Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville has said he could never imagine how politically relevant his new film about religious divides and prejudice would be to a modern audience.
The British actor stars opposite The Fall’s Gillian Anderson in historical drama Viceroy’s House, which focuses on the partitioning of the British Indian Empire into two separate states and the division of Muslims and Hindus.
Arriving at the London premiere of the film at the Curzon Mayfair, Hugh said the themes seem particularly pertinent in light of US President Donald Trump’s travel ban, and his plans to build a wall on the southern border.
He told the Press Association: “Any project you undertake, you have no idea how it’s going to land and then when it does land, what the ripple effect is, but it seems more pertinent than ever that this is a film about strife, division, neighbour turning on neighbour, lack of understanding of different communities within the same country, and those are the key notes that unfortunately chime within so many countries at the moment, not least the huge one across the pond.”
He added: “Ultimately any film can only give you a bit of pleasure for an hour and a half in the dark, that’s all it’s meant to do, but if there is any message from a film like this it’s that tolerance and understanding is a damn sight better than ignorance and turning away, and building bridges is a damn sight better than building walls.”
Gillian said it was “disheartening” that the themes of the 1940s continue to be so relevant and said there were modern parallels even before the rise of Trump.
She said: “Syria as we know it today was happening at the time we were filming it, there were a lot of events that were taking place at the time we were out there and we were hearing news while we were shooting.”
She added: “We only hope that the film moves people into action or at least educates people, not just about what’s going on in the world today but also where so many people have come from and struggled for centuries and this isn’t just this moment but struggles are historical.”
The movie was directed by Gurinder Chadha, the filmmaker responsible for Bend It Like Beckham and Bride And Prejudice, who said: “When I watch the film back I want to send some of the lines Gandhi says to Donald Trump and say ‘listen to Gandhi’.
“I think it’s brutally relevant and a timely reminder of what can happen when people peddle hate and division amongst different groups of people and how quickly that can turn into violence and death. We must learn from this.
“There is a rise in hate and division around the world but there are enough people who are sane and also understand we have to learn from history and will hopefully help to stop it in its tracks.”
Viceroy’s House is released in the UK on March 3.