Collateral Beauty is a film about a successful New York advertising executive (Will Smith) whose life has been in a downward spiral since he suffered a tremendous loss. When he writes letters to Love, Time and Death, he is surprised when each of them appears in front of him to talk about the letters. The cast includes Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Pena, Helen Mirren and Keira Knightley.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jacob Latimore, who plays Time in the film.
How quickly did you say yes after reading the script?
Jacob Latimore: I actually auditioned for the film a year before they regrouped with the new director and everything. They had a totally different director, and a totally different actor was going to play Will [Smith]’s character. That’s when I went in for the audition. They didn’t really know what they were going to do with the film yet, but once they regrouped and figured it out I was the first person David (Frankel, the director of the movie) saw for the role of Raffi. I just went in like I do every audition and just try to be prepared as much as I could. Luckily I just came out with this one. The audition process can be very discouraging. You go out for so many things, and you may be a good actor, but you may not be right for that role, so you may get a lot of nos. “You are so good, but you’re not right for this. That can be very, very frustrating in this industry. I felt like that I dealt with that a lot. This has been a year I’ve been waiting to have. I’ve booked two more films after this one; the Kathryn Bigelow project and an independent film called Krystal with Bill Macy and his wife and Kathy Bates. So I’m excited about that. That’s down the pipeline. I’m working!
What was your reaction when you heard you were going to be working with Will Smith and Kate Winslet?
Jacob: It was incredible. I was actually in Utah at Sundance, and I got that call from my agent. I was just like, “What? Huh?” I think for me it was a shock for me to be the only sort of newcomer in this cast. We know these guys but who is this kid? Who is that little guy? I think that was the most exciting part and being in that position where I was able to prove myself.
Between Time, Love, and Death, yours is probably the most abstract of the three. How did you approach doing the role?
Jacob: Yeah, I thought about it a lot. What does Time wear? How does Time talk? Does he have swag? I don’t know. For me, I just tried to focus on the concept of time and the importance of time. I think that’s what we see Raffi try to explain to Howard, that what we do in this bridge where love is the creation and death is destruction. That’s one of my favorite quotes in the movie. “Love is creation, Death is destruction, Time is the terrain in between.” What we do on that road from the beginning to the end is so important and how we use our time is so important. That impact we make and how long sort of deal with things. We got to keep living; we got to keep pushing forward to the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s what I tried to focus on as much as I could rather than like being Time.
The theme of loss and grief is so profound in this film. Did it pull on your personal experiences or emotions at all?
Jacob: I think if anything I related to my character the most as far as Time. I’ve never really dealt with a close family member death. The closest was my uncle, but that was more so like, “Okay, it’s getting close to home.” I started looking at my grandparents like they’re not going to be here forever. Looking at my mom; she’s not going to be here forever, so you start thinking about those things. It wasn’t hard to go there, but as far as me relating to the film, I related to Time the most. What am I doing with my time? Am I productive? Am I focused on this one thing too long? Have I pondered on this one thing too long?
What was your favorite scene to shoot?
Jacob: Probably between the scene where I ride the skateboard onto Will’s bicycle. I think that’s just a cool, unique scene. And then the scene with me and Kate where she hands me the money. It’s funny, I kept messing up on those lines. The lines were changing like every other day. I kept messing them up. It took five or six times to finally get it right. They said cut, and she’s just jumping up and down saying, “Oh my God! Oh my God! That was so good! You’re perfect! Oh my God! Let’s look at playback. You want to look at playback?” I was like “Yeah, let’s look at playback!” It was like, ”Yo, this is Rose from Titanic.” I looked at her thinking “Yo, meet me at the clock Rose.”
This movie has a lot of messages in it for the audience. What does this movie mean to you?
Jacob: What Collateral Beauty means to me is that there is always that light at the end of the tunnel. In the film, we don’t even see Howard talk for a third of the film. I think that says a lot. When we are going through tough times, we have to get things out; we have to communicate. We have to process and express those things that are in our mind, whether it’s on paper or it it’s talking to someone. We see how Howard goes through a unique way of healing, by writing to Time, Love and Death. I mean, who does that but that’s what helps him get through this tough time in his life.
Now that your acting career is taking off, what kind of advice did you get on set from Will Smith, Kate Winslet, and the rest of the cast?
Jacob: What Will told me was he said, “If we can make them cry and laugh in one scene, we’re killing it.” I looked at the film, and I thought to myself, “We’re definitely making them laugh and cry.” This one, it touched me. It gets me every time. I can’t wait to see it again.
You’re juggling an acting career with music. Did you talk to Will about that since he’s done that very successfully?
Jacob: Yeah, you know we never got a chance to talk about that. Honestly, I didn’t even really think about it at the time. And we have so much time to see each other in the next few weeks promoting the movie, and that’s probably something I’ll ask him. We always just talked about certain scenes, and I asked him advice on what my next film should be and whether I should be picky about my next project. What are the next steps that I need to take? I’ve been on a really cool pedigree working with really creative people on the film side, so I want to make sure it keeps going up. He had some really good words for me about that.
You’re working with such big stars on this film like Will and Helen Mirren. Did you have any expectation going into this film with these big named stars?
Jacob: Yeah, absolutely. Its one thing to work with A-list actors but it’s another thing to work with great people. You may not be working with the most solid people all the time. It was really cool to feel welcomed and loved on set. I think I probably got the closest with Kate just because of our scenes; the whole Time and her character dealing with the baby and stuff like that. She was just so genuine. I met her husband. She was really, really dope. She was really amazing for me.
What can you tell us about the Kathryn Bigelow project? John Boyega has been cast, and it’s been getting a lot of buzz.
Jacob: Will Poulter is also in it, who I worked with on The Maze Runner. Anthony Mackie is in it. It’s a really, really dope script. Algee Smith, who is appearing in the New Edition bio¬-pic, is it. It’s an amazing cast. The film revolves around the 1967 Detroit riots. I can’t say too much, but that’s what the film revolves around. We get an insight on how certain things went down and a certain situation on the last days of the riots with the cops and a group of teens that passed away.
Did you know how to skateboard before you made this movie?
Jacob: Uh, no. I was at the audition and was getting ready to leave. I felt good about it and David, our director, was enthusiastic about me, so I felt it went well. I was just about to walk out of the room when he asked me “Hey, do you know how to skateboard?” And I said, “Um, uh, yeah, absolutely!” I walked out of the room and said to myself “Oh no, I have to learn how to skateboard!” So I had to take skateboarding lessons. And that’s why most of my skateboarding scenes are cut out of the film!
Ha, ha. Well thank you for your time, and I wish you lots of luck with the film and your career.
Jacob: Thank you very much!
Collateral Beauty opens nationwide on Friday, Dec. 16th.
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