Cape Town – The film adaptation of Cynthia Jele’s award-winning novel, Happiness is a Four-Letter Word will be released in cinemas nationwide.
The romantic comedy tells the story of Nandi (Mmabatho Montsho), Zaza (Khanyi Mbau) and Princess (Renate Stuurman), three besties who are navigating through life’s ups and downs and in search of the one thing that will bring happiness.
We chatted to Renate about playing commitment phobic Princess, what attracted her to the role, what it was like on set and what happiness is to her.
What attracted you to the role and the project?
These kinds of projects don’t come along every day: three strong actresses playing the leads in a feature film, it’s not the usual you know. It was exciting for me to be able to go an audition to be one of the leads. To have it be a South African author, a South African story set in Johannesburg, women that are so close to people that I know and so close to myself and stories that are so relatable. These were a dream combination of things that attracted me to the role.
How did you relate to your character?
I read the book while we were filming, I really wanted to know about my character and see the relationship between the women. I then stopped reading because I decided that I needed to bring this person to life on screen because a character in a book is different.
Some of Princess’s strong characteristics are things that I relate to like wanting to be in control, being a bit of a commitment phobe, wanting to make sure that people don’t hurt you so you keep them at arms lengths. Those are the things that when I was younger and even now I am working through. It gave me a window into who she is and to understand why she does the things that she does. There are so many things about her that are so different from me but the similarities between us allowed me in.
There’s always this misconception that women never get along and this friendship between the three women was so nice to see on screen.
That’s so nice to hear you say that because we really did get along so well. I hope the audience sees that we really have that great connection off camera. From the call back during the audition stage the three of us had that instant connection and we really wanted to concentrate on that and make that as realistic as possible and for people to really feel it when they watch it.
It's rare for a South African film to be shot in English only, do you think it will make it easier to reach other parts in the world?
The film is a South African story and it is for South African viewers but I do think it’s important now to think about an international audience. When you work on a project like this and you put so much into it you want it to go as far as it could possibly go.
Do you think the movie does the book justice?
I think so, it’s very difficult with a book you know as every one imagines a character differently every reader imagines the situation differently and so all we can do is interpret it the best way we can for screen. I think we did manage to recreate the friendship between the three women, and I hope that the readers recognise that.
The film opens today, what do you want viewers to take away from it?
I hope people will receive it well. I hope South Africans recognise these women and they recognise the story and that’s its fun for them. I hope that they go out watch it and laugh and enjoy it.
What is happiness to you?
I think right now I can really do what I want to do with my career. When projects like this come along I can do them and I can do plays and television dramas. And then I can step away from all of that and have people around me; my friends and my family where what I do for a living has no bearing on my real life. To be surrounded by people who are fine with me just being Renate, not Renate the actress. Renate who loves to bake, who loves dogs, who is awkward in social situations and nobody judges me and I can just sit and be and everyone is fine with me being just that. I like my work to be one side and just leave it there and then I come to a place where I am accepted a place where I can just be me and fun things and be happy.
Watch the trailer here: