Making her feature film debut, Port Talbot actor Carly-Sophia Davies hits the spooky jackpot in The Eternal Daughter, alongside Tilda Swinton and directed by Joanna Hogg . No pressure then! Just a bit of on-set stately home terror to go with the film’s ghostly vibe… as Carly-Sophia told Keiron Self.
Initially interested in singing, Carly-Sophia Davies came to acting late, joining the West Glamorgan Youth Theatre at the age of 16 then getting a place at the LAMDA drama school. She moved to London at 18 – “quite a shock to the system. I was pushed into the deep end” – and thrived. Since graduating, her career has been stellar.
A stint at Mold’s Theatr Clwyd in the play Pavilion led to her second job, amidst the upheaval of COVID: acting alongside Tilda Swinton in acclaimed director Joanna Hogg’s film The Eternal Daughter. Hogg has previously turned autobiography into celluloid with the two-part The Souvenir; The Eternal Daughter continues this via a ghost story of sorts, but it is ultimately an exploration of the mother/daughter bond. Davies plays a surly (and nameless) hotel receptionist, providing bluntly funny light relief with her offhand way of treating Swinton as she stays at an impressively Gothic hotel.
“It was a bit of a pinch-me moment,” recalls Davies, who found working with Hogg a delight. The audition comprised a few questions that she had to respond to on camera – regarding experience in the hotel trade, if she’d ever had a paranormal encounter, how she was with movement. Believing she would never get it (“It’s with bloody Tilda Swinton!”), she was surprised to have a Zoom recall speaking for over an hour with Hogg. “She was so lovely – smart, sensitive and warm, and had a real transparency.”
The pair clicked, and over the resultant seven-week shoot Davies was allowed to weigh in on Hogg’s vision of those frosty receptionists who affect anyone’s stay in a hotel. “She gave me nuggets of gold,” she says, “and let me have a play. It was a total dream to be honest.” She felt trusted by the director, who gave Davies ownership over her character – responding rudely to Tilda Swinton whenever she would make a reasonable request with acidic aplomb,
The Eternal Daughter was filmed in the imposing Soughton Hall in Flintshire – a place Davies recently revisited in a more leisurely setting, finding herself still terrified by it. “It does look like something out of a horror film!” Hogg and her crew had some experiences they can’t explain whilst filming there – as did Davies, when a make-up bag seemingly moved of its own accord. (Whether this was due to low key hysteria and dealing with the ghostly subject matter, she admits, makes things open to question.) “It was like the film. Where does the film start and where does it end?”
Davies was in attendance at 2022’s Venice Film Festival, where The Eternal Daughter premiered, and has been very busy since: onstage as part of rock musical Spring Awakening, and currently filming new drama Out There with Martin Clunes. When I speak to her, she’s just returned from an audition for another upcoming project.
She expresses a wish to continue taking on roles that resonate – hoping to work again in indie film, and on projects that are challenging, hardhitting and address real life and relationships. “I think I could stop now,” she says; “not that I want to! But I’ve already made some really cool projects with some amazing people.”
Holding her own easily against Tilda Swinton and providing some caustic levity to the proceedings of The Eternal Daughter marks Carly-Sophia Davies as a Welsh face to watch.
The Eternal Daughter is in cinemas from Fri 24 Nov.
words KEIRON SELF
This article was commissioned by Film Hub Wales as part of its Made In Wales project, which celebrates films with Welsh connections, thanks to funding from Creative Wales and the National Lottery via the BFI.