‘Moon Knight’: Behind-the-Scenes of Arthur Harrow and Layla El-Faouly’s Cliff Conversation
"That was a really special moment for me. I love that guy.”
In Episode 4 of Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight, “The Tomb,” Arthur Harrow and Layla El-Faouly come face to face to talk for the first time — although they are separated via a giant, bottomless chasm in Alexander the Great’s Tomb. Layla has just managed to escape the terrifying Heka priests and breathes a sigh of relief before heading off to reconvene with Steven Grant elsewhere in the winding tomb. However, she’s stopped by Harrow, who reveals some upsetting news to her about her past relationship with Marc Spector.
It’s an intense scene to watch, heightened by the fact both Harrow and Layla are so far apart from one another but are having an intimate conversation. If you can believe it, this scene wasn’t actually originally in the script, but came out of an idea from both stars Ethan Hawke and May Calamawy, who wanted to work together more on the show.
A running thread through all of Moon Knight is the amount of collaboration happening behind-the-scenes, between both the creative team and also the actors — Hawke, Calamawy, and also Oscar Isaac. As Calamawy explains to Marvel.com, “We had been having these rehearsals, where we'd spend six hours or more on each episode, and I saw how freely Oscar and Ethan would be sharing ideas, throwing ideas.”
Calamawy wanted to toss ideas around, too, but as she laughs, “I was like, ‘these ideas are just like not coming to me.’ It's not like I have them and I'm too shy to share them, but it's like a manifestation of the anxiety that I was feeling and the pressure I was putting myself under.” Eventually, that led to Calamawy to simply send a message to Hawke saying, “‘I really think that we should have scene together. I think it would be really cool.’”
Not knowing what would come from the message, Calamawy was shocked and also thrilled to find out Hawke had crafted a whole scene for them together the very next day.
“He came to our rehearsal and had a whole idea mapped out!” Calamawy continues. “I was just like, whoa, and he just looked at me and winked. We were developing the scene even more with [directors] Aaron [Moorhead] and Justin [Benson]. It's incredible. I was like, I'm sitting with Ethan Hawke, and I'm giving him ideas about what I think he should say to Layla in this moment. That was a really special moment for me. I love that guy.”
Moorhead and Benson — who helmed Episodes 2 and 4 — were more than thrilled, and receptive, to find that the cast was eager to bring new ideas to the show. As Benson tells Marvel.com, “It was really beautiful to see how encouraged May was to bring anything she felt necessary to this character, the amount of support she had to do that, even from her castmates. The way that her and Ethan and Oscar would collaborate on these characters and each give each other ideas not just on their own characters, but each other's, was a really beautiful thing to see, and it ultimately makes the show so much better.”
Calling the scene “one of the most fun” they had filming the show, Benson continues “And it was such a fun scene to direct. Ethan and May spent a whole Sunday with us just discussing that scene, everything about it. And, yeah, that may be one of the coolest scenes we've ever directed in our careers.”
The only hesitation about the scene came from the fact that everyone realized it was “taking place literally across a chasm.” Eventually, Benson and Moorhead realized they could still keep the conversation quiet, turning it into “this really intimate conversation that happens to take place 100 feet away from each other.”
“When we filmed it, it was incredible. It felt like a play, because we were far enough on the stage and there were two cranes. We got to do our close ups at the same time,” May adds.
While short, the scene is incredibly impactful for Layla, as Harrow gives her information she necessarily doesn’t want to hear: the death of her father -- something that still pains her to this day.
“We had a lot of long conversations about exactly who Layla was outside of her relationship with Marc Spector and she became more and more interesting, as she had this very tumultuous relationship with her home of Egypt. And also, of course, May is Egyptian, and that was something where she was able to bring in a lot of her thoughts there,” Moorhead adds. “We were trying to find the vulnerabilities in each character. Because in a Super Hero show, everyone is strong, right? But in what ways are they human? And the ways in which they're human for us is when they have vulnerabilities and things that break their heart and all of that. And then how they rise to the challenge when they do it. And for us, Layla's that. Layla is somebody who is on a very wild ride and isn't willing to just be the passenger.”
Moon Knight is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.
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