the chaperone la film festival

Exclusive: Elizabeth McGovern & Haley Lu Richardson Tease ‘The Chaperone’

We love a good period drama, and The Chaperone has all the makings for a great one. Based on Laura Moriarty’s bestselling novel, the film is a coming-of-age tale and classic mystery that follows two women from Kansas to New York in the early 1920s for a summer of potential stardom and secrets. As if that premise weren’t promising enough, the film also reunites the writer (Julian Fellowes), director (Michael Engler), and star (Elizabeth McGovern) of Downton Abbey. We’ll raise a glass (of tea, naturally) to that.

McGovern stars as Norma Carlisle, housewife and fictional chaperone to real silent movie starlet Louise Brooks (Haley Lu Richardson). The two women spend the summer in New York as 15-year-old Louise aims to fulfill her destiny of dance and movie stardom, while Norma is on a mission to unearth the secrets of her past. They have different world views and priorities, to say the least, but their summer together will change both of them forever.

We spoke with McGovern, Richardson, and Victoria Hill (who plays Louise’s mother and also served as a producer on the movie) at LA Film Festival about all things The Chaperone.


Elizabeth McGovern was a major force behind getting this movie made, and it all started with her longtime love of the novel it’s based on. “It’s a great story and touches on so many issues that are interesting to me – particularly about being a middle aged woman,” she said. “It’s a journey that a middle aged woman and a young woman take together and they really learn from one another. I don’t think that’s a story you see very often – I mean, you hardly ever see women talking to each other in movies. I just grabbed the opportunity and worked my butt off to try to get it made, and here we are.”

Victoria Hill was drawn to the project for Julian Fellowes’ involvement as the writer, as well as the story’s female leads and messages of empowerment. She described her character, Myra Brooks, as an interesting one. “She’s not a very nice character, actually, but a lot of fun to play,” Hill said. “She’s kind of one of those self-obsessed, narcissistic types. I think she adores her daughter when it suits her. […] In the end, she did give her the opportunity to go off to New York City and study as a dancer.”

Dance was one of the biggest draws for Haley Lu Richardson in taking on the role of Louise Brooks. “My biggest dream ever is to dance in movies – that’s all I want to do, and I got to dance in this movie because Louise Brooks was a dancer,” she said. It’s not her first time putting on those dancing shoes either. “I was a dancer before I acted – I grew up dancing like 40 hours a week. It’s in my blood.”

When Louise isn’t in the dance studio, she and Norma spend much of their time onscreen in close quarters together. While their relationship isn’t always smooth sailing, McGovern and Richardson had nothing but praise for each other. “[Haley] is such a warm, real, intuitive, intelligent, natural, unpretentiously brilliant actress,” Elizabeth said.

For her part, Haley appreciated how “supportive and kind” Elizabeth was on set and compared their characters’ relationship to her own personal experience. “Our two characters learn so much off each other in this very intimate time they have in New York together, and it kind of reminded me of my mom and I when we first moved to LA for me to act when I was 16. I got so close to my mom and we butted heads and got into so many fights, but came out so much stronger because of that time together.”

Elizabeth also offered a tease for fans eagerly awaiting her next collaboration with Julian Fellowes: the forthcoming Downton Abbey movie. “All I can say is cameras are rolling and it’s all going very well. Maggie Smith has all her wonderful lines, and I think people will be satisfied by the movie. I think fans will enjoy it.”

Watch our full interviews with the cast of The Chaperone below:

The Chaperone will hit theaters in May 2019.

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