Ahead of today’s global launch of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie on Prime Video, The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann spoke exclusively with the film’s breakout star Max Harwood.
Based on the hit West End show, which was inspired by a true story—or as the opening titles put it, “this really happened, then we added the singing and the dancing”—director Johnathan Butterell’s screen adaptation is a gem of a movie musical which follows Jamie (Harwood) as he turns 16 and receives his first pair of ruby glitter high heels and decides to go to his high school prom in drag.
“I’ve been a fan of drag for years”, Harwood told us, “but I hadn’t done any of it myself before the film. So it was so exciting and I got to really explore it on a quite nice budget and I got people to help me like look good, because I wasn’t very good at makeup or anything like that.”
Harwood (like the rest of us), is an avid watcher of RuPaul’s Drag Race so sharing a scene, briefly, with season six winner Bianca Del Rio who makes a cameo in the movie was quite a thrill for the young actor. “I love Bianca so much”, says Harwood, “I actually heard Bianca’s voice before I saw her walking into the trailer! It was such a lovely experience working with her, fleeting as it was.”
Involved in the majority of the film’s song and dance numbers, Harwood tells us that that aspect of making the movie was “absolutely amazing; joyous, fabulous, but exhausting, obviously. We were shooting for 12 hour days and I had to keep my voice in check so it was a process. I definitely got better with those numbers as we got on I think, but I had amazing coaches. The soundtrack is just everything. I love this music so much and I’m so so grateful to be able to be part of that amazing list of people that are on it.”
When it comes to his favourite musical sequence in Jamie, Harwood says that the one that felt most like “a dream” to perform was The Wall In My Head because I felt like I was able to draw my own experience of building up those walls in my head. I felt like I could be so detailed in my performance as an actor, but also showcase my vocal skills as well. It was one of the songs that when I watched the musical on stage initially, I was like, ‘wow, where can I get the sheet music?!’ At the time you couldn’t just buy it, so I had to rip it off of someone who got links, and then I had to get hold of the music so I could sing it!”
While preparing to play the role, Max got to spend some time with the inspiration for the character, Jamie Campbell. “I was really lucky”, Harwood shares, “I got to meet Jamie before I started shooting. We had many conversations about his life beyond what we see in the documentary. He was so open with me in that process. I was very firm in my belief that I wanted to forget what I’d seen on stage, from what the boys had done so wonderfully before me, and to really root my character fully in the real-life inspiration.”
As for his own all-time favourite movie musicals, Harwood says that for him it comes down to Grease and Annie. “I used to watch them all the time, sing all the songs, and dress up in my living room with my sister to try and be all the characters!” In countless homes across the world right now, folks watching Harwood in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie are likely doing the same thing.
By James Kleinmann
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is on Amazon Prime Video. Read James Kleinmann’s review and watch our interviews from the LA premiere at Outfest.