Toby Jones is an actor who may go unnoticed to the average moviegoer, as he has the ability to blend into movies in a way that not every actor can. Horror fans should remember him from The Mist, while others can find him in Doctor Who, Harry Potter and Captain America.

One of his latest projects is Berberian Sound Studio, which began its limited theatrical release today. I recently had a chance to talk with him about the movie, and he discussed his reasons for taking on the role, his love of Foley, and his familiarity with giallo films:

Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with me today. I really enjoyed your performance in Berberian Sound Studio and wanted to learn more about your part in the movie. How did you get involved and why did you want to be a part of this project?

Toby Jones: I thought it was the most original script I’ve read in a long time and after fifteen pages, I wanted the part. I thought it would require a whole set of challenges I didn’t know if I could meet, where we’re telling a story in a very quiet way and with a narrow spectrum of expression. I wanted it more passionately than most jobs in a while and there was something about the situation that I found really intriguing.

Those were all good reasons to do it, but I was also very intrigued by Peter Strickland and his first film. I shared an interest of Foley with him, which is a very beautiful area of filmmaking. Peter appreciates the beauty of sound, and the different way that sound is produced and put into film. I was really happy that Peter offered me the chance to do it.

The Foley process has always interested me, especially considering that it’s a major portion of filmmaking that goes unnoticed to the average person. You mentioned that you had an interest of Foley before the movie, so I was curious… Where did that interest come from and did you have to learn anything to get into character?

Tobey Jones: This kind of character doesn’t really exist anymore… this homemade filmmaker that creates films from his garden. There’s a very famous children’s program maker, Oliver Postgate, who made films in the shed at the bottom of his garden. He’s much loved by the people of my generation and before, and he’s one of the many inspirations for my character.

One of the losses in the digital age is the fantastic poetry of analog editing, where film is literally cut up and re-stuck together. They are pleasures that are tactile, as well as visual and aural, which is what Peter is alluding to.

My interest in Foley started when my father was telling me about people who went around with suitcases of shoes in Soho, the main post-production area of London. They’d show up every day and put extra footstep sounds into the movie for every character. I always loved that idea and found these characters to be compelling. I wrote a theatre show where I told the story with a Foley artist live on stage next to me in a mock Foley studio. I also love radio drama and that has a similar aesthetic.

Although it’s a fictional story, it was really interesting to see it revolve around Italian cinema in the 70’s. Was that something that you were familiar with ahead of time? Were you a fan of giallo before making the movie?

Toby Jones: I wasn’t a fan of Italian horror. I wasn’t not a fan, but I was just ignorant to it. I knew a bit about the music, which is extraordinary, and know about slightly earlier periods, but not the giallo films. I wouldn’t say that I know a whole lot now, but I’m aware of the lush, decadent quality to the films. They’ve been enormously influential. In a way, the less I understood, the better really, because I’m a fish out of water in the film.

When it came to the creative process, was your character pretty close to what was in the script? Were there any changes or improvisations after you were hired for the role?

Toby Jones: The script was very carefully written. Originally, it was influenced by an actual sound artist, named Adam Bowman. I met Adam, and Peter told me that he was originally going to make the film with him. Adam is not an actor and is a foot and a half taller than me. He’s a big guy, and I think it took a while for Peter to shift his idea of the character away from Adam to what I was doing. The film itself was quite challenging in terms of its structure. There’s a lot of repeated episodes and it’s more like a poem or piece of music, than a piece of narrative cinema. While that may be the case, I had to come up with a viable story and Peter didn’t want to tell me if my ideas were right or wrong.


To learn more about Berberian Sound Studio, watch the trailer below and read our review at: