Romantic & Classy:
Interview with Actor Colin Egglesfield
Actor Colin Egglesfield began his career as a model. Originally planning on medical school, his detour into modeling turned out to be, as he puts it, “one of those fortuitous things…. beyond my wildest dreams.” TV commercials came next as Egglesfield ventured into acting.
But it wasn’t an easy transition, even though he’d done some local theater as a child. So he enrolled in acting classes, where he discovered different ways to explore the range of human emotion and behavior. For Egglesfield, acting is more than a vocation, “it’s freeing.”
He currently finds some of that freedom portraying Josh Madden on All My Children, where he has “gotten more comfortable in front of the camera.”
With Beautiful Dreamer, directed by Terri Farley-Teruel, Egglesfield is the leading man on the big screen. And he looks at ease there. He fully inhabits amnesia victim Joe Kelly, the quietly troubled World War II pilot and husband.
It’s a wonderfully subtle performance, because Egglesfield had to breathe life into a nice guy whose psyche is almost invisibly plundered by the atrocities of war. Almost. When his wife, Brooke Langton’s Claire Kelly, discovers him with amnesia, the damage is entirely visible to her for she is almost invisible to him. Almost.
Colin Egglesfield recently talked with me about his work on this evocative 1940s-era film, Beautiful Dreamer.
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How did you become involved with Beautiful Dreamer?
After doing a pilot for Warner Bros. that didn’t get picked up, I auditioned for a year and didn’t book anything. You realize how much something means to you. I would pick up a guest-starring role, like once every 6 months. You think it’s going to be your big break. Then you don’t work for another 8 months. You do audition after audition and I can’t tell you how many times I’d walk out of them and think, “That was such a waste of time. This is horrible. I should go back to Chicago. What am I doing here? When is my life going to begin?”
And then it did. I was on my way to acting class when my agent called with the audition for “Beautiful Dreamer.” I stopped by to pick it up before going to class, read it and loved that it was a World War II love story. I worked on it for a while after class and went in the next morning. Some auditions feel like you did a great job, and they tell your agent you sucked. Other auditions, you feel like you did a horrible job and they say they loved you. I never really felt I had a great grasp on whether casting directors liked what I did or not, but you just go in and do your best as I did with this one.
My agent called and said, “They really liked you. They want you to come back and audition tomorrow with the lead actress, Brooke Langton.” So, I went back the next day, read with Brooke and right away it clicked. I walked in and saw her in the room she’s so beautiful and sweet and Terri was so cool. I felt like I clicked with her right away as well. This was a project I felt strongly about. This was something I felt I could really do something with. The night before the callback when I had some more time, I went on the internet and downloaded pictures of World War II bombers and crewmembers and cut them out and taped them on the script. I read up on the missions and the crews and the airplanes they flew so that when I walked in for the callback, I had a better sense of what it was like to be one of these guys.
I felt like it went well but soon after, my agent called and said they really liked me but were going with another actor who had more credits. I thought, “There goes yet another one I got close on but didn’t get.” That was a Friday. On Monday I got another call from my agent saying the guy they chose had gotten hired to do a Steven Spielberg film and dropped out of “Beautiful Dreamer.” I thought this was great but he told me they wanted to audition one more guy and wanted me to come again to read one more time. That’s just the way it is.
I was in my living room later that evening and my roommate at the time worked for my acting agency. He knew I got the role before I did. He stopped by an army surplus shop and bought a camouflage jacket and when he walked in the living room, he threw it at me and said, “I think you’re gonna need this.” I was like “What are you talking about?” He said, “You got the role!” I started jumping up and down and screaming, “Yes, yes!”
I met for dinner with Brooke and Terri soon after and it felt like this was going to be a really cool project to work on.
(Photo left) Joe Kelly (Colin Egglesfield) is a WWII veteran pilot struggling to reclaim his former life in the film "Beautiful Dreamer."
What was it about a World War II love story that appealed to you?
I love the era of the ‘40s. It seems like it was a classier time. Men wore suits and said, “Yes, ma’am,” and held the door for women. For me, it’s one of the most romantic periods. I love the way women wore dresses. You would hold hands. You know, nowadays, it seems you turn on the TV and women are half-naked, dancing and grinding in videos. It seems like people had more self-respect. It was a more innocent time, I guess, a simpler lifestyle, but really romantic. And I love roles involving soldiers, where there’s that discipline.
What was the most challenging part of playing Joe Kelly?
Playing him as someone who’d had a traumatic brain injury, not knowing where he’s from, feeling lost and not really connected to anything. But at the same time making him not completely shut down. I had a hard time because in the beginning you see such a small part of who he was before the accident.
I kept getting the direction that there should be the distinct recognition of Joe before the accident and Joe after the accident. Then at the very end, where he realizes who he is: he’s not going completely back to who he was because he’s still scarred, but also seeing some of that relief that he finally realizes who he is. And then for me, not knowing what that would be like. I kept telling myself Joe didn’t want to trust anyone after the accident. I wanted to play him as someone who’s fragile and looking for connection.
That’s why when he sees Claire he feels there is some sort of connection, but he’s too fragile to even investigate it. The more he is around Claire, the more it stirs up these unconscious feelings. But they also trigger painful memories of the accident. It’s a lot to integrate into a character, so you focus on immediate things you can control.
For instance, I have my limp, so I put stones in my shoe. It’d piss me off after a while damn rocks in my shoe. After 3 hours, I started to limp for real and it gave me a bit of my agitation. I’ve been around enough actors to know that some are just naturals. I’ve always felt it hasn’t come that easy to me. I have to analyze everything and experiment with what works and what doesn’t, but unlike some other actors, I hardly feel like I nailed a scene. I never felt I had an innate grasp of what it really meant to play a scene and keep in mind the arc of the story, where you come from, where you’re going. Training has enabled me to do what I’ve done. At the same time, I’m very critical of everything I do. It’s hard to watch myself.
So what was your reaction when you watched yourself in Beautiful Dreamer?
Like I said, it’s hard to watch myself and I was critical of my performance because at times I know when I could have done a better job. I thought Brooke did a phenomenal job. She’s such a talented actress and incredibly beautiful and sweet. There are also a lot of other talented actors in the movie who gave great performances, including Will Lee Scott, Barry Corbin, and Rusty Schwimmer.
It’s tough because on a limited budget you don’t have time to do 4 or 5 takes. You’ve usually got to do it in 2. We had 18 shooting days. It’s amazing what the producers and Terri were able to do.
(Photo left) For Claire (Brooke Langton) and Joe (Colin Egglesfield), love does indeed conquer all in the film "Beautiful Dreamer."
How does the finished film compare with how you envisioned it when you first read the script?
It’s a lot grander than I thought it would be. I thought it would be a movie with a smaller, more intimate feel. But the movie feels more like a Hollywood, big-budget picture, with great landscapes and airplanes. I was totally blown away when it felt more expansive than what I originally thought. We had a great cinematographer, David Bridges.
What was your favorite part of doing this film?
Being able to kiss Brooke Langton. [Laughs.] And to be in the cockpit of a mock B-24 airplane. They weren’t able to get a real B-24 for the scenes that I did but they made an incredible replica of a B-24 for some scenes and used another type of period bomber for the cockpit shots. It was such a cool experience because growing up, as I said, World War II was one of my favorite time periods. I used to build model airplanes and hang them from my ceiling, including World War II bombers. I’ve been dreaming of being in the cockpit of one of these since I was a little kid.
Working on Beautiful Dreamer was an awesome experience and I consider myself fortunate to have worked with everyone involved with the movie. I really hope people enjoy it and feel we stayed true to the integrity of the time period and shed a little bit of light on the bravery and selflessness not only of the men who fought in WWII or any other war for that matter but the bravery and strength of their families and loved ones at home.
2007 Film Entertainment Magazine / EMOL.org. All rights reserved.