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Interview: Haley Bennett Discusses Playing 'Roxanne' in the New CYRANO Musical Film Adaption

Cyrano opens in theaters on February 25.

Interview: Haley Bennett Discusses Playing 'Roxanne' in the New CYRANO Musical Film Adaption

The classic tale of Cyrano returns with a new musical twist in Joe Wright's new adaption of the recent Off-Broadway musical by Erica Schmidt.

A man ahead of his time, Cyrano de Bergerac (played by Peter Dinklage) dazzles whether with ferocious wordplay at a verbal joust or with brilliant swordplay in a duel. But, convinced that his appearance renders him unworthy of the love of a devoted friend, the luminous Roxanne (Haley Bennett), Cyrano has yet to declare his feelings for her - and Roxanne has fallen in love, at first sight, with Christian (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.).

Adapted from Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, the film features music by Aaron & Bryce Dessner and lyrics by Matt Berninger & Carin Besser.

BroadwayWorld caught up with Haley Bennett, who plays Roxanne in the new film to discuss her journey with the character from stage to screen, why the story of Cyrano continues to resonate with people, and more.

You've been involved with this version of Cyrano for many years. What was it like to finally be able to bring it to the big screen?

By the time we finished the stage production, I was eight months pregnant. I didn't tell anyone, so people in the audience may think that I just gained some weight. When it was going off-Broadway, I had just had a baby ... I was really disappointed that I couldn't be a part of that.
I had just had my baby and I had gotten a role in Ron Howard's Hillbilly Elegy and so I really wanted to focus on that opportunity instead of being away from my girl, Virginia, every night. But there was still a part of me that felt like I wasn't done with Roxanne. Joe [Wright] had seen our production in Connecticut and he was immediately interested in adapting it for the screen. And then when COVID hit, he realized that the story mattered more than ever. You don't need a pandemic to feel isolated. They found a way to do this production in a very safe bubble in Sicily and I got to play this role again and to explore it for the screen.

It sounds like you experienced so much in between the time that you had played it on stage, from when you got to adapt it to the screen. How did your performance change throughout those years?

Well, I think for Roxanne, the movie is about her realizing what true love is, and I guess each of the three main characters go on that journey. For Cyrano, it's his pride. For Christian, it's his fear. And for Roxanne, it's about learning what true love is and the balance between what's real and what isn't real. Given that that this character has been with me through so many different stages of my life, I could really feel that love deepening throughout the entire process. It was important to me that Roxanne was an empowered character, that she wasn't just the love interest and that she retained a sense of control and that she was the author, not only of these letters, but of her own life. I think that that was really important to me, especially after having a little girl, I wanted Roxanne to have that power and agency and also to challenge myself.

For me, Roxanne was quite an intimidating character because she's someone who so knows what she wants, so there was an aspect of my character called "red lips" and I would wear imaginary red lips whenever I felt like, this is a moment where Roxanne is so much bolder than I am as a person. So that was something that was kind of a key to my character, these imaginary red lips. And I've even written a song about it. I sing a song to my daughter called "Ruby Red Lips" every night. So I think that, psychologically, that was all wrapped up and in my experiences.

In movie musicals, we see characters have the ability to express different thoughts or emotions through song that they may not be able to through word. What do you enjoy about having this advantage in creating a movie musical as opposed to a regular film?

There's an element to musicals where you can get away with so much more, as you say, and the film is also set in a kind of fantasy world of a period between 1680 and 1700. The characters exist in an alluring dreamworld of a romantic reality. It is a drama and we do sing in the film, but the songs are mostly extensions of dialogue ... The music I think feels quite intimate. The potential of that was very exciting to me. It was like that in the stage production and then even more so with the film because you don't have to sing out as you do when you're doing a stage production and you have to make sure you're projecting and everyone can hear you. To be able to get really kind of internal and just feel things in the moment and not worry about how you sound and to embrace the flaws, you know, none of us are singers. I definitely don't consider myself a singer, although I love going to Broadway and seeing these incredible stage productions where the voices are so powerful they just give you goosebumps, but I am not that person and I don't think Pete [Dinklage] claims to be that person either. I can't speak for myself, but there's so much humanity when I hear Pete sing. It exposes you in a different way than just words can.

We've heard this story of Cyrano be told for so many years. Why do you think it continues to resonate with people?

I think the reason the story continues to resonate is because we all have a nose. We all have something about us that we feel is unlovable. I think the moral of the story is don't let the fear of not being enough stand in the way of getting the life you deserve, the love you deserve, or the job you deserve, or the friends you deserve. I'm definitely guilty of living that way. I think you start to realize that life is too short. I think it's a tragedy that Cyrano has so many beautiful qualities about him, so much that's so lovable, and yet he doesn't allow himself to accept that his love could have been accepted. That's the tragedy of the story. Don't allow yourself to become that tragedy.

Watch the trailer for Cyrano here:

Photo Credit: Peter Mountain

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