Eiza Gonzalez, Henry Golding had fun with 'Ungentlemanly' historical characters

Eiza Gonzalez stars in "The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare." File Photo by John Nacion/UPI
1 of 6 | Eiza Gonzalez stars in "The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare." File Photo by John Nacion/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, April 18 (UPI) -- Eiza Gonzalez and Henry Golding said they were able to take artistic license with their characters in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, in theaters Friday.

Gonzalez plays Marjorie Stewart, based on an actual World War II spy, and Golding plays fictional character Henry Alvarez.


The film is about Operation Postmaster, a real mission to sink an Italian boat in a position to send word back to German forces of Allied movements.

"I had endless admiration for these women who infiltrated these Nazi camps," Gonzalez told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "As a woman, you're just naturally a little bit more vulnerable."

Stewart's work was classified, so the movie suggests Stewart romanced German officer Heinrich Luhr (Til Schweiger), a fictional character invented for the film. Stewart reports back to Gus March-Phillips (Henry Cavill), another real historical figure, so his team had the intelligence it needed to sink the ship.


Though the Guy Ritchie-directed film emphasizes style and action, Gonzalez said the skills Stewart displays were true to her abilities. She speaks French, Italian and German in the film, demonstrating her language skills.

"This is more of a fun take on it," Gonzalez said. "You still take quite seriously what they did and the things they achieved throughout their career."

March-Phillips commands the team of heroes at sea. Members include Anders Lassen (Alan Ritchson) and Geoffrey Appleyard (Alex Pettyfer), based on real people.

Fictional members of March-Phillips' team include Alvarez and Henry Hayes (Hero Fiennes Tiffin). Golding said that even when the film took artistic license, the writers aimed to be historically accurate.

Alvarez is a demolition specialist. Golding said a military adviser who specializes in World War II taught him about the period-accurate explosives and guns.

"All of the weaponry that we used in the entire movie were all of that period," Golding said.

Golding left planting bombs to the experts, but in one shot, Alvarez and the team walk away from a nearby explosion.

"That was a tremendously large explosion and you could feel it on the back of your neck," Golding said. "It was really close -- enough to be able to feel that heat [from] that massive fireball."


Casting the Mexican Gonzalez as a British spy also was inspired by history, She said the casting department auditioned Latina actors because Stewart's background included a Spanish heritage.

Gonzalez said her wardrobe in the film also is historically accurate, down to her undergarments and stockings. The wardrobe restricted her posture and movements in ways that benefited her performance, she said.

"Marjorie is tight and controlled," Gonzalez said. "My walk is very specific. My dancing movements when I'm singing are quite specific. It's very linear. There's a lot of lines in it."

Gonzalez said she paid attention to facial expressions, too.

"Especially in the spy world, eye contact was a very pivotal thing," she said. "It was all about building confidence not to get caught."

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare was Gonzalez's first period role. It is Golding's second, after a Netflix adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion.

Golding said Persuasion was even more historically accurate than Ministry, down to speaking in received [southern England] pronunciation. The language of Ministry was more modern, despite attention to World War II era costume and weaponry.

"It's a Guy Ritchie film so we can add in a few extra swear words and get away with it," Golding said.


Another historical fact is that Stewart married March-Phillips in 1942, though there is no record of them collaborating on the mission. They have few scenes together in the film, but Gonzalez said their brief screen time suggests an attraction.

"You see it very briefly in the scene on the boat, the way he looks at me, the way I look at him," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez filmed Ministry directly after wrapping the Netflix series 3 Body Problem, in which she played nano physicist Auggie Salazar. For that, Gonzalez said it was important to show what a modern woman in the sciences could look like to break stereotypes.

"We have this idea of you've got to be nerdy and have bad hair," Gonzalez said. "There's women from all over the world that look differently. It just sends an amazing message around the world of what Latin women are capable of doing."

After Ministry, Gonzalez said, she is interested in playing more historical roles to show how women have shaped the modern age, including perhaps more missions, for example, Stewart and March-Phillips might have gone on together.

"I love going back in time," Gonzalez said. "They had an impact for me to be the woman that I am in this day and age."


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