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Interview with Benjamin Walker

Benjamin Walker interview

HBO

The character you portray in the film is a composite of sorts, based on several different people but no single one. How did you approach playing Kevin Connolly?

BENJAMIN WALKER

Kevin's significantly different than all the other clerks  he's not part of that upper class, Ivy League elite. The more I learned about what was going on for young people at the time politically, what was going on culturally, the easier it became to understand this guy. It's no mistake that he's the long-haired clerk. And that he, in some ways, has a stronger moral compass. The more I could learn about the music, and the draft, and the youthful understanding of Vietnam, the more I could understand Kevin Connolly.

HBO

You speak about the character's moral compass. There's a point in the film where he says to Justice Harlan, "It won't write." What is he trying to convey in that moment?

BENJAMIN WALKER

He's saying, practically, to put down in words what he's being told to put down  it doesn't make sense. If Harlan is really asking him to pay attention to the law and only the law, then what they're doing is making a mistake. He's also saying, in terms of the pages of history, we'll look back on this and see that we have done a wrong. He's willing to ruin his own career by doing so.

HBO

In the film's production, you were working with some true heavyweights. How do you approach coming to the table to work with the likes of Christopher Plummer and Frank Langella? Is it like any other project?

"I came away asking the question, 'Why the hell didn't I learn this in school?' It's so important."

BENJAMIN WALKER

Part of the reason they're so powerful is that they elevate your work and put you at ease. They're good at what they do, they're generous and they're good teachers. I was also lucky to have worked with Plummer before, so we already had a vocabulary and some experience together, which was extremely helpful.

HBO

How was it to work with Stephen Frears?

BENJAMIN WALKER

He's very collaborative and open to interpretation and your opinion, while knowing exactly what he wants. There was one day I said, "What if we try it this way?" And he responded, "Well, do what you do and we'll see if it's bad." That's kind of an actor's dream.

HBO

From script to screen, did you see things change during the rehearsal process or the shooting process? Or was it essentially very similar to what came to you as an actor when you first read it?

BENJAMIN WALKER

Shawn [Slovo]'s script is bulletproof. It's very strong. But the more we worked on it, the more it became important to make such a complex issue, with complex legal vocabulary, accessible. Everyone was interested in making it as clear as possible. Any changes we put in were in trying to accomplish that.

HBO

What do you think are the lessons that could be taken from Connolly and this story as a whole?

BENJAMIN WALKER

I came away asking the question, "Why the hell didn't I learn this in school?" It's so important, and I wonder why it wasn't in my history books. That's another reason I was honored to be part of it. This is a point of history we could recreate, and it can exist in a way that is a little more tangible than the way it had existed before.

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