Josh Burdett is a British actor known for his roles in The Final Haunting, Lock Up as well as the Lionsgate television drama Guilt. You may also know his face from a global commercial campaign for Porsche. Now he stars in the first fully painted film – Loving Vincent – currently in cinemas worldwide. Josh also recently appeared on London Live TV, where he explained a little bit more about his role as Zouave in Loving Vincent.
Zouave is a rough-around-the-edges French soldier who likes to drink and fight – quite a departure from the suave, polite gentleman we spoke to for this article! We asked Josh how he prepared for the role. “Hugh Welchman (who co-directs with Dorota Kobiela) wanted a gruff voice for the Zouave and we rehearsed with all sorts of options until he settled on a Scottish accent. We created a background for the character as a hard-drinking, hot-tempered soldier to be found in the taverns of Arles. It was a lot of fun creating this character and having the freedom to explore different ways to play him. All the characters in the film are based on people that van Gogh painted, and I love his portrait from June 1888 of the Zouave sort of slumped in a doorway, a moment we captured in the film also.”
Near the beginning of the film, the peaceful night is shattered by Burdett’s Zouave and Douglas Booth’s Armand Roulin having a fight that spills out of the tavern.
“It was really fun acting alongside Douglas, who is superb in the lead role of Armand. We had some fight training together for the opening scene so we were able to really go for it every time they called “action!” We would have this full on fight then after we heard “cut” we would be very English about it, asking if each other was OK!”
Zouave, later questioned by his commanding offer Lieutenant Milliet (played by Robin Hodges), helps to ignite the story by discussing the whereabouts of van Gogh.Burdett explains that Loving Vincent was shot mainly on green screen, allowing a blank canvas over which a team of 120 artists would work for over 2 years painting over every frame of the film by hand in the style of van Gogh, completing an incredible 65,000 frames. It’s a cinematic first, creating the impression of a moving van Gogh painting. It was painstaking work for these superb artists, mainly working in Poland, and driven by the passion and storytelling of Welchman and Kobiela. It is ground-breaking work and is getting superb reviews all over the world for it’s unique style and for the story itself, which centres on the end of van Gogh’s life, his time in Auvers-sur-Oise and what or who was responsible for his death.
Burdett tells us that it was a real pleasure to be involved in the film and to have the opportunity to appear alongside actors he admires such as Douglas Booth, Saoirse Ronan, Aidan Turner and Chris O’Dowd. “It was lovely to see Douglas and some of the other cast at the UK and Ireland premiere for the film at the National Gallery a few of weeks ago. It was my first chance to see the film and I loved it. Visually it’s like nothing you have ever seen and the actual story is gripping from start to finish. It’s a special film and we also learn so much more about the fascinating man van Gogh was and how we can be inspired by him.”