richard brake vesper

Visually epic, and thematically current, this extremely realistic sci-fi captures a hopeful story contained within a bleak setting. Submerged in this detailed sci-fi, Vesper (Raffiella Chapman) has to fight for a better tomorrow alongside her father Darius (Richard Brake); living with locked-in syndrome he is only able to communicate via his eyes and a drone. STARBURST caught up with Richard, who’s also known for Game of Thrones and The Mandalorian to discuss the challenges of being a parent in an atmosphere like this, the many metaphorical layers that Vesper has, and what it was like to work alongside Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper!

STARBURST: When did you first meet Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper and Brian Clark, and why did you initially want to work with them?

Richard Brake: I was brought on board maybe a couple of months before filming really. In fact, I didn’t meet them until I arrived in Lithuania! So I received the script through my agent, and they offered me the role of Darius. I read the script, loved it, and then I went back and I watched Kristina and Bruno’s film Vanishing Waves, and I thought they were incredible directors. So I was like “Yes! I want to be in it”. Then I met both Kristina and Bruno once I arrived in Lithuania, right before we started filming when we were preparing for the film. I don’t think I actually ever met Brian. I think Brian was more involved just with the writing of the script. Whereas Kristina and Bruno were more involved in every aspect of it. They are incredibly detailed directors.

Kristina and Bruno had been working on this idea for six years, do you know how the original concept for Vesper came about, and can you tell us about what they’re like to work with?

I can’t really speak for them on that. I think my experience from working with the two of them is that they’re incredibly visual directors, as you can see from both this film and their previous work. But also, especially with Kristina – because from my experience with working with Bruno he is very much the visual guy, very specific with setting every scene up in terms of how it’s going to look. He was moving little bits of things, here and there on the set, like “Oh no, this looks better over here” – Kristina was very detailed with the performance, in terms of what she wanted the characters to express in every scene. She’s an incredibly detailed director, which as an actor, is a wonderful gift to work with.


Leading on from that, and as your character is both voiced, and in the actual movie, we were wondering how they pitched Darius to you in the beginning, and what excited you the most about playing that part? 

My agent said that she had read the script and she said the character had locked-in syndrome, so he doesn’t move, except for his eyes, and he speaks through a drone. So I was like “OK!”, and at first I was intrigued by that breakdown, and that description, and then as I read the script, I began to do some research in terms of what locked-in syndrome actually is. Obviously, there’s a fantastic book, and movie, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which is a true story about a man with locked-in syndrome. It fascinated me to try and express what was going on with Darius, without having the ability to speak, and also to move. Literally, I had only my eyes, and what was going on behind my eyes in terms of my thinking, to express all of the emotions that Darius is going through, so for an actor, it was an incredible challenge, and I love a challenge. So yeah, that was thrilling.

Some may assume that there is less to do when you’re acting with just your eyes, however, it’s quite the opposite right?

Especially with Kristina going “No, do it again! We need to see more”, because as I said, she’s very demanding, which is wonderful, to really push for me to do as much as I could. Which is really what good acting is about, because with that we don’t really see anything, it’s all really what’s going on with the thinking of the actor. So it was a really fun challenge. Mind you, having said that, Eddie Marsan, who is a good buddy of mine, continued to take the mick out of me all of the time, saying that it was “The easiest job on the planet”.

There’s a really intense scene with Darius and Jonas [Eddie Marsan] where he basically nearly kills you. How fun or challenging was that particular scene to do, just through your eyes, and what was it like to put together?  

It was a lot of fun because I’ve known Eddie for thirty years, we went to drama school together, so we are very close friends. It was a coincidence that we were in this film, and we’ve been in a few films together. It’s always been a random coincidence, but it’s a great coincidence because even though we both live in London, Eddie is on the west side and I’m on the east side so we see each other rarely in London because we are either working or running around looking after our kids. But we see each other on sets, all over the world. So it’s great to work on this together, and it’s always great to do a scene with him. I love working with him. So that in itself was fun. It’s an interesting scene, and it’s one of my favourite scenes in the film. Eddie is moments – or seconds – away from killing me; it’s powerful and I had to again express all of that emotion with just my eyes. So again, it was challenging but it was incredibly fun. Especially fun doing it with my best mate.


How long did it actually take to get ready for the scenes where you’re lying down, and what was that whole make-up process like? 

It was pretty simple for that one. I had to get grungy, and dirty looking, which is never hard for me. Make-up artists don’t have much trouble with that, with a face like mine. Ironically, now I remember back, I think on one of my first few days of shooting I bent down and my back went out, which happens very rarely. I get a back spasm, so my back just freezes up, so it’s not exactly the most comfortable thing. So I was kind of glad that I wasn’t in a huge action film at the time! I could have moved around, but it’s a pretty saw back. So lying down was an advantage with this film.

Let’s talk about the voiceover work for Darius’s drone. Can you describe the process behind putting a drone sequence together, and also, where did you actually record the lines?

Yeah, good question, because that was done over COVID, because we shot this right at the beginning of 2021, so COVID had just kind of come to the end, but it was still showing its head every once in a while. So they had me record from home because the recording studios in London were closed down at that point. So I actually recorded it on my phone, with Kristina and Bruno, and the recording engineers were all on Zoom, and I recorded all of that drone dialogue on my phone. Over several times. Initially. I think eventually I went into the studio to do the final one, a bit later. I recorded those lines many, many times, for different edits. By the end, I pretty much slept with those lines going through my head.

There’s something very, almost, calming about the voice we hear from Darius’s drone. Can you tell us how they wanted you to sound, and also, was there anything you yourself wanted to bring to shaping how we hear Darius through the drone? 

We just worked it as though it was a real person speaking, and then they, of course, did a lot of editing and effects on to the voice to give it more of a drone quality. The calming sound is probably just my natural voice! With my three-year-old, I put him to sleep quite easily at night, telling him stories. I have a fairly droney voice.

The movie was filmed in Lithuania, and it looks incredible! However, for you, why do you think this location worked so well for capturing the feel of Vesper?

I think a lot of it looks incredible, because of the amazing special effects work. Done on a really tight budget, you have to remember that this film was not made on a Hollywood budget, and to make it look like it looks, real hats off to all of the special effects crew that worked on this. I believe that they were mostly based in France, and with Bruno himself, that was really his forte. I think that has a lot to do with the look of it, there’s a kind of – and I film a lot in Eastern Europe – we have these dense forests out here in Eastern Europe, I’m actually in Slovakia right now shooting a film. Lithuania has an incredible landscape, and they were able to use that as well, to give it that effect. I think one of the things that really struck me about the film, is there is a kind of merge of European and Eastern European, or even Western in terms of American storytelling a little bit. Then with Eastern, it’s like this apocalyptic film Stalker, by Andrei Tarkovsky, a Russian filmmaker in the ‘70s, who made some incredibly bleak, dark post-apocalyptic films, well one film, in particular. There’s kind of a feel of that in this movie as well, I think. I’m a huge fan of Tarkovsky. He is an amazing director, check his films out, they’re incredible!

There’s a big use of practical effects in this movie. How do you think that approach helps to create a realistic feeling?

hey did a great job at making it realistic, a lot of times you’ll notice that a sci-fi or post-apocalyptic film just doesn’t look real. I think, even though obviously a lot of the plants and flowers were created that were imaginary, is that they’re kind of based on a reality, based on what could be real. I think that this film does a fantastic job of merging where we are now to where we potentially could be. It looks like this could take place maybe not now but in the near future. It doesn’t look fake in my opinion, which is why I think it’s touched a lot of people. The film has done incredibly well on the festival circuits, it’s got amazing reviews for such a kind of small film, and I think that’s partly because it’s so grounded in reality for a science fiction film.


So, what was Raffiella Chapman like to work with, and what do you think she brought to the world of Vesper

She was fantastic, an amazing young actor. I think she was about thirteen, she was very young. Often they’ll find actors that are quite a bit older to play that age, and they didn’t here. She was the age of her character. Which for a young actor is challenging. She did amazing, her dedication to the role, and to the shoot was extraordinary. I’ve seen much older actors pull tantrums, and be angry about the fact that they have to work every day and get up early. None of that from her. She was incredibly professional, and she worked so hard. I think she was in pretty much every day of that shoot. Every day was fairly gruelling physically and emotionally. There isn’t really a scene in that that isn’t gruelling for her character. She handled it so well.

For us, the back and forth between Vesper and Camellia represents the difference between rich and poor, would you maybe agree with that, and also, what else do you think their connection does for the viewer?

Yeah I think that’s definitely in the story for sure. The class structure that’s in the film is in reality. It just adds another layer. I think it’s another reason as to why this film has been so successful, and so loved by people and critics. It has many layers. You can just dissect all kinds of different aspects of it, discuss it, and talk about it. A lot of people have left the cinema and had discussions over dinner about the various aspects of the movie. It’s great to be a part of that. I could see that when I read the initial script, there was much more to it than just a thrilling sci-fi adventure. It’s much more than that, which again is kudos to Bruno, Kristina, and Brian, because they spent so much time on the script and their vision of it. Also the shooting of it.

The movie captures so many real-life problems. Like we’ve said, the dynamics between rich and poor, the way humans put greed above anything else, and how it could be a snapshot of our own future. However, was there a certain hard-hitting real-life theme that was captured within Vesper that really resonated with you? 

Yeah, looking after children. I have three children, and I was very much struck, and one of the reasons why I really wanted to do it, was because of the relationship between Darius and Vesper, and how he just wants her to be OK. He knows he’s not going to live forever. He just wants her to be able to survive on her own, which is kind of what any parent wants. For their children to be OK once they’re gone, or even before, hopefully. That for me was really what excited me about the project. Personally, as the character I was playing, to explore that relationship between parents and child, father and daughter. Having explored that intensely and continuing to explore that intensely on a daily basis as me!

We’re also excited for Barbarian, it looks great!

Yeah, that’s exciting. I’m really pleased with how well that’s done. I actually read that script on the way to Lithuania to film Vesper. They sent me the script and when the plane touched down I was texting my agent saying “Yes! I’ll do that for sure”.

Vesper is released in UK cinemas and on-demand from October 21st.