Jodie Comer is having an extremely busy year. She co-starred in the Ryan Reynolds summer box-office hit Free Guy, and fronted the recent BBC drama Help, about the U.K.’s Covid-19 response. And she’s currently in the midst of filming the fourth and final season of Killing Eve, the show that launched her into stardom in 2018.
Comer’s latest project is Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, which premieres this Friday. The film, adapted from the 2004 book by Eric Jager, is set in 14th century France and based on the true story of the last officially-recognized duel that ever took place in the country. Comer plays Marguerite de Carrouges, wife of Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), who accuses her husband’s friend, Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), of sexual assault, which leads to said duel. Damon and Ben Affleck (who also stars in the film) co-wrote the script with Can You Ever Forgive Me? writer Nicole Holofcener, and the story depicts the series of events from the perspectives of the three central characters, in sequence.
We chatted with Comer about how she approached the role, working with Damon and Affleck, her new perspective on red carpets, and how it feels to be wrapping up her Killing Eve journey.
How did The Last Duel come to you, and what were your thoughts when you got the script? What was it about this project that made you want to come on board?
I mean, the opportunity to work with Ridley was the first thing, and then reading what Matt, Ben and Nicole had written. One thing that really struck me was that there was this huge historical event with so much information about the men, and very little about the woman who was at the heart of it. So, I was really intrigued as to how they wanted to execute it. I’m also fascinated by this idea of multiple perspectives, but there ultimately being one truth—and that was always hers. And just to be able to give her a voice: she was such a remarkable woman, especially in the time in which she was living.
Obviously, the film takes place in a very different era, but of course, the themes are very relevant to some of the discussions that have dominated the cultural conversation in the past few years. I’m curious about what you guys were talking about as you approached the work. Were current events at top of mind as you took this on?
I’m going to be honest, they really weren’t. Purely because I just had to delve into her—what her reality was, and her situation at that time, to really try and truly understand what it was like to be a woman then. Women were essentially property—and rape was a property crime against the man, it wasn’t a crime against her. I was trying to really sink my teeth into her as a human being and grasp who she was. But having said that, of course, at the front of my mind was the reality that there will be many people who watch this film who have experienced something similar, and you have a real duty of care when portraying something like this. You have to handle it sensitively, and it cannot be gratuitous.
What was it like working with Ben and Matt, who obviously have been friends and worked together for so long?
I mean, you’re just so overwhelmed. You come into a situation like this when you’re surrounded by people you’ve admired and watched for a lot of your life, and it’s very surreal. But then you meet them—and Nicole as well—and they’re just so incredibly down to earth and welcoming. And they really included me in conversations about the script. If they were having dinner, they’d invite me over and they weren’t precious when it came to suggestions or if there was something I wasn’t feeling was quite right or I wanted a line changed. There was no “them” and “us.” It was really inclusive, which, to come onto a film of this size and be met with that, was just so heartwarming.
Is there anything about them you feel people would be surprised to know or that you think subverts expectations in any way?
I feel like what you see is what you get, which I think is great. They both have a wicked sense of humor, which was just really great to be around. They don’t take themselves seriously—but I think everyone knows that. You can see the rapport and respect they have for one another when you see them together in interviews.
How are you feeling coming to the end of the Killing Eve journey? I'm sure you're still processing all of it...
Yeah, well, you know what? I feel like I haven’t processed it yet! We definitely have a lot to do [on the show] before we can start relaxing. I’m just really trying to soak up being on set with the crew every day. There are so many people who’ve been a part of it from season one, and many people have joined us along the way. I think that’s what I’m going to miss the most: being on set with that crew because it’s such a lovely, lovely set to work on. So, I’m just trying to make the most of that and then I can face it in the last couple of days when I realize that it’s the end. But it’s bittersweet. We just want to make sure it’s satisfying for us, with these characters, and hopefully give them an ending that is truthful and also satisfying for the audience.
How do you feel about how Villanelle’s journey wraps up? Is this the ending you wanted for her?
Well, we’re still figuring out the ending. We’re not quite set in stone yet, so options are still open. I think we’re about to receive the final section of the script very, very soon. [whispers] But I can’t say anything.
I know no actor probably wants to have to talk about this stuff in advance, but you’re getting incredible reviews and awards buzz for The Last Duel. Is “awards season” something you think about at all, or do you try to put that stuff out of your head as much as possible?
I try not to pay too much attention, just generally. I think it’s quite healthy to stay away from what anyone’s saying, good or bad. I think I’m just so excited that people can get back to the theaters and hopefully they enjoy it. And this is definitely new territory for me. If there’s a cause for celebration further down the line, amazing, but I think where I really get my joy is when I’m on set. Anything after that is like the cherry on the cake.
Is it strange doing all the red carpets and film festivals and all that after the pause, or does it feel nice after everything we've been through the past two years?
It feels nice. I kind of have a new outlook on them now. I had a good chat with my stylist, and I was like, “I just want to be myself… I want to dress up but I want to feel like me.” And we've been really playing around with that. I’m just trying to enjoy these things because you realize, when they were taken away, you got to celebrate with people you've worked with and you got to be with creative people, and that's cause for celebration. Also, just to be doing it with work that I’m actually genuinely really proud to be a part of. It’s not a task—it’s such a pleasure and an honor.