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Pierce Brosnan and Toni Collette have a comedic death wish in 'A Long Way Down'

Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul
Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul
Magnolia Pictures

In the dark comedy “A Long Way Down," four lost souls — disgraced TV presenter Martin Sharp (played by Pierce Brosnan), foul-mouthed teen Jess Crichton (played by Imogen Poots), isolated single mother Maureen Thompson (played by Toni Collette) and solipsistic muso Maureen Thompson (played by Aaron Paul) — decide to end their lives on the same night, New Year’s Eve. When this disillusioned quartet of strangers meets unintentionally at the same suicide hotspot, a London high-rise with the well-earned nickname Topper’s Tower, they mutually agree to call off their plans for six weeks, forming an unconventional, dysfunctional family, becoming media sensations as the Topper House Four and searching together for the reasons to keep on living. Here is what these stars of “A Long Way Down” said in interviews while they were filming the movie.

Pierce Brosnan and Toni Collette at the New York City premiere of "A Long Way Down"
Pierce Brosnan and Toni Collette at the New York City premiere of "A Long Way Down"
Getty Images

Interview With Pierce Brosnan

Can you describe your Martin Sharp character?

Brosnan: I play a man called Martin Sharp, who is a TV presenter. He’s not very good at it. He’s a talk-show host. He had a little problem with an underage girl. He went off and did time in prison. He’s kind of a miserable and sarcastic and witty and rather likable guy, actually. I love playing him.

Martin is just adrift in life. He wants to, at the end of this particular New Year’s Eve, he wants to go to the top of Topper’s Tower and throw himself off. And as he’s up there, lighting a cigar, contemplating the great void of oblivion, he hears a voice: Maureen, played by Toni Collette. And therein, hangs the tale.

What can you say about your “A Long Way Down” co-stars Toni Collette, Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots?

Brosnan: These are three actors I greatly admire. Toni’s work has dazzled me for so many years. She’s such a chameleon. Imogen and Aaron are young actors who are on their way in life. It’s their time. It’s always invigorating and stimulating to work with talent like that. It keeps you on your toes.

I went to a Radiohead concert with Mr. Aaron Paul, and became instantly hip. He’s a great tweeter and took a photograph of the two of us. He said, “Man, look at this! We’ve already got 800 hits in five minutes!” So this old dog became hip.

What did you think of how the book “A Long Way Down” was adapted into a movie?

Brosnan: You go to the text by Jack Thorne, who did the adaptation of the book by Nick Hornby. That cross-pollination of author and playwright, this particular one … It has a humanity to it and such a charm that it really moves around the stage with a nimble flair.

Interview With Toni Collette

How did you get involved with “A Long Way Down”?

Collette: I had been friends with our producer Finola Dwyer for a few years. She was visiting Australia to go to a film festival, and she talked about this book. It was one of Nick’s books I hadn’t read, and she gave me a copy and said they had the rights to it, they were going to make it, and would I like play Maureen, which in and of itself is, like, “Yes” without even reading it.

And when I did read it, I thought it was the most exquisite story, and I agreed to do it immediately. It took a while for things to fall into place, but it was worth the wait. I think it was even better than I could’ve imagined it possibly could be. The experience has been amazing.

How would you describe your character Maureen Thompson?

Collette: I play a woman named Maureen. She’s one of the Topper’s House Four. She’s an incredibly socially inept person. But beyond that uncomfortable exterior, she’s the most beautiful soul — very sweet, meek, thoughtful, nervous, wears her heart on her sleeve emotionally.

And without even realizing it, she’s actually quite lonely and a little bit sad. But she has an incredibly full life taking care of her lovely son. Of all of the characters, I think when she attempts to end her life, it’s not indulgent and it’s not selfish. It’s actually a selfless motive. She just believes her son will have a better life without her.

How would you describe the cast of “A Long Way Down”?

Collette: The cast is a perfect collection of folks. And everyone has had the best time. It was really easy from the beginning. And everyone’s so different and works differently, but we just gelled and laughed every single day

Would you say that “A Long Way Down” is a dark comedy?

Collette: I think, given the story, it does have dark things, but it’s also hysterically funny. I think if you were to tell something in a dramatic way, it’s got to be a downer, but it’s not that at all. It’s “laugh out loud” funny. What I get out of it — I don’t know about other people — but what I get out of a scene coming to life, it’s just incredibly light and true. And I think people like to see real life on screen and situations that they recognize.

I don’t want people to think this is a Debbie Downer movie. It’s a buddy movie. It’s about four buddies. It’s the most unlikely of friendships, but it’s life-changing friendships.

What can you say about “A Long Way Down” director Pascal Chaumeil?

Collette: I’ve worked with directors where you kind of feel like you’re on your own. He’s absolutely embedded and dedicated and right there with us. It makes you feel safe. And when there’s such an investment in what you’re all doing, it such a real delight, and you want to give more and make it as great as you can be.

Interview With Aaron Paul

How would you describe your character J.J. Maguire?

Paul: J.J. is struggling to find purpose in life, and he’s just constantly trying to find ways to be happy. He’s struggling, and that’s why you meet him on that rooftop.

He’s in a very dark place, a very sad and lonely place. He’s tired of being scared all the time. He’s tired of trying to change, and not really knowing how to do that.

What attracted you to “A Long Way Down”?

Paul: I thought the script and the characters and the story were just so dead-on. These four different, polar-opposite characters, and they find themselves creating such a beautiful, strange bond.

How would you describe the cast of “A Long Way Down”?

Paul: I love everything about working with these guys. The story is about these four people having this strange bond and pretty much saving each other from death. We have this amazing bond.

What did you think of how the book “A Long Way Down” was adapted into a movie?

Paul: What Jack Thorne did with this script, this adaptation was incredible. From the book, it’s very diary format. There’s just so much going on, and so many things you could talk about, so there really wasn’t dialogue back and forth. It was just one person’s perspective and then another perspective. It’s interesting how Jack went about writing the script. I thought he did a beautiful job.

Interview With Imogen Poots

How would you describe your character Jess Crichton?

Poots: Jess is one of the quartet who meet at Topper's Tower with the intention of committing suicide. She’s a complex, an interesting character to play in many ways. I think she’s essentially quite frustrated with herself.

And it’s a particular period in her life where we’re going through a lot of change, and she’s very uneasy in her own skin. I think what’s incredible about the story is that in the presence of Martin, Maureen and J.J., she realizes that all these people are pretty much in the same boat.

How would you describe the cast of “A Long Way Down”?

Poots: You can’t imagine anyone else in those parts. Pierce, Toni and Aaron have completely brought them to life. That’s Pascal’s genius too. She’s a dream part, for sure.

Meeting each other, going through this process together, understanding one another through these roles and the person playing them — all of these elements — is an extraordinary time to have.

Would you say that “A Long Way Down” is a dark comedy?

Poots: There’s a balance between the macabre/melancholy element with the humor and the irony. And everyone is kind of like that. Everyone is very pensive and contemplative in their own way and private and at the same time completely loopy.

What can you say about “A Long Way Down” director Pascal Chaumeil?

Poots: I trust Pascal so much. It’s been a dream to work with him. I love him. He’s so clever and will completely turn around and say, “Have you considered this way? Have you considered that way?”

He’s always right. He’s very clever. It’s interesting because he’s French, and he has this wonderful understand of “British humor,” whatever that is, the sarcasm and whatever comes with that, the dry sense of humor that suddenly plays out in the script. It’s been wonderful to work with him. Everyone loves him.

How familiar were you with author Nick Hornby’s work before you made “A Long Way Down”?

Poots: Nick Hornby writes extraordinary characters. They’re really rich. They’re very conflicted. I remember seeing “About a Boy” when I was a lot younger. That’s still a film I’ll always watch when it’s on.

He’s an incredible writer. “A Long Way Down,” I obviously read when I knew I was going to be doing [the movie]. I would have read it anyway. It was a joy to read and so exciting.

For more info: "A Long Way Down" website