4 things I learned in conversation with the cast of Collateral Beauty

Last week, I was up all night overwhelmed with that end of year feeling, and trying to tackle way too many of life’s big questions for one person to handle. I posted about it on Instagram, and felt a whole lot better to learn it’s really not just me – we all get caught up. (Thank you to everyone who offered warm words in person or otherwise; it really reminded me that our vulnerability makes us human, and we all have more in common than we know.)

Anyway, in a happy twist of fate, I was also booked in for a ten minute chat the very next day with the cast of Collateral Beauty. The film (out on Boxing Day) is a little Christmas carol esque – a grieving Will Smith writes three letters to love, time and death, and love, time and death respond in person.

Prepare for warm fuzzy feelings (and a tear if you’re feeling emosh and likely to be moved by Helen Mirren speaking straight to your soul).

Here’s what I took away from it all:

  1. Firstly, an idea isn’t much at all without the people who’ll back it. Celeb interviews may seem really glamorous – and they are a fun part of the job – but they’re often micro-managed beyond belief, and the chances of doing anything original thwarted early on. It’s no fun for us publishers or the stars, who sit in windowless rooms in posh hotels for HOURS on end answering the same six questions on repeat. This was something not radically wild, just a little bit different, and I’m hugely appreciative that the A-List contributors and the wider team took it in their stride. And I reckon you should never be too busy to say a quick thanks to people who’ve done you a favour just by hearing you out.
  2. None of us have all the answers. I reckon I could’ve taken on the questions for Will, Naomie, and Jacob, but Helen’s? Would’ve stumped me. I’ve spent some time weighed down with them lately, actually. I think lots of us probably tackle mortality when we’re teenagers or even younger, and once we arrive at answers that make sense to us, we park them some place in our brains until something happens to bring them smack bang in front of us. For me recently, those catalysts have come simply from getting older, and trying to make sense of seeing more bad news delivered to more good people. And because it’s Christmas, too, you know – I’m an agnostic person, but if there was a moment to reflect on that then surely it’s at this time of year, when we’re busy making plans around a day that has its roots firmly in religion. I ramble, but the point is this: we all have the unknown in common. Peace of mind isn’t about having all the answers, it’s living with the ones you have.
  3. Kids are completely misinformed about what being a grown up means. I literally thought it meant being able to get married, drive, drink, get a job, and buy a house – not necessarily in that order. When you look up and realise you’ve become one, you get that it’s not even just that lot PLUS taxes – it’s everything else we navigate, from all of our relationships to our hopes, fears, the world’s biggest injustices and the teeniest ones too. I can see why we give kids the short version, and I liked that Naomie used navigate. It’s a journey  – and trust me, I hate that word. Vom. But it is – a complex journey and a fun one, full of surprises and infinite potential.
  4. Love is a verb. I definitely got choked up with Will and his ‘the sun feels warmer’ moment, but it was this that really stayed with me. Love goes out (you really need to watch the video if you haven’t already, because this sounds completely ridiculous otherwise), and it sure reflects on you kindly. But it’s a verb, not a default setting; an action to take, not just an experience.Genuine life advice from the Fresh Prince? I didn’t see that coming.
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