Chalet Girl’s Ed Westwick, an englishman in New York
In just a few short years, Ed Westwick has established himself as one of the brightest young stars in Hollywood.
He plays Chuck Bass in the hit TV series Gossip Girl and made his feature film debut in Anthony Minghella’s Breaking and Entering, starring alongside Jude Law and Juliette Binoche.
In the bitter sweet British romantic comedy Chalet Girl, Westwick stars alongside Brooke Shields, Bill Nighy and Tamsin Egerton, as Jonny Masden, a wealthy young man whose world is turned upside down when he visits the ski slopes of Europe and falls in love with the feisty Kim (Felicity Jones). Here the 23-year-old Brit talks about this latest role.
How are you at the moment?
I’m peachy, I’m fantastic actually, I’m in New York right now and we’re kind of midway through the 4th season of Gossip Girl, which is absolutely racing by, and everything is great out here.
How much of your year do you spend in New York?
Well the show shoots about nine months of the year, and while we are in the thick of filming, we are pretty under the gun.
I try to sneak back for a weekend one or two times – you know, if I have a day off either side of the weekend, like a Friday to Monday, but it rarely happens like that.
So I rely on these breaks, like the Christmas break, or when we actually go on our fall hiatus and of course during that time the ideal situation is working on something else that I’m passionate about and excited by and that’s where Chalet Girl came into the equation.
I got to go to Germany and Austria and shoot this movie, which was immense fun with a great bunch of people, and it was very enjoyable all round.
Do you ski?
I do ski, I was fortunate enough that when I was in school, every year, my secondary school, they did skiing trips to Italy and Austria.
Every year from like 11 to 16, I went for a week and it was probably the most hilarious time of my teens to tell you the truth because it was like everybody bundled in the coach for a 26-hour drive.
And it’s like you and your best friend, and then you are all annoying, crazy 13- and 14-year-olds and so we got in and spent a week together annoying teachers and trying to sneak in a can of beer from time to time.
The Austrians are very accommodating for teenage drinkers!
Do you snowboard as well?
I don’t actually, that’s one thing I didn’t do. I actually had one lesson when we were doing the movie.
But I’m more into the skiing – I just feel so free on the skis. And there’s so much room for improvement with the skiing thing. I’m not like X Games world champion or anything but I do love it. It’s something I can enjoy and improve on and I may well revisit the snowboarding at some point, but skiing is the main thing for me.
Did you have much skiing to do for the film or were they worried about accidents and insurance?
You know, that’s the thing, I think I ended up doing about two day’s worth of skiing and we were there for six weeks or so, partly because of insurance reasons and things like that, but more so that because we were very busy making the film and then when you finish for the day you don’t really have the time to get on the slopes.
And if you had a day off it wasn’t necessarily the thing that you wanted to do for some reason. But I have to say when I did actually get the chance to ski it was fantastic and, you know, we were in a great resort and it kind of reminded me of how much fun those European ski resorts can be.
There are tons of bars, tons of restaurants in a tiny little town and it was packed with people from all over the world, having a wonderful time. I love that thing where you ski during the day and then enjoy the nightlife.
It’s a great crack and it was great to be part of that world that we captured in the movie.
You said that you get a limited amount of time each year at the moment to make a film and it has to be special. What was it about Chalet Girl then that you liked?
Well I think it’s a return to sort of that English comedy kind of thing that I grew up with.
It has elements of Richard Curtis and that classic English wit, which is great.
And I found the whole skiing element attractive and it’s not often that you find a film that is based around that kind of exciting sport and it’s something I grew up doing and I felt connected to it. But really, it’s the script – a really cracking script.
Tell us about who you play and give us a thumbnail of the story…
I play a guy called Jonny who is a banker, works in the city, and he comes from a wealthy family.
During the ski season each year his family takes a trip out to their ski chalet and sometimes they take clients from London with them and they do the whole kind of business entertaining thing. And one of the girls working at the chalet, Kim (Jones) is a kind of cook/maid/entertainment assistant, a general all round helper and Kim and Jonny have a real connection and they kind of bond and start to fall for each other. Jonny is the kind of guy whose life has been mapped out for him – he feels like his mother, played by Brooke Shields, is a bit controlling and circumstances kind of dictate the life he will have. And Kim’s life has taken the opposite route but really, her life is out of her hands as well. In the past she has had to take care of her father back home in the UK and she wishes that she could break out and be a bit freer.
So they find a common bond and it’s a very cute, very heart-warming journey. It’s starts with affection and eventually it becomes love. It’s a feel-good film in the best sense of the phrase and it’s very funny and I think everyone will enjoy it.
But there’s a complication isn’t there? Jonny is engaged to someone else, so the course of true love isn’t a smooth one…
Absolutely. He’s engaged and that’s part of that life that has already been mapped out for him.
It’s a relationship that he doesn’t really want to pursue and so it’s tough for him in that respect – he wants to make that separation and break away from what his parents want him to be, the path that’s been laid out for him.
But one of the things that this story is about is that the people who really love you will always be there for you in the end. His father – who is played by Bill Nighy – says: “I trust you and you have to do what you have to do…” And that’s kind of the message that you want to hear from your father, you want to know that your parents trust you and that they have your back.
Jonny’s mother is a little bit more of a problem. She’s the kind of woman who has everything planned out for her son – she has very set ideas on how she wants things to be and how she wants her children to be.
What was it like working with that cast?
It was a great, great time. They were a lot of fun, an amazing bunch. Actually there were a few nights spent in the local pub watching football. Bill is a big Manchester United and I’m a Chelsea fan so we got to trade insults at the games. Actually, I got to go to the Champions League semi-final with a German actor from the movie and that was absolutely fantastic. I was in with the Bayern Munich fans and I was pretty much the only English guy there, which was pretty sweet.
Filming was wonderful and we had a great time there and the people were great, the director was great, and the producers, Pip and Harriet were very supportive, and everyone involved was just a fantastic group of people.
And it was such a nice change for me because working with pretty much entirely an American cast on Gossip Girl, I got to kind of feel a little bit more at home perhaps with a more English based cast on Chalet Girl.
Of course we had Brooke and Nick (Braun) who are American, but yeah, it was mainly English actors and a lot of an English crew, a German crew as well, so it was just a great mix.
It really was a wonderful experience and I realised how much I missed making pictures in the UK. So I’m excited for this next break coming up to either do something in the states or do something great back home as well.
Gossip Girl is such a huge show. What’s it been like for you?
It’s been very bizarre and one of those things that you just have to roll with to tell you the truth.
I first got the show when I was 19 and I’m 23 now and it forces you to grow up quickly. It forces you to really self-evaluate every week because you are dealing with a lot of attention and you are dealing with the first time you have any money in your pocket. You are dealing with a lot of decisions in regards to personal situations and careers situations and often there can be a huge overlap as well because often your personal life can become public knowledge very quickly – which can be difficult to comprehend and can make you feel quite uncomfortable. But all in all you have to just keep focusing on the work.
It’s a battle and a struggle but it’s a battle I want to win because I’m passionate about the work and I want to be great and I want to have the opportunity to work with fantastic people and I want to learn and develop in every area of my life. And that’s just the bottom line really.
Chalet Girl is in cinemas from Wednesday March 16, certificate 12A.