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Matt Smith Breaks Down Edgar Wright’s Layered ‘Last Night In Soho’

“This came out of the blue and into my inbox,” explained Matt Smith as we discussed Last Night in Soho, director Edgar Wright’s latest movie.

“I was so thrilled to get it because Edgar’s a generational British talent who we should be so proud to have. He’s got such flair and such a great vision for filmmaking. I knew him socially, we were friends, but the idea of working together never really came up,” the actor added. “I always wanted him to direct an episode of Doctor Who because I think he’d be so fabulous. He’s the perfect director for it in many ways. I’m really proud of this film.”

Last Night in Soho is part ghost story and part time travel murder mystery. Thomasin McKenzie plays an aspiring fashion designer who moves to London and is seemingly inexplicably linked to a wannabe singer in the 60s, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. However, the lines between what is fantasy and what is reality quickly blur and darken. Smith plays Jack, the roguish talent spotter who isn’t all that he seems.

For Smith, the authenticity of the film is one of its most significant selling points.

“In Edgar we trust, and the same goes for Krysty Wilson-Cairns, the writer, as well. They did a great job of giving us the right material that wasn’t full of pastiche. It felt new, thrilling, and fresh,” he enthused. “I was fortunate to have a lot of my scenes with Anya, who totally speaks to the period and lights up the screen. They even gave me a dance, which is cool in the middle of any movie. I had a lot of musical and cinematic references from Edgar, which were very useful.”

“Pete Townshend has got a good period voice for that time. I watched Poor Cow, a British kitchen sink drama starring Terence Stamp, another brilliant actor in Last Night in Soho. I tried to immerse myself in as many of those iconic actors and movies as I could because, in many respects, Jack sees himself as a bit of a matinee idol. He’s trying to be someone who he isn’t.”

Smith added, “Last Night in Soho feels, as a lot of Edgar’s movies do, that there’s a really clear, stylish element to the storytelling. It’s baked into the fabric of it, right through to the costume designs. If you look at Jack and the other men from that time, the boxy suits evoke images of Ronnie and Reggie Kray and Oliver Reed, these big, bruising men who were well dressed, dapper, and well turned out. The movie is also a bit of a love letter to London. I live here, and when you watch the movie, you can feel the city. We closed down parts of Soho to film this, and it felt like we were deep in the fabric of the city.”

The actor is best known for playing likable characters, but Jack has a darker side. Does he consider him to be a villain?

“That’s a good question. Probably not, but it is interesting to ask that,” Smith mused. “I think in a different world, Jack and Sandie might have had made a go of things if he’d made a few bad choices. I think he probably sees himself as a mover and shaker and trying to stake his claim in the world. You’ll find a Jack lurking in every corner, in every bar, in every big city in the world. I suppose it is part of what makes London such an interesting city. You’ve got the Yin and the Yang of people, the bad and the good.”

“It’s always exciting to pay to play people on the wrong side of the tracks but especially when you get to drive fast cars, dress up, dance and smoke. The world of the film and the period enticed me.”

As Smith previously mentioned, much of Last Night in Soho was shot in and around the London district, sadly losing large parts of its history due to gentrification and redevelopment.

“It’s a shame, isn’t it? We don’t need any more bloody yogurt shops,” he said. “Places like the Colony Room Club, these old haunts that are full of stories and history and had such characters in life buzzing through it. One hopes that Soho doesn’t lose that individual identity that is that it is so gloriously known for.”

Smith also found being able to film in real locations elevated the work the cast and crew were able to do.

“That stuff makes a difference to a huge degree. You can’t beat it,” the actor gushed. “We closed down Wardour Street and Greek Street on a Friday night. We put 60s-era awnings outside of these classic places, so we could feel the texture, fabric, and pulse of it as we were filming. It was absolutely fantastic, and I was really pleased that we managed to get in there and under the skin of it. London feels like a real character in the movie.”

Smith continues to stretch himself across stage and screen. 

“One of the great virtues of being an actor is that you get a degree of variety in your life,” he said. “If you can do something that feels intimidating and scary or somewhat unachievable, it gives you something to get out of bed for in the morning. You want to present yourself with the biggest challenges possible as an actor. Things that are slightly outside of your wheelhouse, or feel like new and interesting experiences you haven’t tried before, I think it’s good to keep taking those things on and testing yourself on as many levels as possible.”

He is currently working on the Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon, but could a return to another epic fantasy, the aforementioned Doctor Who, be in his future?

“I don’t know about that. Who really ever knows with Doctor Who, but I do love that show. I think it will be a very exciting time for it with Russell T Davies coming back. He totally gets and understands what the show is and will be. He’ll be a thrilling readdition to things because he’s a wonderful writer who writes such a brilliant Doctor. I’m always open to a phone call from Russell T. Davies about anything, but especially when it’s about Doctor Who.”

Last Night in Soho is in theaters now.

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