‘If I move he’ll attack’: mastering rage in pr…

‘If I move he’ll attack’: mastering rage in prisoners:


Although I knew the focus of Starred Up was not Oliver Baumer (Rupert Friend), I was really left wanting to know more of Oliver’s background and character. In this article, Jonathan Asser, psychotherapist and screenwriter of Starred Up, gives beautiful insight into the character. I found it a fascinating read, especially given how Rupert was able to convey so much of Oliver’s character through his incredible screen presence.

Here are some highlights:

“I don’t look directly at him, and I don’t say anything, both of which at this moment would push him over the edge. Instead I communicate by sitting with my shoulders open and directly facing him, which shows I’m giving him my full attention and taking the risk he poses very seriously, while also showing the rest of the group I have the confidence to manage his risk. Every nuance of my body language is critical right now.”

Rupert captures these techniques perfectly during the movie, and conveys an intensity that is both authentic and terrifying! 

And where do Oliver’s emotions and reactions come from? I suspect they came from Asser’s experiences in childhood.

“From my earliest memories, aged four, I felt as if I didn’t exist and that I wasn’t human. Despite my complete physical and emotional rejection of my mother, neither my mother nor my father seemed to notice. The best thing was my father’s rage, which though terrifying did make me feel alive. Escalation was something I needed and craved.”

And more background on Oliver’s character becoming involved with the prison system:

“Then, in 1998, through a friend from university who had gone into the prison service, I was invited in to Feltham Young Offender Institution to give a creative writing workshop. As the series of gates clanged shut behind, as the cellblocks loomed, as a prisoner shouted out a probingly hostile comment to me through the mesh on the exercise yard, I felt I was home. I knew I was equipped with what it took to thrive here. Awash with anxiety, bewilderment and fear in the outside world, I had found a new brick mother, a new total institution that could once again make things simple and safe. The emotion I felt was akin to love.”

I definitely recommend reading the entire article in conjunction with watching the movie. You may find an even greater appreciation for the work Rupert does in this film.