Pale Blue Eye star Harry Melling on transforming into Edgar Allan Poe
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Harry Potter star Harry Melling talks about portraying a literary icon in the Netflix thriller The Pale Blue Eye.
Actor Harry Melling has revealed the research that went into playing the iconic Edgar Allan Poe in The Pale Blue Eye.
Set in 1830, the Netflix film sees the haunted veteran detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) requested to investigate a series of grisly murders at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.
In this cold and mysterious location, Landor crosses paths with the unique and artistic young cadet Edgar Allan Poe, played by Harry Potter alum Harry Melling.
The film also stars Toby Jones, Gillian Anderson, Lucy Boynton, Harry Lawtey, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Robert Duvall.
It is based upon the fictionalised novel of the same name by Louis Bayard, which includes the real-life figure of Poe.
Speaking with RadioTimes.com ahead of the film's worldwide release on Netflix, actor Harry Melling discussed his turn as the legendary Edgar Allan Poe in the film.
When asked if he did much research on the character or whether he just worked from the script itself, Melling commented: "Yeah, I did as much research as I possibly could.
"I read every single biography I could. I read his works. I read his poetry, which is tough going, certainly his early stuff. I mean, The Raven's beautiful, obviously. But his early stuff is... there's a footnote the size of a page for every single line, and it's pretty heavy.
"Then I felt like I knew so much about him that I went back to the script and I realised, 'OK, I kind of need to forget a lot of the stuff that I read', because the point of this script is the fact that, yes, we're engaging with the icon of Edgar Allan Poe, but we have this opportunity to investigate his early life and pick and choose the things that were useful.
"So when he was younger, he was very nomadic, he moved around a lot. He was in London for years. And then he was in Virginia, then he went to Boston – [he had been] born in Boston. So that told me that maybe we're dealing with an adult who had no sense of home or place, and that to me was interesting.
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"Certainly, in terms of how [writer and director] Scott [Cooper] wrote this character, who's performing this idea of being a young poet - he doesn't really own it yet. He's very much in this performance mode, he's doing flourishes, and he's trying to impress fellow cadets. And that territory was interesting for me.
"So it's a balance between doing as much research as you can, and then going, 'OK, what can I use that can be potentially fun to play with?'"
The key relationship in the film has to be between the investigator Augustus Landor and Edgar himself as they form an unlikely crime-solving duo, but how did Melling see their relationship?
"Well, my understanding from his point of view was, this is a man who's spent his whole life searching for a family, for a home, and meeting Landor he realises that this man could be that for him," revealed Melling.
"You could call it a father figure, you could call it many things, but actually, for me, it was more a sense of belonging, which is something that I think Edgar searched his entire life for. So that was the thing that anchored me in that relationship."
The actor added: "Certainly those early scenes with Landor, I kept thinking to myself I need to give Landor as much opportunity to fall in love with Edgar as possible. Because if I do that, then we have a relationship and you understand why Landor takes him under his wing because he finds him entertaining but also finds him strange and mysterious.
"And all those things had to be there from the off in order for the very intimate father-and-son relationship that begins to form as the film journeys through."
Of course, to many, Melling will always be Dudley Dursley from the Harry Potter franchise but now he has transformed into an actor of great renown with some very esteemed playmates.
On roles that have impacted him, Melling noted: "Well, this one particularly feels very special, just in terms of the range that I feel like I've had the opportunity to play with, with this kind of character, working with extraordinary extraordinary people like Christian and Scott and the other cast – just what an opportunity. So this was like a real special moment for me.
"Beyond that, I mean, working with the Coen Brothers – it was a big honour to get Joel and Ethan to say, 'We want Harry to play this role' and to open up so much opportunity. I certainly know that's how I came into Scott's thinking for Edgar, was him seeing The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
"So I thought that was also a very important moment – for want of a better word – in my career. But I've been very lucky, and the opportunities I've had since Potter have always kind of surprised me, and how lucky I have been with the things that I've been asked to do, so hopefully that can carry on."
The Pale Blue Eye is currently showing in select UK cinemas and will be available on Netflix from Friday 6th January 2023. Sign up for Netflix from £6.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.
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