Rhoda Montemayor on Finding Neverland
How did you get started as an actress?
I always knew I wanted to perform when I was young, but at the time I wanted to be a ballerina. At performing arts school, I concentrated on dancing and appeared in shows like West Side Story and Chorus Line. My older sister has been an actress since she was 18, with an agency that covered film and TV. She got an audition for the BBC drama Holby City and it turned out that they might need a younger sister for the episode too, so I got a chance to go along as well. Anyway, we didn't get the parts, but her agency offered me the chance to be on their books. I've been with them and acting ever since, so I guess I owe it all to my sister.
Did you ever think you would end up in a film alongside Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet?
No way. Tiger Lily is a very small part, but it was still amazing to be involved in the film. Actually, what was strange was that when I got the part as Tiger Lily in Finding Neverland, I was actually working as an usher at the Duke Of York Theatre in London. That was the theatre in which JM Barrie's Peter Pan was first performed.
Did you have to audition?
Yes, but because there weren't any lines for Tiger Lily in the screenplay, the audition had more to do with physical acting. The film focuses on JM Barrie (Johnny Depp) and the fantasy world he created that would become Neverland, rather than the story of Peter Pan. Tiger Lily just appears in his imagination and doesn't say anything. They had really been looking for actors with dance experience, so my dance training helped. It had a lot to do with my looks as well, I'm Philippino and I guess they thought I looked like her.
What happened when you were on set?
For the first two weeks on set, a choreographer came in to create a dance routine for the Neverland fantasy sequences involving my character, the Indians and the fairies. We also had a fight scene all worked out with Tiger Lily and the pirates in the film. At one point, I was even supposed to climb up a human totem poll and I also had a dance scene with actress Kelly Macdonald, who plays Peter Pan in Finding Neverland. Unfortunately, the director Marc Forster decided that we just didn't have enough time to film it all, so a lot of my scenes were cut right down.
What did they keep?
Luckily, he decided to keep my flying scene, which was fantastic because it gave me the chance to do some wirework. I had to wear a harness under my costume, which turned out to be really painful and you can't sit down whilst you're in it. It's a lot harder than it looks to fly, you know.
What was it like working with an established director like Marc Forster?
I was surprised that he was so calm on set. You expect directors to be really stressed, but he wasn't. Marc really knew how to speak with everyone and make you feel comfortable for your scene. He would try to make everyone on set feel really important, even people with very minor roles.
How does it work on a movie set when you're an actor?
You are only called in when you are needed, either for rehearsal or for a scene, and you tend to only meet the people you will be working with. Although I didn't get to work with Dustin Hoffman, I did have scenes with Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. I appear in the film when Kate Winslet's character enters Neverland for the first time. In one scene with Johnny Depp, they also asked me play a clown and twirl around in the background whilst he danced with a bear!
What did you learn whilst making Finding Neverland?
Just how to behave on set, like being quiet and letting everyone else get with their jobs until they are ready for your scene. One thing that shocked me was how much time you spend just waiting around on set compared to performing for the camera. There are also very long days on a film shoot, you almost always had to be at the studio in Shepperton for 6am and then filming would finish really late. You work over 12 hours a day for 3 months, so it is very tiring.
What have you found hardest to cope with as an actress?
I think the hardest things to deal with are the rejection after auditions and having your scenes cut completely from a film. Going to see Finding Neverland, I'm going to be scared, not of seeing myself, but of not seeing myself, if all of my scenes are cut. Unless you are Johnny Depp or Kate Winslet, you just don't know where you stand in a film or how much you feature in it.
What have you been up to since Finding Neverland?
I've had a lot of small cameo roles in a number of programmes on TV, and I was also up for a Steven Seagal action movie. The studio flew me out to Thailand for the screen test and I got to spend a week there, which was amazing. The competition for the part was between me and another British actress and I was told to bring enough clothes for a month in case I got it. Unfortunately I didn't, but it was still a brilliant experience and I got to meet Steven Seagal.
Have you been in another film?
I have done another film that will be released next year called Animal. Roselyne Bosch, who wrote the screenplay for the Ridley Scott film 1492: Conquest of Paradise, directed it. It is a sci-fi thriller and I play the part of a lab assistant in the movie, who also happens to be the central character's girlfriend. I'm not allowed to reveal too much about the movie, but my co-star is Swedish actor Andreas Wilson, who starred in an Oscar-nominated film last year called Ondskan, and models for Abercrombie & Fitch.
So it was quite a major role this time?
I don't know if this is correct, but I think the call sheets on a film shoot list actors in order of importance. I was number six for Animal, so I think I might not get completely cut this time. Roselyne was great as well, she promised me that I have some important scenes that are crucial to the plot, so they can't get rid of me! I was actually working on the film recently, re-dubbing some of my lines, which was a lot of fun to learn how to do. We're aiming to get Animal to the Cannes Film Festival for next year, so it is very exciting.
What is the oddest audition you've ever had?
I was once up for the part of Cho Chang for Harry Potter. Even though I'm now in my twenties, they asked me to behave like a 15-year-old alongside all the teenage girls who were also auditioning. I think that I tried a little too hard, because I didn't get the part.
Who would you most like to star opposite?
Cate Blanchett, because I think she is fantastic and I admire her work.
What advice do you have for aspiring actresses and actors?
Make sure that you go to acting class, even once you have worked in a few films, as there is always room for improvement. It will also teach you about the basics, like how to behave in auditions and to always have your photos up-to-date. Be positive about yourself, but also be realistic enough to know that you are going to face a lot of rejection as an actor; you aren't going to get every part. In most auditions, they are looking for a specific person for the role, so don't take it personally if they don't pick you. Try not to get down, and keep going.
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