Felix, Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy - Image courtesy of Studiocanal
‘The Electrical Life of Louis Wain', in cinemas New Year’s Day follows the extraordinary story of eccentric British artist, Louis Wain (1860 - 1939). Once a famous household name, Wain produced artwork at an impressive rate and was known to sketch simultaneously with his left and right hand! His love of cats as an artistic subject began in 1884 after Louis and his wife Emily welcomed Peter, a little black and white cat, into their home. You could say that Peter became Wain's muse, and he would spend hours sketching him in an attempt to cheer Emily up, who was sadly very ill at that time.
Image courtesy of Chris Beetles Gallery, see these original works + many more at London exhibition. More details: https://www.chrisbeetles.com
The film has an impressive all-star cast, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Louis Wain, Claire Foy as his beloved wife Emily, Toby Jones playing Wain’s editor, Sir William Ingram, Olivia Coleman narrating the story and even a cameo from musician Nick Cave! But the cat talent in the film shines just as brightly for us. Bafta award-winning director, Will Sharpe conjures Wain's world with great care and love for his subject with a conscious decision not to use CGI. The film features an impressive cast of real cats getting up to mischief with grace and authenticity. Sharpe delivers an honest portrayal of cats and their qualities - so essential for tackling this incredible and true feline story. The feline star of the show is of course Louis and Emily's beloved Peter and Cheshire & Wain had the incredible honour of an exclusive catch up with the cat himself - Felix.
C&W How did you become a professional fur-spian, and what training does it involve?
F: When I was just a kitten, a lady brought me home because I looked like her other cat, who she loved very much. She just so happens to be an animal trainer for film and TV, so I quickly landed my first job fronting a pet food campaign. On set, people made a fuss of me and told me I was a natural. Of course, the very tasty treats helped me to stay focused and in character, but I love being in the limelight, so I guess that’s how it all started.
C&W: As a seasoned cat actor, what skills did you impart onto the other cast members (feline and human)?
F: I don’t mind sharing the scenes with human actors & possibly the occasional feline actor. As I can’t read the script, I have a human interpreter, but I often think my ideas are more creative, so I adlib. I enjoy leaving my fur on the set and the cast members’ costumes - I’m sure one day a ball of my precious fluff will fetch a high price on one of those selling sites the humans use!
Beautiful Edwardian costume in 'The Electrical Life of Louis Wain' - Image Courtesy of Studiocanal
C&W: We heard from Benedict Cumberbatch that he got to meet and hang out with you during rehearsal, what was he like?
F: Yes, I hung out with Benedict; he’s a pretty cool guy. We shared some stories, and I’ve put a good word in for him in the world of pet food advertising.
C&W: We’ve never seen so many real cats in one film! It’s truly a sight to behold. With a feline ensemble of forty kitties in one scene, what was it like shooting that? Were there any catfights or disagreements?
F: Hmmm yes there were many many cats on set, some I knew well, and others not so much - a few pedigrees with very posh names. I have to say they were all very well behaved; they probably realised it was their time to shine and didn’t let the team down, jolly good fellows!
C&W: We learned from Will that there were strict rules of cat etiquette on set. What were they?
F: There were very strict rules when I or my fellow felines came onto set. Everyone had to be calm and quiet, which meant no unannounced moving of equipment! The cast had rehearsed, so they all knew what they were doing and were ready for us felines to do our thing. Of course, we were rewarded for our excellent acting with lots of very tasty treats!
C&W What does it take to be a Louis Wain cat?
F: Character, without a shadow of doubt, oodles of character!
C&W: What was the most rewarding day of filming for you, and why?
F: I think the most rewarding day was when I got to sit in a basket, chauffeured by the fabulous Benedict himself with crowds of fans cheering and chasing after us. I’m not one to brag, but it was quite touching.
C&W: What does the future hold for you Felix? Any exciting projects coming up?
F: I’ve shot a few features since and have a couple of things in the pipeline. I tend to take it easy between shoots and encourage my housemates to get out there and take some of the limelight - so I’m getting some rest before the film release. Who knows - cats and humans might be lining up for my pawtograph once they’ve seen my starring role as Peter the cat.
C&W: I think you might be right Felix! And our final question - we’re dying to know what you’ll be wearing on the red carpet. Can you give us an exclusive?
F: Well, that’s rather obvious I think...I’ll be wearing my Pastel Mint Collar by Cheshire & Wain - it’s from their Louis Wain inspired collection so it couldn’t be more purrfect for me.
Felix in his Louis Wain Collar - Image Courtesy of Charlotte Wilde
‘The Electrical Life of Louis Wain’ film is in cinemas nationwide now, you can see the trailer here. This spellbinding film is not to be missed, especially if you love cats.