She may be a long way from Westeros, but Emilia Clarke is still on the frontlines — this time to resurrect the romantic comedy.
The London-set Last Christmas unites the star with fellow Brit Henry
Golding, to go head-to-head with the beloved seasonal dramedy.
But unlike the lovable protagonists traditional to the genre, Clarke's character Kate is, in her words, "a self-destructive mess". A cynical Christmas shop employee, Kate ruins relationship after relationship via a string of selfish decisions.
She soon meets Tom (Golding) who, by way of playful flirtation, begins to demonstrate the error of her ways. Kate's general unlikeability, Clarke says, was the primary reason she was attracted to the project — claiming it's rare to be presented a script where the female lead is both multidimensional and evidently deeply flawed.
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There's little wonder why. Not only is director Paul Feig - known for championing female-led comedies - at the helm, but the movie was co-written by revered British actress Emma Thompson (who also stars as Kate's mother).
"Emma Thompson was never going to write a character that wasn't deeply complex and human," Clarke says. "I'm done with all these Hollywood, glamorised renditions of women. It's f***ing annoying. Because it's just not like that in real life."
As a result, the film is as much a love letter to London as it is to unconventional women. An admitted Anglophile, Feig made a point of ensuring the film was authentically English — even shutting down Covent Garden to shoot Kate's daily commute.
"Aside from the fact that the story was so special, I have always dreamed of making a movie in England and this just felt right," Feig reveals.
In cinemas from tomorrow, Last Christmas will no doubt have fans flocking for holiday cheer. But despite its lighter premise, the film embraces some heavier themes; touching on loss, immigration tension and navigating poverty.
Recruiting Golding, who Feig directed in A Simple Favor, to play Kate's love interest was a "no-brainer".
Golding's character, a phone-forgoing delivery man, goes through a powerful evolution in his own right throughout the film and is at the centre of its biggest twist. The role is definitely a departure for the A Simple Favor star, whose comedic chops are certainly put through their paces.
"It was really invigorating to take on a character who is so different from those I've played in the past," Golding says. "Tom is so relentlessly optimistic, and insistent on breaking down Kate's walls. I love his approach to life, and it was so fun to just dance and be silly with Emilia."
Impressively, neither Clarke nor Golding fear their previous success - on HBO's Game Of Thrones and box-office smash Crazy Rich Asians respectively - will overshadow their subsequent creative output.
"Every actor, when they find success with something, gets scared that that's the pinnacle," admits Clarke. "I could be doing worse than having someone calling me Khaleesi for the rest of my life but ... it's not something I could ever feel scared of because it's the reason I'm here."
Golding agrees: "I feel exactly the same. Crazy Rich Asians was this amazing moment in time for me and for many people and I know Game Of Thrones was the same."
The pair's on-screen chemistry is certainly a joy to watch and as an added bonus, is soundtracked by George Michael's greatest hits after Feig secured the rights to more than 50 of the star's tracks.
It's the perfect accompaniment to the emotional roller coaster Last Christmas is certain to be for audiences, while serving a hearty helping of nostalgia.
"Being English, you can't escape George Michael as the soundtrack of your life. There's a George Michael moment for every moment of your life," explains Clarke. "He's written so many pop songs, but it's only posthumously that we've felt that his music is so heartfelt ... and so heartbreaking."
"There's no one who better encapsulates joy than George Michael." Feig adds, "I'm so excited that we were able to pay homage to him this way."
Clarke, instead, is most proud of the fact a studio like Universal signed on to make a romantic dramedy that is far from "formulaic". She says she couldn't imagine seeing a character like Kate on screen 10 years ago, and for that she's grateful to the women in the writers' room.
"If you saw this kind of character before now it would only be an indie. The fact that a studio of this size are doing this and choosing to back Kate says a huge amount about what people who are making money in Hollywood are looking for — they're seeing what people are looking to watch."
Who: Emilia Clarke, Paul Feig and Henry Golding
What: Last Christmas
When: In cinemas today