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10.11.13

Ed Westwick on Life After Gossip Girl

Ed Westwick, who played the infamous Chuck Bass in Gossip Girl, talks to Erin Cunningham about his role as Tybalt in the new Romeo & Juliet film.

I’m Chuck Bass.” Three little words that left countless teenage girls swooning. But, with Gossip Girl off the air for almost a year now, a void has been left in our young hearts. Where has Ed Westwick gone?

Starring as Tybalt in Julian Fellowes’s new adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, Westwick is making his heartthrob comeback.  Out Friday, Romeo and Juliet stars on-the-rise Hailee Steinfeld as a youthful Juliet and Douglas Booth as an almost Abercrombie model-esque Romeo. Sappily romantic and still filled with language some don’t understand, Fellowes’s version is a clear adaptation for the teen crowd.  And while it may lack the cult-classic quality obtained by Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 version with Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes, it does bring the story of Romeo and Juliet to an accessible level for its Twilight and Hunger Games-loving audience.

And while I may have expected more from Steinfeld (who is my current ultimate celeb crush), stand-out’s included Lesley Manville as Juliet’s nurse, Paul Giamatti as Friar Laurence, and of course, Ed Westwick as Tybalt. Letting his British accent shine, Westwick played an honest aggressor with a serious temper – sounds a bit like Bass, no?

Westwick talked to The Daily Beast about 2 a.m. sword fights, how Tybalt is reminiscent of his past role, and what’s next on his agenda.

How did you prepare for your role?

Well actually, just to give you a bit of background, I think I was actually the first actor on this project to read the script – that’s going back about three years now, probably a little bit longer. My representation got a hold of it and I was like ‘Let me read it, let me read it.’ They told me that Julian Fellowes had done an adapted version, and I read [the script] and was like ‘I really want to be a part of it, and as soon as it comes alive, let me know.’

I’ve always been intrigued by the role of Tybalt. Everyone obviously kind of focuses on Romeo and Juliet, but I think he’s one of the characters who you’re not given too much back story on and you don’t really know too much about. Yet he’s such a catalyst for the events that take place.

Obviously I’ve kind of grown up with the play. Being an actor and being from England, you look at Shakespeare’s work in school and also when you’re acting.

I wanted to go on my own kind of path with it, though, I didn’t watch any of the -- obviously I’ve seen other versions. For everyone from my generation it was the Baz Luhrmann version with Leonardo DiCaprio -- that’s the version that my generation grew up with in the forefront of their minds. So I didn’t really focus on any other version, I just wanted to do my own thing and have my own experience with it. It was very fun and exciting and I’m just really happy it’s finally coming out.

When I was watching the film, it kept coming to mind that Tybalt and Chuck Bass seemed to have similar personality traits.

Yeah, I think there are common themes, definitely. They both have a bit of a temper. I think [laughs] Chuck hasn’t drawn a sword on anyone, but Tybalt obviously did.  But I see them fundamentally different. I feel like Tybalt is a character that’s kind of caught between generations. If you look at the context of the play and the start of the Renaissance in Italy, you kind of had a shift into how culture was changing. It was becoming more business-minded and it was a pioneering [time for] tradesmen, and you had the start of the Medici and banking and things like that. And I felt like Tybalt was kind of this person from a prior generation, perhaps a more backwards-minded person who would solve things with blows as opposed to diplomacy. That was kind of the main point I wanted to focus on -- somebody who’s kind of confused by the changing times, and somebody who also really wanted to protect and love his cousin, Juliet.

So what do you think was different from this version than all of the others?

Julian [Fellowes] brings a very unique take to the adaptation. He does change the language and has added to things and changed things, but he still keeps the essence of the story and the language. I think that’s one of the things – when you’re adapting it -- you perhaps don’t want to stray too far, you don’t want to worry about losing some of the poetry that’s in the language. 

I think it works to our advantage -- it just makes it a bit more accessible to people who might be frightened by the original language or might not understand it. I mean, the play is 600 years old, so of course there’s going to be some things you don’t understand. You know, that goes for us all. You really have to study the original language no matter how experienced you are with any of the plays. You really have to analyze it. I think what it does ultimately is open it up for us all to enjoy the essence of the story.

What was your favorite part of filming the movie?

Well my favorite part -- being a boy -- was probably running around brandishing a sword and having a sword fight. That was a lot of fun and something I’ve never done before. We got to work with these fantastic masters of arms who came out of Rome and choreographed some fight sequences. We actually had a 2 a.m. rehearsal, Douglas [Booth] and I. Pretty impromptu. We’d come from dinner and I decided to kind of ambush him and jump out of our taxi when he got out and launch into one of our rehearsals. I think he was a little shocked, and it was a little unexpected at first, but I thought it’d be a good bonding exercise.  And it was a bit of fun also.

Had you ever used a sword before?

No, it was a first for me and it was a total learning thing. The guys who did our fight sequences worked on Gladiator, which is one of my favorite films for a whole host of reasons, number one: all the fight sequences.  So, to work with people who were that brilliant and were that patient as well were great.

And what did you think of the costumes you wore? Were you a fan of the tight leggings?

I think they were fantastic -- I think we should do a Romeo & Juliet runway show at fashion week. [Laughs] That would be quite a sight. I think the doublets, the kind-of jacket things that we were wearing, were especially cool. I wish I could have taken some of it home with me. But unfortunately I didn’t. I’ve seen stranger things, that’s for sure.

What’s up next for you?

I just finished a film here in LA called Kitchen Sink, which is again something very new to me and very different. It’s a Halloween comedy and it comes out next year. It’s kind of the tone of Superbad, but as I say, kind of pokes fun of the supernatural genres and is very fitting for Halloween next year. I got to work with Nicholas Braun, who I worked with on the film Chalet Girl. Comedy is something I love and haven’t done a lot of. For me, I’m just looking to do new things and work with great people -- so far I’ve been very fortunate.

So do you prefer film work over television?

I think both are great. The experience with film is that you get to go in and work on something for a few months, focus on that project, have that experience, and go on to the next one.  I think that’s a wonderful thing, you get to totally take on something new each time. In that way, it’s always fresh, it’s always new.