According to Smith, Gosling set the tone – encouraging actors to probe their sub-conscious. “There’s a very wonderful acting coach [on set], who you’d explore your dreams with,” he says. “I love it. It’s something I find really useful. I probably shouldn’t talk about the process, as it’s her thing, but you try and relate your dreams to your character in the story and you write your dreams down.” So what did he jot down? Cue a mischievous smile. “That would be telling!”
“I think the film has its own identity and has the identity of Ryan in it,” he says. “There’s a lot of him in the movie. That’s why I’m really proud of it. For someone like him, who has a huge Hollywood career, he’s still making brave, creative choices and making films like this, which aren’t to everyone’s tastes, I’m sure, but how good [is it] that someone from Hollywood is having a go and making them?”
Since completing Lost River, Smith headed to New Orleans to enjoy his first taste of studio excess, Terminator Genisys. “I love those movies [and] I’m very excited to be a part of those films,” he says, cautiously. “Obviously I can’t talk in too much detail about my role.” His role has been largely kept under wraps, though rumours have it that he’s playing a T-5000 – an advanced Terminator with the ability to brainwash humans.
In person, Smith is quietly spoken, shy even, yet he’s ambitious too. He’s already gone behind the camera for a half-hour drama for Sky Arts, Cargese – a bleak tale of a teenager who lures his best friend into a crime, written by playwright Simon Stephens. Smith shot it shortly after his audition for Lost River, and it’s evident that Gosling’s boldness rubbed off on him. “I really liked it,” he says of the experience. “I will keep plugging away. I’m learning still.”
Smith previously said he’d like to follow Kubrick: “a film in every genre”. After Doctor Who and his Terminator outing, he’s aware he needs to broaden his horizons beyond sci-fi. “It’s never been a conscious thing and actually it’s something that consciously I’ll in future try and avoid,” he admits.
At least the upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – where Smith met his current squeeze, co-star Lily James – is a sort-of stab at a period piece. Taken from Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 parody novel, with the sight of Elizabeth Bennet et al taking on the walking dead, it is likely to rile the Austen purists.
“I think the film has an edge,” he says. “Just seeing the women fight is cool and sexy – there’s something quite hip about it.” It all points to the fact that there is life after Who, though Smith is superstitious. “You can never take anything for granted as an actor,” he says. Nothing’s permanent – not even tattoos.
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