James Norton has said he was left in tears as he filmed scenes for his latest movie in which he plays a man facing his own death.
The British star, best known for his roles in Grantchester, Happy Valley and War And Peace, plays John, a young single father looking for a new family for his three-year-old son as he faces a terminal illness in Nowhere Special.
Norton said there were scenes he performed with his young co-star Daniel Lamont that left him weeping and he would have to perform them over and over again because his character needed to be stoic.
He told the PA news agency: “It was a lot to take on.
“It was a very, very special shoot. It’s really hard to completely encapsulate the experience, because it’s not often that you get invited to contemplate death for three months and really go there.
“We all spend our life doing everything we can to avoid thinking about death.
“So, actually, in a quiet, considered space, to sort of think about it, to have a young boy looking up at me learning about death in real time, as I talked to him…
“I read him that book When Dinosaurs Die [a guide for children in understanding death], and little Daniel himself, the actor, was looking at me and learning as he went, so that was deeply profound.
“There were scenes where I struggled not to cry, and particularly those scenes later on, where I was doing memory box, and the scene where I was telling him about where John would go, and ‘I’ll be with you, but in the air around you’.
“And I did that over and over again and at the end Uberto [Pasolini, the director] said ‘We have to get a take where you’re not crying, because we need a stoic, strong one; you’re keeping this together for the sake of your son’.
“So, it was tricky. But more than anything, it was cathartic, and deeply rewarding.
“We all left that film, both the making of it and now watching it, and we just went home to our loved ones and gave them a big hug.
“That’s the best thing you could ever ask for from your workplace, so that was great.”
Norton said it made him hold his loved ones much closer and added: “A lot of people who have watched it have said ‘I immediately rang my parents’, or ‘I reached for my kid’, or ‘I was with my partner and I grabbed them.’
“That’s a wonderful legacy or effect for a movie, a piece of art, can have on an audience, it’s the best really.
“We’ve really tried to push that message, that it is a film about a man who’s dying, but it’s not a film about death.
“It’s a film about life, and cherishing the moments you have left and reaching out to those people you love and recognising that your time with them isn’t forever, and make sure that you value each and every moment with them.”
Nowhere Special is released in UK cinemas on July 16.