actor Colin Firth has revealed how he was “overwhelmed” after meeting Eric Lomax, the Berwick man who has inspired Firth’s latest film ‘The Railway Man’.
Firth and Nicole Kidman, who is playing Lomax’s wife Patti, gave a press conference in Edinburgh to herald the start of a month-long shoot in locations including Berwick, Edinburgh, North Berwick and Holy Island on ‘The Railway Man’, which explores the impact of years of brutality and torture as Lomax worked on the ‘Death Railway’ in the Far East.
Firth has twice travelled to Lomax’s home in Berwick to meet the couple as part of his research on the film, which will chart more than 70 years of his life.
Jeremy Irvine, who shot to fame in the Oscar-winning ‘War Horse’, will play the young Lomax, who was brutally treated after being found with a clandestine radio.
Lomax, who was originally from Edinburgh, was an army signals officer captured in the 1941 fall of Singapore and later sent to the Burmese border jungle prison.
He famously won the UK’s premier award for non-fiction in 1996 – three years after his wife helped organise a meeting at the River Kwai with Nagase Takashi, the Japanese soldier who became his main tormentor, dramatic scenes which will be re-enacted in the film.
It was several decades after the war that Lomax met his wife-to-be on a train journey. Firth said: “They [Eric and Patti] are both incredibly engaging and made me feel very welcome. I found them both a delight, although I did feel at times a little overwhelmed by the enormity of the story.
“He is 92 and not really demonstrating that at all. He is mentally far more agile than I am. I have to keep up with him really. He has a tremendous sense of humour that can be a little dark at times.
“It was important to me to meet them. It focused me and it was something that was very sobering, but also the story is such a big one and about a generation prior to my own, it can feel a bit abstract, a little bit out of reach. But to meet Eric personalised it and humanised it.”
Kidman, who relived a teenage “road trip” around Scotland with a boyfriend, said she would also be meeting the couple.
“I wanted to form the character first and then meet her, so I was not trying to force myself into being her,” she said. “I have to find my own way. She is very much the heroine of this film; that is what drew me to the role. I found the subject matter very moving.”
The cast and crew will spend around a month on the east coast before filming moves to Thailand and Australia.