she’s blonde?
And she’s blonde – played by Elizabeth Banks. Basically that’s my deal so I sort of find out how dumb she is and I’m trying to focus the attention on somebody besides Debi.
Did you watch the 1974 original film?
I did. I saw it originally in the 1980s in a theatre in Toronto where I’m originally from.
Did you get any inspiration from that film?
No (laughing). I’m not a big fan of the original. I watched it again and went, “Oh yeah, I remember hating this the first time.” To me it was a bunch of Italian people [yelling].
Did you tell Guy Ritchie that’s how you felt about the original?
You know what? I don’t think he asked. But the second half of the movie I actually found more interesting – in the original. I think Guy’s version and the rewrite he made, he made at least the first half more comedic and, to me, more interesting.
Did Guy Ritchie give Madonna special treatment on the set?
(Laughing) Yes. She’s Madonna, for God’s sake (laughing). What are you going to do? She’s the lead in the movie. You know what? It was very non Prima Donna-ish. I guess because I worked with them the first time, I sort of knew what to expect. The first time I thought it might be “The Madonna Show” and he’s kind of along for the ride. But it was very much not that. He was in charge, he was the director, and she was working with him. If she wanted to do something different, he said, “Sure, try that”. I must say there were a couple of things on “Star” where he wanted her to do one thing and she said, “No, I want to do this”. He was like, “Go ahead, that’s fine”. I think she won that battle. Most of the stuff in the movie, it was more him.
They are ‘Guy Ritchie’ director and ‘Madonna’ actress/singer, but they’re also a married couple. What was the atmosphere like working with such a high-powered married couple?
I’ve never worked with a married couple professionally before but I thought they did it really well. Here’s my take on it: I think they are both from working class backgrounds and they are both very direct in the way they communicate. They work it out. I didn’t see any conflict between the two of them on the set. It was very professional and fun, really.
It was a fun shoot?
They generally seemed to be enjoying each other amidst the process. It seemed like they were the real deal.
Can you talk about your experience filming in Malta?
Malta? It was grueling, absolutely grueling. I called my agent and said I needed hazard pay for this (laughing). It was ridiculous. I spent 7 days on a $5 million yacht, “I can’t handle this. They are force-feeding me Pina Coladas. Bring me home!” It wasn’t too rough. It was very nice. The yacht was owned by some shopping magnet from Britain. It’s a 1928 motor yacht, full restored and up to date but all in the kind of 1928 style. Wood lacquered, it was a gorgeous boat.
Did anyone get seasick?
Jeanne Tripplehorn on the very first day. She’s like, “Excuse me”, and [throws up]. I think she went down below. I sort of learned this after the fact, but you’re supposed to stay up and be able to look at the horizon in order to not be seasick. She didn’t do that the first day.
Did Madonna entertain the cast and crew with any impromptu concerts on the set?
She did not. We sat around talking about a few things a couple of times. She was reading some book. Actually, this was maybe the most diva moment on the film set: she was reading a book about the hundred most influential people in world history and she said, “I’m number 57”.
Did she say that with attitude or just matter-of-factly?
No, I think she was pleased by it but also just laughing about it. I really haven’t followed Madonna’s career that much. There were no temper tantrums. She was a pro the whole way. She was very pleasant and I enjoyed working with her.
So you wouldn’t hide from Guy Ritchie if he offered you another role?
No. For me, the combination of a director who has got a strong vision and is also open to your input is kind of ideal. It was a good experience for me.
What did you learn about Madonna that you didn’t know prior to working with her on this film?
(Laughing) I learned on “Star” that their kids have not experienced the joys of Jolly Jumpers. That was a surreal moment when we were working on “Star”. We were talking about babies and Rocco was there bouncing on dad’s lap. I was talking to Madonna and said, “You should get him a Jolly Jumper”. She said, “What’s that?” I said, “It’s the thing you hang in the door frame and there’s a big spring and the kid sits in it and he bounces up and down”. I sort of went,”Boy, this is weird. I’m talking about Jolly Jumpers with Madonna”. And she goes, “I think we’ve got the wrong kind of doorways for that”.