Hannah Murray is at a crossroads. This month, her latest film, “Charlie Says,” was released after premiering Stateside at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. And after seven years, her tenure on “Game of Thrones” is officially over with the show’s upcoming Sunday finale.
“It feels like a really interesting time for me right now,” says Murray, soft-spoken and considered, while in town for the festival. Throughout her career — Murray also starred on “Skins” for several years — the actress shied away from establishing a public persona; she wanted to focus on talking about her work. Now on the precipice of moving into the next phase of her career, she’s ready to offer up more of herself. “I want to have more of a voice, and I don’t want to just play a character in someone else’s story — I want to tell my own stories,” she says.
But for her most recent film, she’s telling the story of Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten. “Charlie Says” follows Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel and Susan Atkins from their jail cells in the aftermath of the Manson murders. Murray was interested in exploring the infamous crime from the female perspective, and views it as an interesting exercise in empathy.
“It stretched my limits of what I thought I could emphasize with,” she says. “It’s very easy to judge people and it’s very easy to write people off, and I think you can try and understand why someone did something without excusing the behavior.”
For Murray, the chance to work on such a female-driven project was also a huge draw. The film was directed by Mary Harron and written by Guinevere Turner, a pair perhaps best known for directing and writing the 2000 crime drama “American Psycho.” “A lot of people don’t know that film was directed by a woman,” Murray says. “I don’t think she’s celebrated as much as she should be for that.”
Despite playing someone who’s still alive, no one in the cast had any contact with anyone depicted in the film.
“We had to make it very clear that we’d had no contact with them because if you are up for parole and a parole board sees you’ve spoken about your crimes publicly, it’s seen as self-aggrandizing and it would damage your chances of parole,” says Murray, who also portrayed a real person in the film “Detroit.” Van Houten is up for parole this year after four decades in prison.
The film arrives just before Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood” summer blockbuster, also set around the time of the Manson murders. Asked why she thinks audiences continue to be fascinated with the gruesome cult, Murray pivots to human psychology.
“I think human beings will always be interested in horrific acts of random violence. And what happened to the victims of these murders, it’s the stuff of horror films and it’s the stuff of nightmares,” says Murray. “I think that people who very much cross the limits of what is acceptable of a human being are unfortunately fascinating, because you have to ask why someone would do that, and what makes someone capable of doing that.”
With her latest projects out and without the commitment of “GoT” filming, Murray is eyeing a summer of open possibility.
“It feels like an end of a chapter of my life professionally. And then I’m turning 30 this summer, so that feels like a real start of a new chapter,” she says. “I just really want to shake things up right now and I feel like the sky is the limit.”
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