Danielle Macdonald: “Joanna Lumley Is Everything You Want Her to Be, and More”

danielle macdonald falling for figaro

When Australian actress Danielle Macdonald signed on to star in Falling for Figaro, there were a few things that attracted her to the opera-based rom-com.

Macdonald stars in the film as Millie, a young fund manager who leaves her unfulfilling job and long-term boyfriend to chase her lifelong dream of becoming an opera singer in the Scottish Highlands.

While chatting to The Latch over Zoom, she said that she’s “never seen a rom-com that was about opera before”, which piqued her interest.

“It was a different tone than what you’re used to seeing in a rom com,” she said. “I love that kind of British, quirky sense of humour that was in there, and I was very drawn to that!”

She continued: “I was like ‘this is gonna be fun, and cute’, and it’s hopeful, but it has a little bit of an edge to it, which I like.”

joanna lumley falling for figaro
Paramount Pictures

Another big draw card? The film co-stars Joanna Lumley, who is of course best known for her role as Patsy Stone on Absolutely Fabulous.

“Jo was already attached when I signed on — straight away you know there’s going to be something amazing about it because reading the lines, I could actually visualise her doing them, and I was like ‘oh, this is really funny!’” Macdonald said, “and sure enough, she came on set and I was like ‘she’s so funny!’”

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Of Lumley, Macdonald had nothing but praise: “She’s everything you want her to be, and more, I promise you!

“She’s amazing, she’s one of those magical people who’s really warm, really funny, really caring, really focused on details, really professional, she’s kind of the full package!” she said. “I learned a lot from watching her work and I also realised, I don’t know if I could ever be that on point with comedy! She’s so good at it, she just knows exactly what she’s doing, she’s amazing.”

Going into Falling for Figaro, Macdonald said that she didn’t know “a lot” about opera, but threw herself into learning as much as possible before filming.

“My mum likes opera songs, so I definitely grew up hearing a lot of the more famous ones,” she said, “but when I went into it, I went and saw what was on at the LA opera at the time, and then I went, I was filming in Canada, so I went and saw another one there, and then I was just watching a lot of YouTube videos.”

The film, Macdonald said, gave her “a whole new appreciation” for the art of opera.

“It turns out I really like opera!” she exclaimed. “I find it really fun! Now whenever I see signs for a new opera, I’m like ‘ooh, I should go to that!’, it’s very appealing to me now.”

A mezzo-soprano herself, Macdonald was not, in fact, performing the songs we hear in the film, but in order to make it look realistic, she still had to sing live while they were shooting.

During the film’s pre-production, Macdonald was splitting her time between Los Angeles and Canada, where she was working on a different film. During that times, she worked with multiple experts to get her voice where it needed to be in order to give the audience the impression that she was singing in the film.

“I worked with an opera singer in LA, and when I was in Canada I worked with a répétiteur there, who is basically an opera singing coach, and then I worked with a répétiteur in Scotland when I got there, as well,” Macdonald said.

“It was a lot of focusing on breathing and technique and vibration and all of that, but I was singing when I was on set, because to make it look like you’re singing, you kind of have to actually sing.”

Given that the songs edged out of her vocal range, though, it wasn’t an easy feat to pull off.

“Some of the notes, I was like, my voice doesn’t even go that high! Sometimes my voice would just cut out and I would have to just keep pushing,” she laughed.

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Calling it “very very terrifying” to be singing live in front of so many people, Macdonald said that she would often “ask them to turn up the music really loudly”, so that she would have the “confidence to just really aim and hit those notes without fear of judgment”.

Fans of Macdonald will know, of course, that this isn’t the first time she’s tackled the music industry in her work, though. In 2017 she received rave reviews for her lead role as aspiring rapper Patti in Patti Cake$, with David Stratton writing at the time: “[Danielle Macdonald] carries the movie, and that’s no small feat for a newcomer.”

Macdonald said that it was “kind of amazing” to find herself taking on “a few different musical-esque movies”, because she never considered herself especially musical.

danielle macdonald falling for figaro
Paramount Pictures

While rap and opera are two genres that couldn’t be further apart, Macdonald said that there’s “definitely a through line” that connects the two.

“With Patti Cake$, it’s a lot of time, energy, focus and it’s a lot of dedication, and that goes for opera, too,” she said. “I think the work ethic behind it very much carries out throughout all of the music industry.”

She explained: “There is just kind of this musical brilliance that you see with people — some people just have a way with melody, and that’s something that I kept seeing throughout, as well.”

“I think there’s a lot of respect between musicians no matter what genre of music you cover, and it’s also just fun,” she continued. “People love music and people have different tastes but music brings people together and it makes you really feel something, and it’s kind of amazing to get to do that in multiple genres and aspects.”

Falling for Figaro is in select HOYTS cinemas now. Want to win free tickets? We’re giving away double passes! Check out all the information below:


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