Love Thy Keepers (2018)
001Lithium X (2018)
Role: Adam Bird
Das Boot (TV series 2018)
Official Site. Photos. IMDb
The Snowman (2017)
Role: Filip Becker
Release: Oct. 13 2017
Role: Colonel Winnant
Release: May 2017
Chicken/Egg (short film 2016)
Release: Febr. 2017
Role: Henry Howell
Release: 26 April 2016
Agent Carter (TV Series 2016, S.2)
Role: Edwin Jarvis
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FILM; Seeking Answers Down in the Trenches
By WILLIAM BOYD for The New York Times
Published: November 19, 2000
LONDON— NOVEMBER 1998. It is 6 o'clock in the morning and I am being driven west on the M4 motorway past Heathrow Airport, heading for Bray Film Studios near Windsor Castle where, in an hour or so, the first day of filming will begin on ''The Trench'' -- my directorial debut. My mood is, to put it mildly, one of high anxiety.
But, as it turns out, the making of the film over the next eight weeks is one of the great experiences of my life. It represents the culmination of an ambition that has its roots in my family history and is the latest manifestation of what I must recognize as something of an obsession of mine: the First World War.
It wasn't actually very long ago, that tremendous conflict -- just over 80 years -- yet in Britain, and in France and in Germany, it seems preserved in our contemporary minds as something almost ancient, a tale of bygone times. The images and testimony we have -- the photos, the newsreels, the poetry and the prose -- still possess an enormous power to haunt and move. But this persistent folk-memory, so far as I can tell, isn't present in the minds of most Americans in anything like the same degree, even though the American involvement in the war lasted 19 months, during which 114,000 American servicemen died -- twice as many as were killed in Vietnam. Yet World War I's legacy is not simply a record of appalling slaughter (nine million deaths, it has been calculated, over a period of 52 months). After 1918 everything in the Western world, and that includes the United States, was irreversibly altered -- socially, economically, sexually, politically, geopolitically, culturally. The 20th century, the modern world we all recognize, was full-throatedly under way.
This may go some way to explain why in the last two decades British novelists, at least, may have felt like exploring the turbulent years from 1914 to 1918. But most writers of fiction -- and filmmakers and playwrights, doubtless -- are drawn to a subject not by its weighty historical significance but by ideas of character and story, by the potential inherent in them and by the imaginative possibilities in their elaboration. You need only to glance at any portrait or snapshot of the soldiers of the Great War to sense in yourself a burgeoning curiosity and to set those questions running: Who are you? Who did you leave behind? How frightened were you? Did you think you would die? And -- most telling of all, perhaps -- how would I have coped if I had been there?
As far as I was concerned, it all began with a lump of metal, a fragment of a German shell casing that one night in October 1917, in no man's land, during the battle of Passchendaele, hit my grandfather -- William Boyd -- full in the back. When the piece of shrapnel was removed from the wound, he kept it as a souvenir, and it has remained in the family ever since as a kind of morbid heirloom. I remember as a child holding it in my hand (it was surprisingly heavy, almost like a flint ax head); however, I never had a chance to ask my grandfather any questions about his experiences of the Great War because he died in 1952 when I was a week old. But, as I grew older, and as I came to learn more about the war, I found myself wondering with increasing frequency what it had been like. What had been going through his mind during that night when his wiring party (he was a sergeant in the Royal Engineers) was unspooling fresh rolls of barbed wire in front of the British trenches? And what did he feel when first the star shells, and then the artillery, came over from the German lines? The attempt to answer those questions, the awareness of the sheer effort of imagination involved, explain, I think, why I have written two novels about World War I -- ''An Ice-Cream War'' (1983) and ''The New Confessions'' (1988) -- and why I've now written and directed a film about it.
When I was researching the World War I chapters of ''The New Confessions,'' I spent weeks in the Imperial War Museum in London watching miles of newsreel footage. Most of the sequences were filmed well behind the lines -- it was dangerous in those trenches, after all -- and many of the so-called action sequences are patent fakes, staged in training camps with soldiers playing dead. The real stuff, when you can find it, is unmistakable. One day, by chance, I ordered up a few minutes of newsreel about a burial party -- young soldiers lugging in dead bodies after a battle and dumping them by temporary graves. To see the sheer misery and nauseated dread on the faces of the living soldiers was highly distressing and, just for a moment, because the cameraman had been there, I was granted a tiny glimpse of the reality of what these young men, these boys, were going through.
And that is when I think that the idea of making ''The Trench'' was born. We forget that the First World War took place in glorious Technicolor, so familiar are we with its monochrome version. We forget also that it wasn't mute. The silence of the silent film and the sepia of the images distance the event from us, visually, and it seemed to me one of the great advantages of making a film at the end of the 20th century about the trench experience of the First World War would be that, at the very least, we would see and hear it approximately as it must have been.
I decided to take as the context of my story the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The first day of the battle -- July 1, 1916 -- is one of the defining events in recent British history. It was a day of absolute carnage, with 60,000 British soldiers killed and wounded by nightfall. Certainly the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army, perhaps even the bloodiest day of slaughter in any battle between armies, ever.
The Battle of the Somme marks a great watershed in the war itself. Without the disaster of the Somme (the four months it lasted cost 420,000 British casualties, 195,000 French, 600,000 German), the Allies might well have brokered a peace with the Germans in 1916. But after having paid such a price, to negotiate a peace would have been unthinkable.
The cost of the war continuing for another two years exceeded, in every dimension, everything that the first two years had balefully notched up. It brought the economic resources and materiel might of the Americans into the conflict too, making victory inevitable. The Allies won, the Germans lost and the severity of the conditions imposed on them by the Treaty of Versailles in 1918 sowed the seeds of Nazism, Hitler's rise to power and the other great conflict that would engulf the world in 1939. Nothing would ever be the same again.
However, as a first-time filmmaker I had some key pragmatic decisions facing me. I didn't want to make a film about fighting, because what really inspired me was my urge to come to grips with the personalities of the men involved. So, not a story of battle, but a story of young men waiting for battle and the terrible, mounting tensions that would ensue. But how was I meant to write and direct a full-length feature film about the First World War on the sort of modest budget that is considered the norm for independent European films? My answer and inspiration came from seeing Wolfgang Petersen's U-boat movie, ''Das Boot.'' Here I saw, in the U-boat, the same dangerous claustrophobia as a front-line trench. Here was the same sweaty proximity, the same absence of horizons: the whole war confined to a few dozen men in a few dozen narrow yards. Choosing a labyrinth of trenches as the arena of the film was actually liberating. The camera, we decided, would never rise above ground level, but would rove around the trench system with the actors, almost as a ghostly witness, as the clock ticked down for 48 hours before they went over the top into battle.
As the story began to evolve, so too did their personalities, as they bickered, joked and quarreled, ate and smoked, were bored or terrified. And when the barrage lifts and the whistles blow for the attack to begin and they leave the shelter of the trench to walk across the dense, untended meadows of the Somme valley, we should feel that we have come to know them -- and the messy, desperate fates awaiting these particular young men would stand as symbols for the grotesque and enormous massacre that actually took place. My aim, my hope, was to make it authentic, to make it true, to make it real.
I looked on it as a good omen, just before we started filming, when a package arrived from one of my uncles. He had unearthed, in Australia, a whole mass of material about my grandfather's brother, Sandy. Alexander Boyd had died in 1940 and had always been a shadowy figure in family lore, having emigrated from Scotland to Australia in 1913. Now, to my astonishment, I learned that he had also fought in the First World War and had been a sergeant in the Australian Army. Even more uncannily, he had been wounded at the Battle of the Somme in August 1916. His wounds earned him a medal -- the D.C.M., the Distinguished Conduct Medal -- as he had received them rallying his company and leading them to safety (after his officers had been killed or wounded) in the face of a German counterattack at a place called Mouquet farm. My uncle had also sent a photograph of Sandy in uniform; I had never seen a picture of him before. So -- as the world of the film began to cohere and come alive -- if there was ever any ghostly presence haunting our replica trenches (and they were spookily evocative at times), I imagined it as being that of Sgt. Alexander Boyd, D.C.M.
We say, casually, that life in the trenches of the Western Front must have been ''unimaginable.'' But it seems to me that the challenge to the artist, the challenge of art, is precisely to try to imagine the unimaginable -- to set the imagination free and attempt to bring that bizarre, boring, filthy, terrifying world to life. The war carries such a freight of history, and talk about it resonates with such grand and potent abstract nouns -- courage, duty, sacrifice, heroism and the rest -- that it often seems to me that we run the risk of depersonalizing it. In filming ''The Trench,'' I wanted to make the First World War personal again, to recreate a world that could have contained my grandfather and my great uncle, whose photographs sit today upon the mantelpiece in my study. I wanted more than anything else to represent the ordinariness and humanity of these boys and these young men, and in that way I felt we would understand all the better what they endured.
Below is from Aug 23, 2015, The Telegraph "William Boyd on the photos that inspired Sweet Caress" by Christian House