A GoPride Interview

Jonas Armstrong

Jonas Armstrong, Simon Dutton are ‘Walking with the Enemy’

Thu. April 24, 2014  by Jerry Nunn

People at the end were still crying. I think that shows we have done a good and honest job.
Jonas Armstrong

jonas armstrong, front, in walking with the enemy

A remarkable tale of real-life WWII heroism, Walking with the Enemy arrives in theaters on April 25. The motion picture tells Pinchas Rosenbaum's true story of courage, sacrifice and redemption against the backdrop of war-torn Budapest near the end of WWII.

Actor Jonas Armstrong plays Rosenbaum, who was able to disguise himself in an SS officer's uniform to obtain information on Jewish families that were to be seized. The legendary Ben Kinglsey makes a powerful appearance in the film as well.

ChicagoPride.com's Jerry Nunn sat down with Jonas Armstrong and Simon Dutton, who plays Miklos Schoen, to discuss the gripping scenes in which hope triumphs over despair and the incredible opportunity to educate people from all walks of life about the Nazi Holocaust.

JN: (Jerry Nunn) Hi, guys. Explain Walking With the Enemy for our readers.

JA: (Jonas Armstrong) It's a true story which is based on a man named Pinchas Rosenbaum, who lived at the end of the second World War. In Budapest they decided to get rid of as many Jews as was possible. It is about one man's courage and tenacity to save as many people as he could by whatever means necessary. Some of this being posing as an SS Officer.

JN: What drew you to this character?

JA: Probably the answer to the first question, because it is based on historical facts. Reading the script I didn't know it was based on a person who did these things. When I learned more, then it was a great undertaking.

SD: (Simon Dutton) I don't think many people know about it and this story has not been told before.

JA: By all accounts he didn't like to talk about it. That is even mentioned towards the end of the film where he said he wouldn't even be there except for the accounts of other people that retold it and talked about his heroism. He wasn't one to bask in his glory.

JN: How did you research the character?

JA:We had a good production team that had been working on a film together a couple of years before it came to fruition and filming started. There was so much material.

SD: And so much footage.

JA: It would have been hard to sort this out. They did a lot of the hard work for us.

JN: Ben Kingsley has a smaller part in the movie. Were you around him much?

JA: We didn't spend much time with him.

SD: No. The whole filming was quite a long process. We went back a year later and shot more scenes. We needed to flesh out the film in a certain way. All of the political side of it with Ben Kingsley were a late addition to it. That was all filmed certainly after I finished. You had a little bit of crossover.

JA: Yes, but our stories are totally different. There is a local agenda and then a human story. They both run parallel. The only crossover I can think of was when we were in this restaurant where I learn about the death counts then I realize my suspicions are correct. I think that is the only crossover to the political side.

SD: I think Ben did three days.

JN: That's a nice gig.

SD: [laughs] Absolutely!

JN: How was learning the accents?

SD: We had dialect coaches. There is a bit of German spoken at the beginning then when there is an accent it is assumed that you are speaking the language. We had a Hungarian dialect coach listening to everything and giving us a few pointers. It was just to give it a flavor.

JA: I think it helped. It does help the performances and my character.

SD: You behaved a little bit differently, didn't you?

JA: Yes I did.

JN: How was filming that intense scene with the Nazis in the bedroom?

JA: That was in the second week! It was just before my weekend when I went to Budapest and the labor camp. That was filmed first then we did stuff in the Jewish housing. That was early on. I am pretty sure that was Hannah's first scene.

SD: Oh my god, yeah...

JA: It was quite brutal.

SD: That was tough.

JA: It was not a nice scene to do with attempted rape and guns being shot. It just shows it and doesn't pull back.

JN: From watching it the movie has a hard time shifting from a heavy scene into the one after it.

JA: Exactly.

JN: There are a lot of guns! It is a pretty heavy for a summer movie.

SD: It is more of an autumn feel to it.

JA: It has a Christmas vibe! [everyone laughs]

JN: What do you want people to take away from it?

JA: From what we have seen it has been very effective. The first time I saw it was at a private screening in London. I took a friend of mine who is Jewish. A half an hour in she was crying throughout the film.

SD: It is very moving.

JA: People at the end were still crying. I think that shows we have done a good and honest job. It is not nice viewing and a pleasurable experience but it's important. It depicts what was going on at the time.

SD: There are some feel good moments in though, aren't there?

JA: Yeah.

SD: Remember the screening where there was applause when one of them gets shot? It is quite good at the end where there is a sympathetic officer because not all of them wanted to fight.

JA: What are you going to do? You get shot if you don't do what you are told.

SD: There is a little scene outside the gas chambers.

JA: Where the guy is horrified by it. He doesn't want to do it. There was a question at a recent screening in D.C. where people asked if that was believable. I think it is nice to have that side.

JN: You were both involved in Robin Hood projects in the past.

SD: Oh yeah but different eras.

JA: It was 25 years apart.

SD: I was in one in the early '80s.

JA: Mine was in 2006. That is when I started the Robin Hood experience. They were both a series on the television.We were talking about the differences in them. Ours was more geared towards the younger audience. I remember the producer saying it was for the Playstation generation! I was in one scene with Michael Craig about mysticism and pagan spirits.

SD: When you see it as a kid that would be scary.

JA: I was terrified of it!

SD: It was quite frightening with the hunter coming out of the mist.

JA: We were just talking about this yesterday.

SD: We have both play Wilfred Owen in the same play. It is an incredible moving story about the first World War. He was a poet. So that is something else we have in common. We realized it over a bottle of Jack Daniels.

JN: That had to bring you together! I know Doctor Who fans, which you acted in, Simon, can be quite nutty?

SD: I went to my very first convention a few months ago. I was thrilled because William Shatner was there. He was the guest of honor. There were thousands of people. He gets a wad of cash for being there. I thought I was going to hate it but it was brilliant. I really quite enjoyed the whole experience because everyone is having such a good time. I met William Shatner in the green room and shook his hand. I was such a fan as a kid. I know what he was being paid.

JA: Probably a lot.

SD: Just to have a photograph was like a hundred quid. He earned his money with all of those fans.

JN: Tell me about the Tom Cruise movie you have coming out, Jonas.

JA: That is called The Edge of Tomorrow. There will be trailers of it in the cinemas in the next couple of weeks. It comes out around June 6. I am looking forward to it. That was an interesting shoot. It was quite fun but difficult because we were all in suits.

JN: What is your character like?

JA: I base him on a British football playing hooligan.

SD: Someone you know?

JA: No, I swear not! His name is Skinner. He's very aggressive and gives Tom Cruise's character a rough time. He comes in the army. It was good fun to do. He was great.

JN: What other projects do you have coming out?

SD: I just did a fun little bit for a few days with one of Wachowski brothers, motion capture stuff called Jupiter Ascending. Were you actually in that armor in Edge of Tomorrow?

JA: Oh yeah. I was in the bloody thing, all 80 kilograms of it! Your film was the next one after ours coming into the Warner Brothers Studio.

JN: You guys are linked together.

SD: It's synchronicity!

Walking With the Enemy hits theaters April 25. Visit www.walkingwiththeenemy.com for information.

Interviewed by Jerry Nunn. Jerry Nunn is a contributing writer to the GoPride Network. His work is also featured in Windy City Times, Nightspots Magazine and syndicated nationally.