The Personal History of David Copperfield Director Breaks Down How to Build the Best Ensemble Cast



Last year, filmmaker and showrunner Armando Iannucci, the creative force behind such classics as Veep and The Death of Stalin, released a daring reimagining of writer Charles Dickens’ famous work as The Personal History of David Copperfield. The movie, which is now available on VOD, features a glittering ensemble cast that displays infectious chemistry, led by Dev Patel. In an interview with Collider, Iannucci revealed how he was able to create one of the best ensemble casts in recent memory.

“I think building up the ensemble slowly… Obviously, we started with Dev and then we say, “Okay, who’s going to be Betsey and Mr. Dick?” So once we have Tilda and she’s already in place, we go, “Okay, so who then is going to be Agnes?” What I don’t do is send all the parts out to 20 different people at once. I cast one or two parts, then think who would make the best compliment for those two or three people.

And then once we have it as four or five people who we know are on board, “Okay. Seven and eight. Who would be the best new voice to add to this group?” And so we cast out like that.”

The Personal History Of David Copperfield tells the story of the many adventures of the titular character, played by Patel. From his troubled early years when his mother remarried a cruel and abusive man, to the time he was sent away to work in a factory, to David’s quest to leave behind his life of drudgery in hopes of one day becoming a gentleman author, the film is bursting with energy as each scene segues smoothly and gleefully into the next. According to Armando Iannucci, the reason for this ease of flow of events and characters comes down to the many rehearsals that were held for the entire cast.

“I like to cast early, so that we can get everyone together and we can all get to know each other and play around with the script and rehearse for a couple of weeks and just get to know each other so that by the time we’re shooting everyone is sort of gotten to the skin of the characters, really. I like to choose people who are comfortable improvising slightly. We have a very specific script that we work to, but I always encourage people to free it up and always to bring their own suggestions in. And I think that means that inevitably we get people who are comfortable being very spontaneous – making everything feel a little bit more natural.”

Directed by Armando Iannucci, based on a script by Iannucci and Simon Blackwell, The Personal History of David Copperfield features an ensemble cast consisting of Dev Patel, Aneurin Barnard, Peter Capaldi, Morfydd Clark, Daisy May Cooper, Rosalind Eleazar, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw, and Paul Whitehouse. The film is now available on VOD. This news originated at Collider.

Neeraj Chand



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