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Essie Davis on Playing Moms in One Day, The Justice of Bunny King, and The Murmuring

Dec 26, 2022


Essie Davis has a kind of graceful formlessness to her. Like Cate Blanchett or Meryl Streep, there is almost a lack of ego in her which allows her to completely change depending on the role; she doesn’t inhabit characters, they inhabit her. From her many years starring as Miss Fisher and her acclaimed parts in shows like The Slap and Game of Thrones, to her international breakout in the modern masterpiece The Babadook and the acclaim of her recent role in Nitram, Davis is so good that more people know her characters’ names than her own.

2022 has been a great year for Davis. Her critically lauded, incredible film The Justice of Bunny King hit American theaters in the past month, and her starring role in The Murmuring, directed by her Babadook filmmaker and modern horror genius Jennifer Kent, premieres today, Oct. 28th, on Netflix’s show Cabinet of Curiosities. She also just finished filming her role in the upcoming Netflix series One Day, which is an anticipated long-form adaptation of the beloved book by David Nicholls. Davis spoke with MovieWeb about her busy year.
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Essie Davis on The Babadook, The Murmuring, and Jennifer Kent

Netflix

The final film in the horror anthology series Cabinet of Curiosities is Jennifer Kent’s The Murmuring, in which Davis stars alongside Andrew Lincoln as a married pair of ornithologists going on a work vacation. While there, the creaky building which houses them triggers the grief and trauma of Davis’ character, Nancy, who recently suffered the loss of her child. Yes, both parts are about motherhood, but while she also plays a bereaved mother struggling with disturbing apparitions in Kent’s The Babadook, they couldn’t be more different roles (and films).

“Jen and I have known each other a long time,” said Davis of her relationship with Kent. “She was a year ahead of me at drama school, and she was outstanding. She was the best actor above us, no doubt about it. We always got on really well and kind of just continued our friendship beyond drama school. So then she asked me to do The Babadook [after already writing a film for Davis which fell through]. So The Murmuring is sort of the third time round, really, and I think there’s a certain shorthand between us.”

Related: Exclusive: Cabinet of Curiosities Directors Discuss Their Short Horror Movies

Davis’ ability to create layered, intuitive, and intelligent performances are arguably tapped to their fullest by Kent. “I trust her completely, even though sometimes it’s really out of my comfort zone. I can count on her to make a great piece of work. So I trust whatever she requires of me. I will go there and do it, and she’ll find a way to get it out of me if I’m not giving it,” laughed Davis, who brings it all in The Murmuring. In her Kent performances, she’s terrified enough to be a modern scream queen, but genuine, relatable, and poignant enough to be a queen in many other respects.

The Murmuring Emotionally Centers Cabinet of Curiosities

Netflix

The Murmuring is perhaps the most emotional film in Cabinet of Curiosities, and ends it on a profound note, bringing all the ghostly and supernatural ambiance of the hour back down to earth for a deeply human moment. Nancy is a mother dealing with depression, but in a very different way from her Babadook character. “I think they’re very, very, very different characters, but yeah, they’re both dealing with repressing their grief, and Nancy has to repress her grief because she’s a leading scientist in the 1950s. It’s hard enough already to be a female leading scientist. She has to be head and shoulder above all the men to be even vaguely considered equal in a very male-dominated world.”

The Murmuring is a poignant study of grief, especially from a feminine perspective. “The expectation of the weeping falls upon the woman, and when Nancy does express it in feelings, they are often questioned by her husband, even though they love each other profoundly,” said Davis. “They have this unique interest in such a specific, beautiful little tiny species of bird, so they have something to focus all their attention on. They have a natural quietness and patience that sort of is above and beyond a lot of human experience; the bird watchers have the ability to be quiet, and patient, and wait, and watch, and be still, and to deeply, deeply involve themselves in the minutiae of a different world.” It’s almost as if Davis is describing her own approach to character, a kind of cinematic ornithology.

Essie Davis on the Importance of The Justice of Bunny King

Madman EntertainmentProtagonist Pictures

Davis headlines the powerful new movie The Justice of Bunny King, which recently received an international release. In her four-out-of-four review for Roger Ebert, Sheila O’Malley called it “an amazing directorial debut from Gaysorn Thavat,” saying that “Davis outdoes herself.” Davis plays the titular character as the film follows Bunny’s struggles through poverty and the frustrating bureaucracy of the welfare system in order to throw her daughter a birthday party, and to ultimately save her niece (a wonderful Thomasin McKenzie) from trouble. It’s an often painful film to watch, but Bunny has such fortitude and determination despite her hardships that she becomes a kind of patron saint for the subjugated.

“I think it’s a profoundly important film,” said Davis. “I am so proud of this, I think this is a film that everyone should see and all our governments should see. I loved it from the minute I started reading it, because Bunny King is such a beautiful, enigmatic woman, and she’s full of so much heart, and so much tenacity. She’s resilient and hopeful and buoyant, and she just never stops trying. I think it’s an incredibly important film because you see the hoops that Bunny is forced to jump through over and over and over again to prove that she’s a worthy mother, to prove that she’s capable of looking after her children, that she’s the best person to look after her children, that she’s valuable in any way to anyone.” Davis continued:

I feel hope for Bunny. This film should be something that opens an audience’s eyes to the people around them, and is a voice for those in poverty or on the borderline of homelessness. For those who have survived or escaped domestic violence, for those who have their children in care, who we as a society often just leap to conclusions about people all the time — “Homeless woman with children in foster care? Well, she must be bad person.” What I love about this film is that Bunny’s clearly not a bad person […] it’s a massively important film for people to watch.

Davis Stars in the Upcoming Netflix Series One Day

Netflix

Aside from The Murmuring and The Justice of Bunny King, people are anticipating Davis’ performance in the upcoming Netflix adaptation of the beloved novel One Day by David Nicholls, which was previously turned into a film starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. “The novel is set on one single day, the 15th of July, every year, for 20 years,” said Davis, who recently wrapped filming, though the show is still in production. She continued:

It’s about two sort of star-crossed lovers who meet on their graduating night. A girl from north of England, who’s not in the cool gang, and meets this golden boy who looks amazing and has everything handed to him on a platter. And it’s this wonderful, push-me-pull-me, hilarious, kind of joyous, terrible story of their love and attraction to one another, and just the point they are at in each other’s lives on that day every year. It’s about someone who’s got everything who just attracts thing to himself, and who someone who has nothing aspires to and creates for herself.

Related: Best Films That Take Place in One Day

“It’s really beautiful,” said Davis. “Ambika Mod [who plays Emma] is hilarious and genius, and Leo Woodall [who plays Dexter] is gorgeously deep. They’re two wonderful young actors that I just thought were outstanding. And the scripts are divine, each episode is just one year later in their lives. I play Dexter’s mother, the golden boy’s mother. So Leo was my son, and mother and son have a really cool relationship. They’re a pretty awesome couple in themselves.” The Netflix series seems to go beyond the 2011 film with Hathaway, providing a more in-depth, sprawling, and realistic romance story, and it will be beautiful to see.

Davis on Miss Fisher and the Future

Every Cloud Productions

These three projects follow up on Davis’ most recent, though perhaps not final, time playing the iconic Miss Fisher from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, with the film Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears. Davis hasn’t ruled out playing Fisher in the future, though, even though she’s played her on and off for a decade.

“I love that character. She’s audacious, naughty, super talented, and independent,” said Davis. “I think I will never say never […] but I also have a level of expectation for her, and the way her story can be told at the highest level. But I don’t think what we want to achieve can be achieved on the budget [of Crypt of Tears].” Hopefully, one day, audiences will get their $60 million Miss Fisher film. In the meantime, the chameleonic Davis will be elevating everything she’s in.

Produced by Exile Entertainment and Double Dare You, Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities’ last film, The Murmuring, is available now on Netflix. Now that The Justice of Bunny King has finished its theatrical run internationally, it can be seen On Demand through digital platforms. One Day will be on Netflix sometime in 2023.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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