A “rough” character
Hugh Welchman (who co-directs the film with Dorota Kobiela) said he needed a rougher character and a strong accent for the role, so Josh rehearsed using a number of accents before Hugh settled on a gruff Scottish accent for Zouave, which seemed to suit the character well.
At the beginning of the film, Zouave and Armand (played by Douglas Booth) have a fight that spills out of the local bar, both drunk and argumentative! “There is also a comedy element to Zouave I think through his drunkenness. I think he’s the sort of character who would wake up and not remember what happened, then probably get into the same sort of trouble the very next day,” adds Josh.
An important role
As a character, Josh’s role Zouave is important in setting the scene and bringing up the subject of Vincent van Gogh during a later conversation with his commanding officer, Lieutenant Milliet (played by Robin Hodges). This, combined with Armand’s father’s (Chris O’Dowd) intervention, leads Armand to investigate what happened to Vincent and so the story takes off.
Burdett trained at Stella Adler – his teacher was Ron Burrus who trained under Stella Adler herself. Josh’s other recent successes include his recurring role in the Lionsgate’s TV series Guilt.
Preparation for the film
As this is the first fully painted film ever, we also wondered, were the preparations for the film different than usual? In terms of preparation, Josh said it wasn’t that different: “We shot using normal sets and green screen to allow a blank canvas over which the painters could work. So much of the magic happened in the post-production phase with 125 incredible artists painting over all 65,000 frames of this film”.
He also said it was quite technical as they had to be very precise with some of their movements. Each actor at one point has to adopt the pose as accurately as possible of the van Gogh portrait of their character, called the “key frame”. For Josh, he had to ensure he fell into the exact position of van Gogh’s June 1888 portrait of The Zouave.