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7 things to know about Saltburn, according to its stars Alison Oliver and Archie Madekwe

Exclusive interview with the Saltburn stars...

7 things to know about Saltburn, according to its stars Alison Oliver and Archie Madekwe
22 December 2023

There are two states in life: There is Before Saltburn, and there is After Saltburn.

To understand the transformation, the darkly comic psychological thriller really should be seen to be believed - horror, Cheeky Girls soundtrack, shocking cannot-unsee scenes, and all.

But, for starters, Emerald Fennell’s directorial follow up to her 2020 Oscar-winning Promising Young Woman, takes us on a wild ride to 2007, where Barry Keoghan (The Banshees of Inisherin) takes the lead in a stunning performance as Oliver, an unassuming interloper drawn into his student friend’s (played by Jacob Elordi) dysfunctional family of aristocrats for a summer of debauchery and as many twists as the hedge maze which decorates the castle they live in.

As star Archie Madekwe (Gran Turismo) sums it up to ShortList, “It’s a story about a young man's obsession with a family over the course of a summer. But, it’s genreless, it jumps all over the place.”

Madekwe rounds out the kooky, unsettling family, headed by parents played by Rosamund Pike and Richard E Grant and their charismatic son Felix, with Alison Oliver (Conversations With Friends) who join the raucous party as upper crust cousins Farleigh and Venetia.

7 things to know about Saltburn, according to its stars Alison Oliver and Archie Madekwe
Image Credit: Prime Video

There’s a good reason why the film has been nominated for multiple Golden Globe and Critics Choice Awards already - and counting.

With so many scenes we haven’t been able to get off our mind (for better or worse) since seeing the movie, when we sat down with the latter, there was a lot to discuss.

So, allow Alison Oliver and Archie Madekwe to reveal what you need to know about Saltburn - including an exclusive reveal from behind the scenes which may be just as shocking as the film itself. Maybe.

It’s shocking, it’s sexy… and it’s still surprising us, according to the revelations below...

7 things to know about Saltburn, according to its stars Alison Oliver and Archie Madekwe
Image Credit: Future

1. It’s sexy (yes, really)

Your friends might give you a strange look, having seen it, when you tell them it’s sexy, But, you can take it from the stars themselves that your strange feelings are valid, the stars explain.

“The vibe is sexy,” Alison Oliver tells us. “It’s sexy-summer-stalker,” adds Madekwe. Is that weird? “No, it’s very much supposed to be sexy,” he assures us.

2. Some of the cast actually lived in the Saltburn manor house

“Rosamund was staying there, and Paul [Rhys, who plays butler Duncan] moved in. It was that big,” says Oliver.

“There was an offer for all of us to stay, but we stayed at a haunted hotel nearby,” says Madekwe, matter of fact.

3. The off-set digs were just as strange as the film

About that haunted hotel… “I was being haunted by the ghost of Queen Victoria. That's not even a joke,” says Madewkwe.

“Queen Victoria apparently haunted the hotel, and she stayed in the room next to mine. When we found out about that, we were kind of scared, but thought it would probably be fine. Then. as I was thinking about, the wall just exploded. Like, plaster was literally flying over me.”

“I called reception and they were petrified. They all came in like, ‘Oh my god, she's here!’ I was like, ‘What the fuck? Can I move rooms?’”

“Also, that’s a bit boring for Victoria, that she's haunting that one really boring hotel in Kettering.” adds Madekwe.

4. Prepare for shocking scenes - that were improvised

Slight spoilers ahead…

“For me, the most shocking scene to watch was the graveyard scene,” says Madekwe, “That was improvised from Barry. It was in the script that he gets in the grave and mourns, but as far as he took it was improvised. I remember on the day, Emerald was like, ‘Oh my god, Barry just did the craziest thing,’ and Barry was like, ‘Lads, guess what I've just done?’”

“I was shocked that that stayed in the film for as long as it does, but it's incredible and thank God it does, because it’s a moment which I think will remain one of the most iconic moments of the film. But I was squirming in my seat,” says Madekwe.

7 things to know about Saltburn, according to its stars Alison Oliver and Archie Madekwe
Image Credit: Prime Video

5. Nudity is important to the film… but not in the way you might think

“It's interesting because nudity and sex are actually separate in the film,” says Oliver, “In the sex scenes you actually only see from the from the neck up, really, and that's an amazing thing Emerald does with her storytelling - she's more interested in what's psychologically happening between the characters, in terms of scenes of a sexual nature.”

“But nudity in the film is more related to grief, or triumph, it's telling a different story,” she adds.

“It’s never used in a way to sexualise. The moments of sexy are more about power,” adds Madekwe, “It's interesting, in a film that's so much about beauty, that Emerald never tries to objectify our naked bodies… those moments are only used when they really shift the story in a different way. She was very clear and conscious about that.”

6. It’s got an incredible mid-2000s soundtrack

“On my Spotify Wrapped, all of my top listened songs were Saltburn songs,” says Madekwe, “My favourite track in the film is ‘Perfect’ by Princess Superstar. Before we started filming, Emerald made us a Spotify playlist to create the world of Saltburn, and when I heard that, I remember begging that this has to stay in the film. I'm sure that was already her decision but that was one of my favorite songs and I was gassed it was in there.”

“I really love the song ‘This Modern Love’ by Bloc Party; it plays after Barry has seen that Felix has blown him off at the pub in Oxford, and he goes off and has his own night. There's this amazing scene of him just walking away, and this plays. It was in the Spotify playlist too. It’s a very cinematic kind of song anyway, but I was really happy it made it because I love that song.”

“That, and The Cheeky Girls’ Christmas song,” adds Oliver, “That was really special.”

7. Archie Madekwe had an unexpected first-time on set

“Nobody knows that I drank Coca Cola for the very first time in my life on that set. I drank it because Carey Mulligan bet me in a game of cards that if I lost, I would have to drink it,” reveals Madewkwe.

“She actually lost, and I had I said that if she lost, she had to give a speech on the final day to the entire crew that this was the worst film she had ever done in her life. She was so mortified that she lost and had to do it, that I said if you do it, I'll take a sip of Coca Cola, which I'd never done before. And so, she did it, and I tasted Coca Cola for the very first time.”

His verdict? “Overrated.”

Saltburn is streaming on Prime Video now.