Ellie Kendrick Talks ‘Whisky Galore!,’ ‘Game of Thrones,’ and Playing Strong Women
World War II and farcical comedy aren’t two things that usually go together, but the Scottish film “Whisky Galore!,” a remake of a beloved 1949 movie of the same name, manages to blend the right amount of humor and history. “Whisky Galore!” takes place in 1943 and centers on the inhabitants of the tiny island of Todday, Scotland, a charming stretch of land that has been largely unaffected by the conflict with Hitler. That is, until, the last drop of whiskey is drunk. As the war makes a fresh shipment coming anytime soon unlikely, the locals start to go crazy, with one elderly man even dropping dead, such is the shock to his system. When a ship heading to New York carrying 50 thousand cases of whiskey sinks just off their shores, the people of Todday think their prayers have been answered. However, standing in their way is an outsider named Wagget (Eddie Izzard), a bumbling English commander who does what he can to protect this precious cargo.
As wacky as the premise of “Whisky Galore!” is, the film also has plenty of heart, as the coveted liquor isn’t just needed for mere drunken shenanigans and the getting through of daily life, but also for celebrating. Two sisters, Peggy (Naomi Battrick) and Catriona Macroon (Ellie Kendrick), are both looking forward to their impending weddings. Peggy is to wed Sergeant Odd (Sean Biggerstaff), while Catriona looks forward to becoming the wife of the local schoolteacher, George Campbell (Kevin Guthrie). Peggy and her sergeant may have the more romantic backstory (he fell in love with the island and her at first sight), but Catriona and George are an especially intriguing couple: while she is outspoken, witty, and not afraid of a little trouble, he is rather meek and lives under the thumb of his domineering mother (Ann Louise Ross).
“I was attracted to the project for a few different reasons,” Kendrick revealed to Entertainment Voice. “My dad had shown me the original “Whisky Galore” film a couple of times when I was a child, and it was a favorite in my family – to the extent that we even used the line from the film, ‘There’s no whiskey!’ as a catchphrase. I hadn’t played a character like Catriona before, and I liked her mischief. I also love doing roles with accents different to mine. She’s very unlike me—she’s quite traditional, a homebody, fond of lipstick and dresses, and of course living in a different era—and I’m always drawn to playing roles that are different to me and the way I see the world. Of course, it was also wonderful to get a chance to explore Scotland and its beautiful landscapes—not to mention the great whiskey produced in the Speyside area in the North East, where we made a lot of the film.”
Kendrick is best known for playing Meera Reed on “Game of Thrones,” a character who has acted as a protector to both her brother and her disabled friend Bran. While Catriona is never called on to save George’s life, she does inspire him to stand up to his mother. Kendrick discussed playing these powerful characters, and why it isn’t enough for a female character to merely be “strong.”
“I’m interested in the word ‘strong.’ I think it has become a bit of a touchstone,” Kendrick continued. “The ‘strong female role’ was a necessary thing to push for when the only version of femininity available on screen was submissive, weak and incapable without men. But hopefully, we’re moving on from those times and towards a version of cinema where female roles can encompass myriad human traits rather than one defining adjective. I think we should now be pushing for ‘complex female roles,’ rather than simply ‘strong’ ones. What I’m really looking for in a character is a three-dimensional, fully realized person with her own flaws and complications – like the rest of the human race,” explained the actress. “As for Catriona – I think there’s a lot more to her than she’s letting on, and it’s fear of George’s mother that makes her feel like she has to put on a strong front because she’s intimidated. If only she could see that George’s mother is just as intimidated and that they aren’t a threat to each other! They both feel a need to compete to be top dog, so each sees the other as an enemy when really they’re much more similar than they think and they don’t need to be scared of each other.”
While there are plenty of humorous moments in “Whisky Galore!”, such as Kendrick’s favorite scene in which customs officials come knocking unexpectedly during wee hours, there are also a few that pull at the heartstrings. Gregor Fisher delivers a touching performance as Catriona and Peggy’s widowed father who has conflicted feelings regarding his daughters’ impending nuptials. While he wants them to have fuller and richer lives than they would have following in his footsteps as the island postmaster, his heart breaks to part with them. Kendrick opened up about working with Fisher. “Gregor Fisher is a big softy and a total dude. I really liked working him. He was very softly spoken and polite, the opposite of a diva, always respectful and never patronizing even though he’s had so much experience. He gets 10/10 in my TripAdvisor review.”
We couldn’t interview Kendrick without asking about her involvement in one of the most talked about scenes that aired on television last year—the infamous “hold the door” scene from “Game of Thrones.” “I knew when I read it that it was going to make a fantastic sequence. I was excited for viewers to watch it, but I couldn’t have predicted it was going to be quite so massive. I’m really pleased that Kristian [Nairn], who plays Hodor, had such an epic send-off. It felt fitting for a character who is so universally loved. And man…that guy could do a LOT with one word.”
“Whisky Galore!” opens May 12 in Los Angeles and New York.