The actress, best known for her work on the short-lived series Lone Star and The River, as well as the film In the Blood, will soon be seen playing Kate Kavanagh in the big screen adapation of the extremely popular novel Fifty Shades of Grey. The movie was directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy), and is scheduled for release on February 13th, 2015. But first, Mumford can be seen in the new film Drones, which was directed by Rick Rosenthal (Halloween II, Bad Boys) and opens in theaters, on VOD and iTunes June 27th.
In Drones, two soldiers, Sue Lawson and Jack Bowles (Mumford and Matt O’Leary), are tasked with deciding the fate of a terrorist with a single push of a button. As the action plays out in real time, their window to use a deadly military drone on the target slowly closes. With time running out, the soldiers begin to question what the real motives are behind the ordered lethal attack.
I recently had the pleasure of talking to Eloise Mumford about her work on Drones, as well as the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey. The talented young actress discussed Drones, her research into the role, how that helped informed her performance, her character, the national debate over using military drones instead of manned aircrafts, filming in one location, working with actor Matt O’Leary, shooting Fifty Shades of Grey, the pressure that comes from appearing in a movie based on such a popular book, and collaborating with director Sam Taylor-Johnson.
Here is what Eloise Mumford had to say about Drones and Fifty Shades of Grey:
IAR: To begin with, did you do any research and talk to anyone in the military to help you prepare for your role in Drones? If so, what did you learn and how did that information help to inform your performance?
Eloise Mumford: I talked to a bunch of different people. Two different types of people. I talked to a lot of women who are in the Airforce Academy because I wanted to hear what their experience was being a woman in a military. Obviously it’s very different than being a man and especially going through military school as a female is a really specific experience. So when I spoke to them they talked a lot about how you have to be the best at what you do and even better than the guys. If the guys can do 50 push-up, then you have to be able to do 55. You will always be held on the same level of fitness, you’ll always be held on the same level of everything, but there’s so much more pressure because you’re a woman that you’ll want to be able to do it even better. There’s a real sense of pride in the fact that the women who are in the military, especially who have just come out of flight school, have really earned the spot where they are. So there is a real confidence, which I really tried to portray in my character regardless of the fact that it’s her first day. The other type of person that I spoke to were drone pilots. One in particular who had both serviced as a drone pilot overseas. Most of the drone piloting when they’re actually in the air happens from trailers in New Mexico, Arizona or Utah. So I spoke to him a lot about the specific pressures of being a drone pilot and how different it is to have a nine to five job where you’re basically in a war zone but then you come home and you clock out at five. You get off your shift, you clock out and come home to your family. You have a normal life and then you go back in the morning and you’re back over in Afghanistan or Iraq. They discussed what that does to you mentally and the challenges that that presents, which obviously are incredibly hard.
In the film, Sue is not only dealing with the fact that it is her first day and the pressure of being a woman in the military, but also living in the shadow of her father. Can you talk about how that asspect of your character’s life helped influence the way you played the role?
Mumford: Yeah. Once again I think it raises the stakes when there’s a high expectation going into something. The fear of messing up is that much higher. But also I think in particular for my character, she really wants to be taken seriously of her own accord. I think people who have influential parents feel that way. They want to feel like they’ve earned where they are on their own and it has nothing to do with how important their parents are. So there’s that sort of stubbornness that she has earned where she is on her own, and to be considered just a General’s daughter I think is frustrating to her. But it also is the reality of her life having both of those things going on at the same time.
There has been a national debate over the last few years about the pros and cons of using drones instead of manned aircrafts. How do you think this film adds to that conversation?
Mumford: I think that that movie is tying more than anything to just approach the conversation because the reality is that within the next forty years there won’t be any manned aircrafts in warfare. We can debate the political and moral fiber of using drones all we want, but the reality is as a tool of warfare the drones are the future. Just like machine guns and tanks were at a certain point, it’s just a new tool. We have to as a society come to grips with that and provide the people who are the pilots and the veterans of drone warfare with this support that they need because it’s a completely different type of warfare. I think everyone can acknowledge it isn’t as simple as a right or wrong situation. Obviously the plus is that there aren’t American soldiers dying when those drones go down, which is wonderful. But they are also making decisions based on technology that’s happening thousands of miles away. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched footage of actual drones attack, but you can Google what it looks like when they’re making a strike and sometimes it’s really hard to see. But it’s also hard to see sometimes when you’re in an airplane in war. War is messy and I think that more than anything we’re just trying to raise the conversation because we have to be talking about this. There are soldiers in our society that are going through this on a daily basis and they’re really underheard right now.
As as an actress, what’s it like shooting an entire film in only one location? What was that process like for you?
Mumford: It was really interesting. It was incredibly challenging. It was really claustrophobic sometimes when it got emotional and I think that that was fitting because it would be. These people are piloting drones from tiny little trailers, and the specs of what we were shooting in was very close to what they actually are. It was a very humbling experience and it gave me a great appreciation for how many incredibly difficult jobs there are out there in drone piloting. It’s always nice as an actor when you appreciate the circumstances around you because it helps your acting. I felt the emotions that happen in a small space, the fact that she can’t escape, and she had to deal with the consequences of what she was going to do. That all feeds you as an actor.
You primarily worked with just one other actor in the film. What was that experience like, and can you discuss acting opposite Matt O’Leary?
Mumford: Yeah, he’s tremendous. He’s great. He’s just such a dedicated actor. We really became like brother and sister as we were shooting. egging each other on, challenging each other and supporting each other. You always feel like you are trying to keep up with the actor across from you and they always feel like they’re trying to keep up with you. When you both feel like that then you know you’re challenging each other to do your best works.
Finally, can you talk about shooting Fifty Shades of Grey?
Mumford: We wrapped the first film and it was incredibly exciting as you can imagine. I was really honored to be a part of it and this phenomenon that it is has been. It was really fun to witness and to get sucked into. There are honestly tens of millions of people who are excited to see this film. To be a part of something that many people are excited for is incredibly humbling and really exciting and fun. It’s also just great to be a part of a film that’s so daring. I try to choose work that I’m challenged by and that I find controversial and daring. This film is incredibly daring. This film is for grownups, it’s about grownups and I think people are going to be really pleased when they go to see it.
Do you feel pressure as an actress being involved in a project that’s based on such a popular book and has such high fan expectation?
Mumford: I feel energized by the anticipation. I think people are anticipating it so much and that just makes me really excited and titillated. Most actors hope to be part of something that people are really looking forward to seeing. I think the fans will be really excited with what we did. I’m excited for a trailer to come out so that people can see how happy they’re gonna be with it.
What was it like working with director Sam Taylor-Johnson on Fifty Shades of Grey?
Mumford: She was amazing. She was incredible. I loved that there was a female director. I can’t say enough good things about her. She was really inspiring, artistic and she just had such a beautiful control of the film. Across the board everyone was such a blast to work with and the characters are so well developed. It was really a wonderful experience, which is unusual to say for a film sometimes. In this case it really was. It was wonderful.
Drones opens in theaters, on VOD and iTunes June 27th.