‘I am known for being bad with props’: The Good Nurse actor Eddie Redmayne
Eddie Redmayne speaks to Katie Ellis about playing a nurse-turned-serial killer in The Good Nurse, handling medical equipment and working with fellow actor and friend Jessica Chastain
The Good Nurse is based on a true story. Had you heard about it before this project?
I knew nothing until I read the script, which I found utterly fascinating as well as horrifying. For a true crime story, it also felt astonishingly human and a great character piece. This is the story of a terrible crime and the extraordinary, heroic woman who stopped it in a way the system somehow couldn’t.
How did you approach playing Charles Cullen?
It was about trying to answer the question of why he did what he did. We were lucky to have the real Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain’s character) who told us about her relationship with Charles. We also had the brilliant biography, The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder, by Charlie Graeber, which gives an insight into how this guy was staggeringly damaged.
I was shocked that someone whose backstory was as extreme as his, had ever been allowed near people at their most vulnerable in hospitals. The reason it happened though was because he was also
a seemingly empathetic, kind and self-deprecating man.
How did meeting the real Amy help in your portrayal of Charles?
It was Covid when we started filming, so I only met Amy via Zoom. We had long conversations and it was really important to Amy to reaffirm that this guy was genuinely kind. She only ever met the murderer twice and it was like he was a different human being. That was a massive insight into playing Charles, especially in those early scenes. Their friendship was real.
You are close friends with Chastain. What was it like to finally work with her?
Wonderful, which was a relief, because you always hope it’s going to be glorious, but friends can be different in the workplace. With Jessica, it was everything I had hoped for and more. She’s a wonderful human being, extraordinarily hardworking, funny and a great mum. Our kids are all similar ages, so we hung out a lot.
Both you and Chastain went through basic nursing training for the film. Do you think you would now cope better in a medical situation?
I would be useless. I’m a shockingly bad nurse (laughs). We went to nursing school for two weeks and had an amazing guy named Joe teach us, but I was terrible. It was like regressing to being an 18-year-old again. I was biting my pen and leaning back on my chair. Jess was amazing. She has a brilliant mind.
Is it true that you had some tricky moments on set with the medical equipment you had to look proficient with?
I did. I had to do a lot of putting in IV tubes and pulling off medical things in the movie, but I am known for being bad with props generally. I am a nightmare. I would have to come on sets really early in the morning with this medical dummy and Tobias (Lindholm, the director) would find me there trying to do things without being self-conscious.
How do you compare playing someone like Charles opposed to a fictional character?
I feel a ferocious responsibility with every part I play. But, yes, in this case there was the responsibility of this being a true story. It was important to us that this is not the glorification of a serial killer and that it doesn’t have the salacious quality that sometimes true crime films have. This film is about how violence can be confronted with compassion.
You have worked with many talented directors. Have you ever considered directing?
I do try to learn from the directors, but so far I’ve not found the right thing. I might never find the right thing, that’s the fear.
–– Asia Features