It’s been eight years since Joe Wright’s fantastical contemporary fairy tale Hanna was released, and in a couple of weeks, Amazon’s original reimagining from the writer of the cult film will hit our screens.
The new series stars relative newcomer Esme Creed-Miles as the titular teen assassin, and during a visit to the Budapest set, we spoke to the brilliant actress about, feminism, fighting, and why the role of Hanna freed her from social expectations of young womanhood.
The physicality of the role was something that immediately appealed to Creed-Miles as it was something she hadn’t yet explored, and it turned out to be surprisingly rewarding. “It’s lovely to escape myself and play someone who actually inspires me and gives me strength,” Creed-Miles said. “And I’ve had to learn to be stronger playing someone. And also physically, I’ve never been someone who’d done any sports…You could slap my arm and there was no muscles there. And now I’m strong, I can run fast and I can lift weights. And that in and of itself is quite empowering, to have that physical strength.”
It was an intense training routine which encompassed a number of different disciplines. “Before the start of the shoot I did two months of training and martial arts training, and then when I got out to Budapest they had a stunt base here with a room with equipment and I got to meet all the stuntmen,” Creed-Miles said. “And then I started having more rehearsals, and I train whenever I have free time and often at the end of the shooting day I just keep training. Weight training, cardio because it’s important that in a scene, say I’m running across a square or whatever that I can be convincing as possible as to be genetically modified. My dad taught me a lot of Wing Chun before it started. He does a lot of Wing Chun, though this isn’t Wing Chun-based; it’s more like generic martial arts. I did a lot of boxing as well.”
Aside from the physical strength of Hanna, there was something else that spoke to the 19-year-old actress. “I think what’s really special to me about Hanna is… I think as a young girl there are so many different parts of the world that affect me in a negative way,” she said. “I’m very conditioned by my surroundings, by the influences of social media, by the television I watch. And I always found, growing up, that even inspiring female characters or complex female characters in television and film, I often found that their complexity was actually just another facet of their sexuality. Or there are a lot of clichés written into complex female characters. To do with, I don’t know, mental illness or lots of things like that.”
Creed-Miles continued, “And I thought Hanna was an opportunity to explore a character whose femininity was so raw and unconditioned by the modern world. And I think it was hard for me to understand what that would be like. For example, as a young woman, my own experience of looking at myself in the mirror is something that’s plagued me in lots of ways. It’s very hard, I think. The ideas we have about identity and looking in the mirror, and I had this idea: what if Hanna’s never looked in a mirror? She’s never seen herself in that way and she doesn’t have concept of herself as being detached from her body like I think a lot of people in the modern world are. There’s a wholesomeness to that, and to her.”
This unconventional side to Hanna’s upbringing was something that inspired reflection in the actress, as she opened up about how much it differed from the reality of her day to day life. “I think there’s a lot of pressure in this industry as well, being constantly discriminated [against due to] your aesthetic appearance,” Creed-Miles said. “That is part of the job, to look good. And that is a huge pressure for me, as well, because it manifests insecurities. So I think it’s really important for Hanna, as a character, that when she’s looking at these things it’s utter bewilderment. It’s utter bewilderment.”
She added, “And she wouldn’t have the quick response to look at that image and feel bad, that doesn’t necessarily make her feel insecure. Do you see what I mean? I look at that image and I feel insecure. That makes me feel lesser than. Hanna looks at that image, and she’s just confused. She doesn’t understand that. And I wanted to capture that feeling of innocence and naïveté because I think that’s really beautiful and I wish the world was like that. I wish we did, in a way, grow up in the forest and we didn’t all just post bikini pictures and work out just to look good.”
Images: Amazon Video