interview | tom burke

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Tom Burke understands the beauty of being surprised. In his role as Praetorian Jack in Furiosa, he embraced the unexpected and unusual — especially given that the film is a post-apocalyptic action movie that asks audiences to suspend belief and explore a world different from our own. Set against the backdrop of post-apocalyptic Australasian wilderness, the film stars Anya Taylor-Joy as a fierce young Furiosa, the tough, one-armed warrior originally portrayed by Charlize Theron. Opposite her is Burke, clad in battered leather, who broods as Praetorian Jack—a stoic, sharp-shooting convoy driver aiding Furiosa in her quest for vengeance against the warlord (Chris Hemsworth) who murdered her mother. Though Burke’s role is impressively understated, it’s the quasi-romance between Jack and Furiosa that infuses the film with its emotional core, grappling with themes of grief and loss.

Schön! speaks with Burke about preparing for the role of Praetorian Jack in Furiosa, what surprised him about working alongside Chris Hemsworth and Anya Taylor-Joy, and more.

What unexpected challenges did you face while bringing Praetorian Jack to life in Furiosa, and how did you overcome them?

The usual ones always surprise me. Remembering to leave oneself alone and let something happen; being open to the environment around you and to chance. Letting your work be a marriage of that and not something you cooked up all alone.

Can you describe a particularly intense or unusual day on the set of Furiosa that left a lasting impression on you?

Every day was its own kind of unusual. The Battle of Bullet Farm was the realization of so much of the work we’d put it. It was very different doing action stuff where I was no longer in the truck; using a different weapon, and having to hit some epic story beats within that between Jack and Furiosa.

How does the character of Praetorian Jack push you outside of your comfort zone compared to roles like Orson Welles or Cormoran Strike?

I wouldn’t say either of those other roles was particularly in my comfort zone, to be honest. There’s a confidence that grows the longer you play a character but it’s a confidence to keep taking the right kind of risks. And it depends hugely on who’s holding that space as a director. I’ve been very lucky in that regard.

What fascinates you about dystopian and futuristic settings, and how do these elements enhance your performance in Furiosa and The Lazarus Project?

Genre gives you this robust infrastructure to make more nuanced choices within. You have to match the scale of things emotionally. Fear of melodrama can often become fear of drama, per se. It’s very liberating.

How did working with Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth influence your approach to your character in Furiosa?

Chris’ sense of play. Anya’s sense of discovery in each moment.

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How do you mentally shift between playing historical figures in films like Living and The Wonder to more contemporary or futuristic roles?

I don’t massively. Specificity is specificity. There’s always an imaginative leap being made.

Reflecting on your journey from theatre to screen, what role do you feel has been the most transformative for you as an actor?

Probably Telstar. I was starting ostensibly with an impersonation of Geoff Godard. There was very little overlap between us, physically or vocally, so it felt quite alien initially. My jaw used to hurt from the tension. And then you start having a sense of how that person might have been feeling (and why) to have been so wound up. It’s a complete reversal of how I usually work but it was very interesting for that reason.

When playing deeply emotional roles like Anthony in The Souvenir. What techniques do you use to access and convey such complex feelings?

In a Joanna Hogg movie, there are no scripted lines and it’s not like you can approach it intellectually so you’re abandoning yourself to the compulsions and whims and grievances of your character. You feel kind of out of control. And there’s a strange freedom to that when you’re playing someone dishonest. You’re not having to fact-check as you speak. The takes were fifteen, to twenty minutes long and took unexpected turns. All of that helps.

Are there any specific books or literary characters you dream of adapting into a film or series, inspired by your work on the Strike series?

Strike is an endlessly rewarding gig and some of the best characters out there are from the literary canon but there’s something uniquely exciting about playing a completely original character. I think with adaptations I’m more likely to feel fired up by a director’s vision. There’s a particular short story I love but it’s so perfect as it is. I still don’t know how the last sentence would translate to film and achieve anything close to the impact of those words read out loud or even seen on the page.

How do you foresee advancements in film technology impacting the way stories are told, especially in genres like sci-fi and fantasy where you’ve had significant roles?

I think as long as there’s the right fusion of visual and practical effects, and living, breathing actors, it will be a rich future.

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Furiosa is in theatres now.

photography. Rhys Frampton
fashion. Jaime Jarvis @ Stella Creative Artists
talent. Tom Burke
grooming. Chad Maxwell @ Stella Creative Artists using Bumble & Bumble + Elemis
asisstants. Josh Showell + Ethan Elli
interview. Alper Kurtel

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