Welsh starlet Duffy, 26, dazzled on the red carpet promoting her first movie Patagonia last night at Chapter Arts, Cardiff. Duffy, 26, was accompanied by boyfriend, Welsh rugby ace Mike Phillips, 28, and the pair gazed lovingly into each others eyes between interviews.
Stars on red carpet for Patagonia’s Welsh premiere
JUST 24 hours after the star-studded London premiere of her debut film, Duffy was at a small independent cinema in Cardiff last night for the Welsh launch of Patagonia.
But the Grammy Award-winning singer arrived late for the screening after she and rugby star boyfriend Mike Philips got caught in the capital’s rush-hour traffic.
She later teamed up with director Marc Evans and some of her co-stars, including Nia Roberts and Matthew Gravelle, for the red carpet event at Chapter Arts Centre.
Following the exclusive screening, she was due to entertain guests at the after-show party on a makeshift stage.
Hollywood actor Matthew Rhys, who also stars in the road movie, was unable to attend due to filming commitments in Los Angeles for the ABC series Brothers & Sisters.
But among the VIP guests who were sent invitations to the screening, which also marked the launched of the Wales One World (WOW) Film Festival, were Charlotte Church and members of the Welsh rugby team.
The night before the Welsh premiere the stars had been at the Odeon in Covent Garden for the London showing.
Actress Roberts, wearing a cream chiffon blouse and navy shorts, said: “It was amazing. I have never experienced anything like it before. We wanted to take the film out of Wales but it was really important to us to premiere in Cardiff tonight and invite the people we wanted there.”
Patagonia is Evans’ eagerly-awaited film which explores the bonds shared by Wales and the eponymous South American Welsh-speaking region of Patagonia.
It features two different stories – one is about a Welsh woman travelling East to West through the Argentine autumn, while the other is about a Patagonian woman travelling South to North through the Welsh springtime. Duffy plays an aspiring singer living in a caravan park in North Wales who strikes up a romance with a young man from Patagonia.
She said of her character Sissy: “I based her on who I used to be – this girl who was a bit of a misfit, didn’t fit into the small town, who used to long for the big smoke.
“ So it was nice to go back and be captured that way.
“I don’t know if it felt like acting really. I heard a really great bit of advice once – the way to be a good actor is to not act.
“There was no pretence really.”
And it’s not just her singing talents which are showcased – she proves an expert on the ukulele too. The 26-year-old, who is from Nefyn, had to teach herself how to play the instrument especially for the role.
“Music is part of our culture in Wales, we’re very musical, so it didn’t feel as if I was going back to my roots as a singer,” she said. “It just feels like a kid from Wales would be able to sing a hymn and play the ukulele, so I happily took that on.”
As far as director Evans is concerned, Duffy is a natural in her first acting role.
“Duffy is a real discovery as an actress – she looks comfortable and she does amazingly well in the film,” said the Cardiff-born film-maker whose previous successes include My Little Eye, Trauma, House of America and Snow Cake.
“She was keen not to be ‘Duffy the singer’ in something. She’s very busy, as she’s so successful, so we thought it was far better for her to take a smaller part in something where the whole film doesn’t rest on her being in it, than to expose herself in something bigger.
“Welsh is her first language, but most of her lines are in Spanish, she can act and be herself on camera – and I think we captured that girl from a small town in Wales.”
The seeds of the film were sown when producer Rebekah Gilbertson, director Evans and actress Roberts – who also happens to be Evans’ wife – set off on a recce to Patagonia, intending to do the research to make a historical epic.
“In Wales, we’ve all grown up with the Welsh/Patagonian myth,” said Evans.
“A lot of Welsh boys have got an obsession with Patagonia, as it’s a unique adventure in our history. We learn about the early settlers, but no-one’s quite sure where or what Patagonia is.
“On our way back from our recce, I’d come up with a different idea – of an old woman travelling to Wales in search of her past, and a young couple travelling to Patagonia in search of their future.
“So we decided to make a contemporary road movie for romantics, instead of the historical epic.”
During their trip they also bumped into old friend Matthew Rhys who was in Patagonia filming a documentary.
Rhys said: “One day, truly in the middle of nowhere, I heard, ‘Oy Matthew!’ and there were Marc, Nia and Rebekah, who had tracked me down.”
He plays Patagonian guide Mateo, who falls for Gwen, played by Roberts, when she is visiting the area with her photographer boyfriend Rhys, played by Gravelle.
For Rhys, the part of Mateo was “everything I would ever want from a job”.
He said: “The script description was an Argentinean James Dean, and I thought: ‘Brilliant!’ But what I really liked about Mateo were the flaws behind the façade of the Zippo lighter and the rugged jeans.”