In the independent drama “The Sense of an Ending,” Academy Award-winning actor Jim Broadbent (“Iris”) stars as Tony Webster, a man who must confront his past when the mother of a former lover dies and leaves him a mysterious journal that changes the course of his life. The film, which is directed by Indian filmmaker Ritesh Batra (“The Lunchbox”), is adapted from the 2011 novel of the same name by British author Julian Barnes.
During an interview with Broadbent, 67, who is known for such films as “Moulin Rouge!,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” and the “Bridget Jones” franchise, we talked about the similarities of his newest film with the theater, and what message about confronting one’s past he would like people to take from the theater. Broadbent also spoke about his experience starring in Season 7 of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” which premieres this summer.
I know you have a fondness for the theater. Is a film like “The Sense of an Ending”—with its intimate scenes and smaller production—as close of a moviemaking experience you can get to working on the stage?
That never occurred to me. [The film] is very intimate and very quiet. It’s very contained, really. A lot of that is because my character Tony Webster is at home on his own. I think that would make for great theater, certainly in terms of having great one-to-one scenes.
Is there a specific message you would like audiences to take from this film about confronting their past and finding closure?
I love the whole theme of the film. It’s about history and about the stories we tell ourselves and how unreliable they are. In a way, it invites us to think about and confront our past and learn from it. [Tony] is a character that is divorced and is living on his own, but he is quite pleased with himself—quite self-satisfied. He thinks he’s got it all sorted and then he gets this legacy from his first love’s mother. It throws all his memories of what he thought he was and how he behaved as a young man into turmoil. He has to readdress things. I think anyone watching the film—in some ways—will start thinking about their own past and how they’ve got to where they are. I think it’s quite a profound piece of writing.
You’ve worked in the film industry for almost 50 years. How do you choose projects these days? Do you look at somebody like director Ritesh Batra and decide you want to work with him because you like his past work, in this case “The Lunchbox?”
Very much, yes. I thought “The Lunchbox” was fantastic. It never occurred to me that I would get to work with him. Certainly, when I knew he was working on the film, I was absolutely delighted. He’s a wonderful director. Some people ask, “Are you happy to work with a director who has only made one film before?” You would never have guessed he’s only directed one other film. He so sure, competent, very quiet and very precise. He cares mentally about the filmmaking. He was a delight to work with. He is a very wise director.
You’re going to be in a very popular pop culture phenomenon soon when you star in Season 7 of “Game of Thrones.” How do you feel knowing you’re going to be a part of something that millions of people watch and invest their time in every week?
Yes, I’ve made my contribution and the next season is coming up. It was fascinating to work on such an extraordinary and iconic production. I suppose it’s similar in a way to coming in and doing what I did in “Harry Potter.” Every part of the production was so impressive. I was fascinated by how it all worked. I think it’s going to be very exciting. My contribution, I don’t know, but it certainly is looking great.
Since starting your career in the 1970s, what have you learned about yourself as an actor over the years?
I think from the word go I knew it would be good for me to spread my net very wide and try a lot of different things. I’m always looking for the job I haven’t done before—something new. That has served me well since I’m recognized for all sorts of different things. It’s always a learning experience. My lesson for myself: always look out for something where you’ll learn something you haven’t done before. It’s an ongoing process of learning something about myself inevitably along the line.