The highly-anticipated film Chevalier, out now, tells the unsung story of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a Black violinist/fencer/composer whose visionary work rivalled that of Mozart. Alex Fitzalan stars alongside Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s Bologne as Philippe, a French noble who played a pivotal role in the young artist’s life. The 27-year-old Australian actor — whose credits include the streaming hits The Society and The Wilds — describes himself as being immediately drawn to the role and Chevalier’s script.
“I just remember taking a beat and reading the whole thing twice, which I rarely do. And then I was drawing inspiration for this character from so many different places,” he recalls, citing Paul Bettany’s performance in A Knight’s Tale as a standout inspiration. “[Philippe’s] role in the film is to be almost the comedic relief character that comes in, but at the same time, the whole thing is very serious. We’re talking about tones of civil unrest set against the French Revolution, and racial equality.”
Chevalier boasts an exceptional cast of young actors, including Harrison Jr., Lucy Boynton, and Samara Weaving. Harrison Jr. plays Joseph Bologne with a quiet intensity that will be familiar to those who have seen his previous starring turns in films like Waves and Luce. “He’s incredible. He has so much dedication to his craft,” Fitzalan says of his costar. “For me, I think it really reignited a love for acting and film, and made me want to work that hard, which is admirable.”
Over the course of a nearly four-month shoot in Prague, the cast formed a close bond as they took on the complex themes of Chevalier. “When we were shooting it, we were really aware of how much it could mean to so many people if we got it right,” Fitzalan says. “Everyone who signed on, signed on because they loved it. It was definitely a labor of love for everyone involved.”
The production of Chevalier paid a great deal of attention to authenticity and historical detail, allowing the actors to immerse themselves in history. The film’s art department meticulously recreated intricate and detailed interiors to build out the 18th-century French setting. “When you walk in, it’s like you’re walking into something that’s alive,” Fitzalan says of the film’s production in Prague. “It’s filled with people all dressed in period appropriate costumes. The attention to detail, and the interiors of these places were absolutely insane.”
Equally detailed was Fitzalan’s attention to his character, whose own story had previously been untold onscreen. “Philippe supported Joseph and other artists like him, and really propped them up and supported them financially and put on shows for them so that they could make their own way.” Fitzalan continues, “Eventually, the French Revolution started to happen and he had a very privileged position. He ended up denouncing his titles, and he became Philippe Égalité, which means ‘Philippe of the people.’”
Following the enthusiastic critical and audience reactions to Chevalier, Fitzalan is already at work on his next project, Prosper, which he describes as “a serious satire on Hillsong Church.” His experience on Chevalier, however, stays close to heart: “If I could do films like this for the rest of my career, I would have a very fulfilled life. I would be a very happy man.”
Chevalier is in theatres now.