One of the biggest moves I’ve done this year, particularly in covering David L.G. Hughes’ latest theatrical UK release, Of Gods and Warriors, was getting to share questions with action director Jude Poyer. You can check out our interview here, as well as my review if you so fancy it while you can now take a look at this week’s back-and-forth with the film’s star, Anna Demetriou.
She discusses her training, her craft and ambitions, and even discloses that she’s a singer and bartender – the former of which I can absolutely relate to as it speaks to her versatility and veracity as an artist. As such, I’m inclined to look Anna up more after this for my own research and reading pleasure, while you are more than welcome to engage this latest exchange.
Greetings Anna and thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. How has the year been for you thus far?
Greetings indeed! You’re more than welcome. This year for me has predominantly been about the build up for this movie really! I’ve been so excited and in love with the whole process. It’s been so lovely to see it all come together. Been making some music on and off in the studio and of course my humble bartending!
Tell us about yourself and how you got into acting and film.
I wish there was a more interesting story about how I maybe fell into this but I really didn’t fall into anything – my parents put me into drama club at three years old and I chased it until this point really. I sit here writing this with a very, very large dream actualised in reality and I couldn’t feel more blessed and grateful. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, that has never faltered. I went to drama school after two failed attempts and got this movie six months after graduating. Loved every second of this rocky journey.
Who are some of your favorite heroines in history? Be it cinema or literature?
The women that made me want to do what I do always starts with Barbra Streisand. She was the first actress to make me laugh and cry in one film, and then her next, and then her next. I thought gosh, what a gift to be able to affect someone that way. Then the older I got, actresses like Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality, Charlize Theron in anything really, Cate Blanchett, Meryl. Inspirational women in meaty roles. My audition speech for drama school was Joan of Arc and I think that says a lot about me!
Your role in Of Gods and Warriors, Helle, goes through quite a journey throughout the film, facing sudden revelations, tragedy, romance and tons of peril. Tell us about how you became attached to this project and what drew you to the role?
I was sent the entire movie script for the first audition and that sealed the deal for me. Auditioning is hard in the sense that if you get attached to everything you go up for, it’ll make you miserable but with this I really was attached from the get go. I read it twice over and found myself yelling at the script and ooh-ing and ahh-ing because it was just a story that was so easy to invest in and I really did. I just read her as a role and thought I can do this, I’d love to get to do this and I think I wouldn’t do a bad job. She was persistent, she was vulnerable, she was brave, she was someone you wanted to win; what a young woman to try to embody. I am also such a sucker for good vs. evil and my God the evil in this film is evil!
The guys your character fights in this film also tend to vary in size. Talk about the experience of playing such a physically demanding role and fighting folks as big as your co-star Martyn Ford.
When I first saw a picture of Martyn I thought – are you kidding me? And he plays twins? How am I going to do that? David (the writer/director) said that Helle would have to fight in a different way in order to defeat people of his size and also the numbers of people that she takes out at a time. She would have to use her agility and be smarter than them with her attacks and that’s what the choreography reflected. The team were amazing, and I of course had a wonderful double but I also did whatever I could wherever possible and it was definitely an experience and a lot of fun. I think Martyns arm is the size of my waist alone – it’s lucky him and I became great friends..! I worked with him again on my next film but we were on the same team that time!
Your action director, Jude Poyer, said you have a long, strong career ahead of you and spoke about your stage combat training. Tell us about that and about rehearsals and working with Poyer and his team.
That honestly warms my heart and flatters me hugely – Jude was absolutely amazing. He was also so honest with me which I really appreciated, he was always so straightforward about what I needed to do to make a move look more authentic or sell it further. I really respect and need that as a performer. I learnt some Wushu techniques and stances for a few weeks before we left with Andrei Nazarenko so that Helle had a little flare to her and something more stylised and visually cool to watch. He said I picked it up quicker than any student he’d taught before which surprised me because I thought I was messing up all the time! I’m definitely my own worst critic as so many creatives are but I am genuinely happy with the combat scenes and how it all came together. We worked real hard and were bruised and battered but they look great. A wonderful team effort lead by incredible stunt talent.
What were some of your favorite memories or moments on the set of this film?
There’s a shot in the opening fight we called The Matrix Shot which was such a laugh to film. The sword goes in slow motion over my face and I had to lie horizontally over a box. That was day two or three of filming and I thought – I’m in for a treat. Every second was fun. Even being on a mountain peak in nothing but my costume clutching my sword for dear life (in snow and rain and torrential hail). Sat by a fire with a real rabbit on a spit. Weilding a flaming torch in a mining cave. Stuffing my face with mushrooms made of marshmallows and marzipan. Washing my face in an ice cold lake. Sitting with Terence Stamp on the white cliffs as the sun went down. Every time I had to pinch myself that I was at work and it was my job. So thankful for this opportunity.
Looking back, were there any particular challenges that stand out to you during this production?
Knowing I couldn’t do every single bit of the scenes myself was hard. I’d obviously never had a role to play where I couldn’t do all of it but I had to understand that I couldn’t do something incase I broke my ankle, or couldn’t do a move because I wasn’t a trained martial artist! Letting go of that was tough at the start but something I realised is all part of the puzzle. Also filming non-chronologically was very very tough. In the first week we were filming the end and I had to emotionally put myself in that place when I hadn’t even done the middle bit. Trying to cry on cue, hitting your mark whilst also remembering choreography, first ever love scene half naked in a field, trying to hold myself up in a little hole in a cave wall… Again all such a learning curve and I soaked up every bit I could.
How do you grade director David L.G. Hughes on directing his second movie?
Everyone was telling me how spoiled I’ve been having him as my first movie director. He was the kindest most wonderful man from start to finish. We read the whole script together over breakfast the day before filming so I could ask any questions and make sure every line felt natural. If it didn’t, he’d be happy to shift something. He wanted me to be comfortable, that was always his priority, whether that was the fighting, the dangerous shots in the mountains, the love scenes, the sombre scenes. He also believed me in so much that I never felt scared or overwhelmed. Every day he’d come into the canteen and say “Good morning our Queen!” and it just set me up for whatever I was doing that day. He said they knew I was the right girl the second I walked into the audition room and if that isn’t going to fill anyone with confidence I don’t know what will. He was patient, fair and yielding and I’ve been very lucky indeed.
What are some lessons you take with you going forward in your career?
The cast in this film had come from all over with entirely different backgrounds and that gave me such a range of perspective. Ian Beattie for example would never leave set unless he had to, he said it was the best place on earth and would always stay behind and give me an eyeline for my own takes – so gracious and helpful in that way. I learnt that you don’t ever fully stop learning in this industry, I stay on set now for as long as I can even just to watch because it teaches me about the other components and other people’s work and how I can assist that in what I do. Being present, being relaxed, feeling assured – it all comes represents you best on camera and I’ve learnt a huge amount even watching it back at bits I don’t like or like about my own performance. I know better now about how to utilise what I do and how important that is.
Talk about what lies ahead for Anna Demetriou in terms of future roles and other plans.
Of Gods And Warriors comes out as Viking Destiny in the USA in the next few months so I’m so excited to see what they think of it over there! I have Q&As across the country this coming week and my second film The Marine 6: Close Quarters comes out in October time I believe – so looking forward to seeing something completely different there. After that I’ll get back to my music and looking forward to the next time I get to live the dream!
Any final words on Of Gods And Warriors?
What I will do in the future I will never know, but I will treasure forever the fact that I’ve made a film that tells such a story and has so much to give. There is something in this for everyone and I encourage you to check it out and be warmed by it. We are very proud of it and what we did with the resources we had. I’m so excited to share it with everyone and thank you to every shred of support coming my way right now.