Friday April 12th, 2024 7:09AM

Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley on the joys of foul language and friendship

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley play women brought together by letters in the new film “Wicked Little Letters” but their preferred means of communication is WhatsApp. With their husbands, they have a group chat with an unprintable name, inspired by the some of the foul language of their film. What do they write to each other?

“There’s lots of 'I f——— love you. I’m going to snog your face when I see you,” says Colman.

“With a long ‘uuuuuuu,’” adds Buckley.

“We’re wordsmiths,” says Colman.

Colman and Buckley have been good friends since they first met in a night spent, fittingly, with letters. “Is that how we met?" Colman says, jogging her memory. “Brilliant.” With an American accent Buckley chimes, “What a good angle.”

Each were attending a “Letters Live” performance in Britain where actors dramatically read historical and literary correspondence. Buckley read a Maud Gonne love letter to WB Yeats. The night wore on with karaoke until 6 a.m. Songs included Adele’s “Someone Like You” and Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.”

“Which maybe kind of summed up the night,” Buckley says. “‘Someone Like You,’ that’s a love song, isn’t it? Oh, no, it’s a break-up song. We were just falling in love. ‘Back to Black’ is about addiction.”

Buckley pauses for effect, and then adds, “I was addicted to you.” Colman cheers.

In Thea Sharrock’s “Wicked Little Letters,” which Sony Pictures Classics will release in theaters Friday, Colman and Buckley play very different neighbors in 1919 England. Edith (Colman) is a conservative, church-going woman with a domineering father (Timothy Spall) who lives next to Rose (Buckley) a free-wheeling single mother who unabashedly spews salty language. When people around the village start receiving filthy anonymous letters hurling insults at them, suspicion turns toward Rose.

It’s based on the real story of the Littlehampton Letters, which at the time became a national scandal. “Wicked Little Letters” is a rare thing: a raunchy period movie.

“We kind of have this idea of Britain and the women who lived in the 1930s were just making wholesome bread and going to church,” says Buckley. “But the truth of it is they were filthy (expletive). They’re just like all of us.”

The film, which Colman produced with her husband, Ed Sinclair, takes place while suffragettes are marching. And while Edith and Rose become sworn enemies, they're bonded in their mutual experience of male oppression.

“It’s certainly acknowledging the journey that women have had,” Colman says. “It was at that point better than it had been in previous points, and shows how far have we come since. We still haven’t come quite far enough.”

Part of the delight of “Wicked Little Letters” is that it puts a spirited pair of friends opposite one another for the first time, with Buckley playing a free and frank woman not so unlike herself and Colman playing something like her timid opposite. Colman called up Buckley to offer her the role.

“I said, ‘There’s this script and it would be you and me as neighbors swearing at each other and having fun,’” recalls Colman. “And I think you went, ‘OK!’"

In between interviews at a Soho hotel, Colman and Buckley's conversation focused mainly on how long they might have to hang out that evening. Or more specifically, how many drinks they could manage to squeeze in. “New York is the land of dirty martinis,” Buckley declares.

Colman, though, was just flying in and out, and Buckley had an early call time the next day. It was a similar situation on Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “The Lost Daughter," for which Colman also suggested casting Buckley. ("You owe me!" chimes Colman in a cockney accent.) But on that film, they were playing the same character in different time periods. Colman and Buckley didn’t have any scenes together, but overlapped on set for a week while Colman was quarantining.

“I would go, ‘Come on, when do you finish? What do you want to drink? I’ll have it ready,'" recalls Colman. "So we’d spend the evening in the sunshine and drink and play guitar and sing. And Jessie would go, ‘ (Expletive). I’m about to go to work.’ You were so heroic playing late into the night and then going to work.”

When it’s pointed out that Colman seems like she could be a bad influence under such circumstances, Buckley immediately brightens.

“There’s a joke amongst our friends where Olivia’s like, ‘No you can’t go home.’ At your birthday there was a whole song about not letting anybody leave the party.”

“I have done awful things,” acknowledges Colman, lowering her head. “I have locked my front door and hidden the key. (Changing to a drunk voice) ‘I don’t know where it’s gone.’ I have images of friends running. They see an open door and they go running.”

It perhaps goes without saying that Colman and Buckley bear little of the repression that lurks around the edges of “Wicked Little Letters.” They're separated by some years — Colman is 50, Buckley 34 — but sympatico in infusing parts dramatic and comic with naturalness and spunk.

“The biggest gift that this job gives you is that you get to learn something that you need to unlearn in yourself. Growing up into a woman from a girl is hard. There’s so much in our world that we think we need to be because it’s around us,” Buckley says. “What I’ve come to learn is you just have to keep educating and feeding and nurturing yourself. And there’s something so much more interesting for you to say than adopting what’s deemed acceptable in society.”

Working with people like Colman, Buckley says, has helped wake her up to those possibilities — possibilities she never imagined when she was 15 years old. “And I know that will never stop in my life,” she adds. “There's too much to unpack!”

Colman takes up Buckley's thread.

“I do love the fact that I didn’t get into any drama school apart from Bristol which I got into because somebody else dropped out," Colman says. "I love all the auditions I didn’t get so I can go, ‘Ha! In yo’ face.’ I think it gives you a little bit of a fire in the belly.”

Soon thereafter, it’s time for Buckley and Colman to move along. As the sun gets lower on the downtown skyline out the window, the pair return to pondering their plans for the evening.

“We’ll do a little one,” says Colman, settling it. “We are getting much more grown up, aren’t we?” Buckley vigorously shakes her head. “No?” responds Colman. “Then I can force you to stay out tonight.”

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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