(Last updated April 12, 2019)

German acting talent David Cross first emerged as a teenage lover of Kate Winslet’s character Hannah Schmitz in Goerlitz’s drama The Reader (2008). Since then he has travelled the world and appeared in several German and international films.

In his latest film The Guardian, just released in UK cinemas, David Bremen portrays goalkeeper Bert Trautmann (1923 – 2013), a former German soldier who first came to England as a prisoner of war and later became one of England’s best-loved football heroes.

In the summer of 2018 I met David Cross at a football stadium in Berlin to talk about football, films and the journey of filmmaking….

1. What attracted you to this film and the role of Burt Troutman?

David Cross: Before I was asked to participate in this film, I had never heard of Bert Trautmann. But I immediately thought it would be pretty exciting to play football. And then there is the truly amazing story of a German soldier who ended up in a POW camp in England during World War II and was able to play football for one of the best clubs in the country. He suffered a great trauma during the war, but he can’t talk about it. And then, of course, he must face not only his own guilt, but the guilt of his country and his nation as a whole.

More information can be found here:
My review of the film The Guardian – shot in Northern Ireland, UK and Bavaria, Germany.

David Cross is with Burt Troutman. SquareOne Entertainment

2. I read in the production notes that the director of the film met the real Burt Troutman for an interview in 2010. Did you get a chance to meet him?

David Cross: Yes, it is. The director met with him. But alas, I never saw Burt Troutman again. I was already familiar with the film project when I heard of his passing in 2013. I was very sad to hear that, and of course it was disappointing not to be able to see him again. But it also gave me a boost. After that, I just wanted to make a better movie, especially because it’s such an important and moving story.

3. How did you prepare for the role of Burt Troutman and especially for the football scenes?

David Cross: There are several videos of Burt Troutman on YouTube, including the scene where he breaks his neck in the 1956 cup final. I tried to copy and imitate everything I could see in these videos. Then of course I had to do some physical training as a goalie. I played soccer myself when I was younger, but I was never a goalie. So I had to start all over again and learn something, like how to be in the portal? How do you hold the ball? Where do I look? You just have to stick to it and eventually you will remember these things.

4. The film was shot in English. How do you know what Troutman looks like?

David Cross: There are videos of a young Trautman speaking English, so I used them to prepare the film and do the accents. At the beginning of the film he still has a very strong German accent, but as the film progresses he adapts more and more to his surroundings and the Lancastrian accent spoken in Manchester. In real life, he ended up speaking with a mixture of German and Lancaster accents. Even this small detail tells a story in itself and therefore was very important to the film.

5. What was particularly difficult for you in the role of Burt Troutman?

David Cross: Playing football was a real challenge. He was also one of the best goalkeepers at the time. I had to work hard for everything. This kind of physical work was new to me. But it was also a great challenge and it helped me become a hero. On the one hand, there were football scenes that I wanted to reconstruct as faithfully as possible. On the other hand, there was that range of emotions with all that guilt and forgiveness, told through the love story between Bert and his wife Margaret (Freya Mavor). So there were two different parts, and both were very challenging. But in the end, it was a great challenge.

This kind of physical work was new to me.

Burt Troutman and his British wife Margaret. SquareOne Entertainment

6. You said you played football. Is it true that as a child you wanted to be an actor or a footballer?

David Cross: Yes, it’s true. I wrote this on the questionnaire we read at school. The question was: What do you want to be someday? And my answer was this: Football player or actor. I ended up being an actor. But with this film, I had the chance to become a footballer.

7. What was your position at the time?

David Cross: I mostly played right field. I’ve never been a goalkeeper.

8. Is it true that your grandfather was also a big football fan?

David Cross: Yes, it’s true. In Todendorf, the small village where I grew up, he looked a bit like our coach. He always took me to training and I loved watching the game with him.

9. Much of the shooting for The Guardian took place in Bavaria, Germany and Northern Ireland, UK, including Belfast. How long did you film there and what do you remember most about your time in Belfast?

David Cross: I think we’ve been here a month or two. Then we continued the tour in Munich and Augsburg, Bavaria. What I remember most about Belfast is the harbour and the gym (laughs). After all, I usually had to stick to a training plan. I remember a few peculiar pats. They were located next to Titanic Belfast and the Game of Thrones studios.

10. Did you shoot some of the Game of Thrones scenes? Like the ones in a small grocery store?

David Cross: These scenes were actually filmed in the Glockenbachviertel in Munich. So not in the studio. It looks like we’re in Manchester, but we were actually in Munich. Thanks to modern technology, these illusions still work today (laughs).

Shooting at The Guardian in Munich, Germany. Aidan Monaghan/Zephyr Films Ltd.

11. But the beach scenes were shot in Northern Ireland, right?

David Cross: Yes, they were filmed in Northern Ireland. But I can’t remember the name of the place.

12. Your previous film projects have taken you all over the world. Same But Different (2009) was filmed in Cambodia and Kuala Lumpur, Race (2016) was filmed in Canada, and The Reader (2008) was filmed in Goerlitz, East Germany. Is there a place you particularly like and want to return to?

David Cross: When we filmed Race, I lived in Montreal, Canada for a while. It must be a beautiful city. On the one hand, Montreal is a North American city, but on the other hand, it has this European influence because many people there speak French. And then there’s a mountain called Mount Royal. Everyone goes there on Sunday. There is a lot of music and so many things to do. I thought it was a really great place.

13. When you were filming in Belfast, did you sometimes go to the local pubs with the crew?

David Cross: Yes, of course. It’s always a big part of the shoot. After all, you spend a lot of time together. So the pubs in Northern Ireland were a lot of fun because of all the music and everything that was going on. I just needed some supervision on my drinking because I had to follow a strict training regime (laughs).

Montreal was really a special place.

A scene from the film The Guardian, shot on a beach in Northern Ireland. SquareOne Entertainment

14. How can you relax after the shooting? Do you like to travel in your free time or do you prefer to stay at home in Berlin?

David Cross: You do travel. I think you get a lot out of traveling, especially because you get to have new experiences in other parts of the world. After the goalie was packed, I went surfing in Portugal. I didn’t have much time before shooting the next movie, so it was good to have a break where I could disconnect completely.

15. What other countries are on your list?

David Cross: The next country I will visit is Costa Rica. I am looking forward to this trip because I think there is a lot to explore, especially in terms of nature and beaches.

16. Have you ever tried to find movie locations while traveling?

David Cross: During the filming of The Keeper in Belfast, the crew showed us some Game of Thrones locations, such as the White Wall. I think it’s pretty cool to see places you’ve already seen on screen. But I never specifically searched the premises.

Berlin is a very diverse city.

David Cross is in The Guardian. SquareOne Entertainment

17. Are there any movies or TV series you like to watch in your spare time?

David Cross: I’ve had a fairly long hiatus from airing the series, so I haven’t seen anything lately. But I like to take the plunge once in a while. The last Netflix series I watched was about Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar: Narcotics. It was a very exciting show that I really enjoyed.

18. Are there any actors you admire and consider models?

David Cross: Yes, absolutely. I was a big fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who sadly passed away in 2014. I also love Joaquim Phoenix and Daniel Day-Lewis. I admire these actors both for their performances and their choice of roles.

19. Originally from a small town near Hamburg, you have been living in Berlin since 2010. Why did you move here?

David Cross: When I was 15, I shot the German drama Tough Enough (OT: Knallhart) in Berlin and spent a lot of time in the city. Then I went to live alone. The production company gave me my own apartment and it was just amazing. From that moment on I had no choice but to go to Berlin. And of course living in Berlin was also useful for my acting.

20. What do you like about Berlin?

David Cross: Berlin is a very diverse city. I like that there are many different neighborhoods and districts. Besides, there’s so much culture here. I love that I have so many great theaters to choose from and that there is always so much to do in the city.

Thanks for the interview and good luck for your next films and travels!

More information can be found here:
My review of the film The Guardian – shot in Northern Ireland, UK and Bavaria, Germany.

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