Nick Cave on why he’s playing H.G. Wells in ‘The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain’

"It is a beautiful, heartfelt hallucination of a film"

Nick Cave has shared details of his role as H.G. Wells in the upcoming biopic The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain.

Set to be released on Friday (November 5) via Amazon Prime Video in the US, January 1 in UK cinemas, the film follows English artist Louis Wain, who is known for his illustrations of (often anthropomorphised) cats.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in the titular role, with the rest of the cast including The Crown actor Claire Foy, Taika Waititi, Olivia Colman (as the narrator), Andrea Riseborough and Toby Jones.

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Cave, who plays science fiction author Wells, has spoken about his role in a new post on his website The Red Hand Files, where the Bad Seeds musician answers questions from his fans.

“I just saw ‘The Electrical Life of Louis Wain’ at a local film festival and was pleasantly surprised when you made an appearance,” one fan wrote. “What attracted you: did you know the life and work of Louis Wain or was it the fact you were playing H.G Wells that made you want to take on the part?”

Cave was also asked by a separate fan about his relationship with David Tibet and how the pair met.

Combining the two questions, Cave answered: “In Melbourne, back in the late 70s, my friend, the artist Tony Clark, showed me a book of Louis Wain paintings. For those who don’t know, Louis Wain was an Edwardian artist who painted anthropomorphised — or humanised — cats.

“His art has a visionary intensity that is uniquely his own, and the book, quite simply, blew my mind. I fast became a Wain disciple.”

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He continued: “A few years later, in London, I was introduced to the musician, poet and artist, David Tibet, who had an extensive collection of Louis Wain paintings. David and I became very good friends and met regularly, together with screenwriter, Geoff Cox, at a Spanish restaurant in Notting Hill where we talked art and religion — and got pissed.

“Over the years David sold me some of his Louis Wain paintings, and I also collected them from other sources. I had a sizeable collection for a while but it has dwindled of late, as I have given them away to friends and family and museums.”

Then turning to his role in The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain, Cave wrote: “I happily accepted the role of the writer H. G. Wells in the movie, ‘The Electrical Life of Louis Wain’, not just because of my long and abiding love of Louis Wain, but because the script was good, the role was relatively unchallenging, and I didn’t have to cut my hair like H.G. Wells. It is a beautiful, heartfelt hallucination of a film about a most singular and extraordinary man. I highly recommend it.”

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis. Credit: Joel Ryan
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis. CREDIT: Joel Ryan

Elsewhere in the post, Cave was asked how it felt to be back out on tour, following his recent tour with Bad Seeds bandmate Warren Ellis. “It is difficult to exaggerate how much the tour with Warren meant to me. It was a glorious thing — a show that was free to morph and change and blossom. It was truly affecting to see people learn how to be an audience again after all these months, just as we had to work out how to do a show again.”

He added: “It is good to be home though, and to open my laptop and read the hundreds of questions that have banked up over the last couple of weeks, and be reminded of the great privilege it is for me to be a part of this project with you all.”

Last month, Cave announced the release of a new memoir, Faith, Hope and Carnage, arriving in autumn next year. The book will cover the singer’s perspective and personal life over the six years since the death of his son Arthur, who died in July 2015, aged 15.

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