Made in England
by Jay S. Jacobs
Rosamund Pike is one actress who defies categorization. The London-born beauty has spent over a decade on screen and stage. The one constant in her career is that you never know quite what she will do next.
She is probably best known for her work on art house films. She played Keira Knightley’s sister in Pride and Prejudice, and also co-starred as Carey Mulligan’s best friend in An Education and in The Libertine with Johnny Depp.
However if you write her off as an arty actress you are missing so much of her career. She’s also done her share of big-budget features. She was a Bond girl in Die Another Day. She has also done action films like Surrogates with Bruce Willis and Doom with Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson.
Currently Pike has released two of her most interesting films. In recent months she has been getting acclaim and award nominations for her role in the British import Made in Dagenham, a historical drama about plucky women at a Ford factory who protested to be able to get women equal pay.
She also is playing Miriam in the film version of Mordecai Richler’s final novel Barney’s Version. Her character is the third wife and true love in the life of a cynical Canadian television exec (played by Paul Giamatti). The film takes place over a period of decades and Pike’s character ages about 30 years on screen.
Pike was nice enough to sit down with me for this exclusive interview at the Crosby Street Hotel in New York just a few days before the Barney’s Version premiere.
As a British actress you had to completely change your accent. How hard was that?
It was interesting, because I went to Italy with my dialect coach, because we’re both such Italian… what’s the word, like Anglophile. Italiophile? So we just traveled around in Tuscany and spoke American that the whole time. It was very interesting to be treated like an American. She’d correct me on little things, but to the Italians ostensibly we were both American. It was palpably different. It was like, I don’t know if they expected us to be more difficult in restaurants because they knew we were American. Something, there was some difference…. I sort of missed being English, in a funny way. I missed how waiters treated me. It was quite eye-opening. But it certainly worked, because in this movie, I felt totally free in the American accent, which was good. It felt like my voice, just with an American accent.
[Director] Richard [J. Lewis] and [Producer] Robert [Lanto] were saying when they brought you in, they were originally thinking of having you play the first wife.
When did you sense the shift that they started thinking of you for Miriam?
Well, I never… obviously Miriam is the plum role and a wonderful character that is really inspiring, but Flora is a very good role. Sadly, she has been cut a lot in the film, just to do with the time. She’s a far more complex creature than unfortunately ended up on screen. But Richard actually came to see a play I was doing with Judi Dench in London, called Madame de Sade. Just by chance, that spans over a decade. Eventhough we don’t really change makeup or do prosthetics, there is this sense of aging. I think after seeing that he thought, “You know, I think this girl could be Miriam.” I certainly had a spiritual connection with Miriam. It was strange. I sort of felt an affinity with her – even in the older age. I didn’t find that such a hard leap, in a funny way. I don’t know why.
You were saying in the other room that you had actually read the book before getting involved in the project – Richard had given it to you.
Did you picture yourself at all as the character when you were originally reading it?
As Miriam? No, I read it purely as a novel. I suppose I was intrigued by Flora, actually, originally. I thought Miriam was this character, but I never even dreamt that I could play her. The script showed her as this dark-haired beauty with piercing blue eyes. I don’t know, if you read that and you just think: no, no, that’s not really me. Then of course, through the wonders and magic of movie making, there you are, age 60, with dark hair. (laughs)
How strange is it seeing yourself made up as you might look in your sixties?
Disconcerting. Fairly reassuring, on some levels. It made me think differently about men. I became rather invisible to men as the older Miriam. Then it would ignite their interest again when I was playing the 30-year-old Miriam again. It’s very interesting, you know. The Miriam when she had all her lovely, long hair suddenly became more attractive to people.
And was the makeup hard to do?
It was a far different process, because you actually feel it on your face. You feel the pull of gravity by the addition of weight on your face. Physically, you’ve got layers on. So, the upward motion is sort of pulled down. You feel your face is pulled down. It helps you feel just that – you know, your shift of weight. I talked to a dancer about it, about what growing old feels like. I said it really is a sort of downward shift in weight. When you get up you just feel different. As opposed to I’d get up like that. (stands up quickly, then says to the recorder) I just demonstrated it. It was fascinating process and I’m amazed we actually pulled it off, because it was one of these jobs I definitely wanted, then when you get in, you think, my God, how am I going to pull this off?
One of the obviously interesting things about the movie is that Barney basically starts hitting on Miriam at his own wedding…
I know! I know and some people have said they found that creepy. I think what happens is that these two people found they have a profound and unusual connection. I don’t necessarily believe in love at first sight, but I do believe in a sort of infatuation within the first conversation (snaps fingers) because that’s when you really spark. There’s sort of an undeniable connection between these two. Not a sort of casual flirtation. They connect over books and cigars and humor and just a recognition of… there was a sort of ironic quality to their first conversation. I think it was a meeting of minds.
It’s weird, because Miriam never seemed to want to further the relationship with Barney while he was still married, and yet she didn’t exactly stop him either. Do you feel that in some strange way Miriam had it in the back of her mind, too?
Yeah, but I think she’s totally respectful. She also sees that he’s drunk. She sees that Barney drinks too much right from the beginning. He’s drunk when he comes onto the train. I think she is almost quite charmed in spite of herself. Her better judgment is to get this man out of this place as fast as possible and send him back to his wife. Because I think also she would hate to be involved and suddenly implicated as the other woman in a situation that’s not of her making.
In honor of that, what was the oddest or most inappropriate circumstance in which someone tried to pick you up or that you have heard of someone doing?
Oh, my gosh. I don’t know, I always think that the swimming pool is a really dodgy place to be hit on. I mean, I have been approached before and it’s like: “Really? Are you going to be that obvious? You wait until I’m in a bathing suit and then you’re going to hit on me?” I think that’s probably the least appealing. Uhh… yeah, I can’t think of any other particularly odd ones.
What was Paul Giamatti like to work with?
A dream. I adore Paul. Couldn’t you tell when you were in there? I really just believed in him as Barney. He made me laugh. I find him intellectually inspiring. I feel we have similar kinds of appetites for life and literature and curiosities and art and that kind of stuff. Then, you know, there was no bullshit with him. There’s no tricks. There’s no trying to save his performance until it’s on his side – until he’s on camera – and all these kind of stupid things that some arrogant actors do. He’s got no ego. I just love it.
Also, I don’t remember you doing much with Dustin Hoffman…
No, I only have tiny, brief fleeting moments.
But what was he like to be around?
He just rated Paul and I on our kiss at the wedding and said whether it was good enough or whether it might give Paul a hard on or not. He says these things and you can’t believe that they’re coming out of Dustin Hoffman’s mouth. Then you think, maybe if it was anyone else you’d just tell them to back off. But because it’s Dustin, you kind of accept it. You think I can’t believe he’s talking about erections and all these sort of things while we’re trying to pretend we’re having the happiest day of our life. He’s like a dirty father-in-law, you know?
I’ve noticed that you have gone back and forth in your career between artier films like Pride & Prejudice and An Education and more mainstream roles like Die Another Day and Surrogates. Obviously you can’t choose what is offered to you, but does the variety appeal to you?
Well, you do choose to a certain extent. You can always not go up for something or you can always just say no. Emma Thompson once told me that it’s as important not to work as to work. What you say no to is as important. But, you know, sometimes it just fires your imagination. You think, I can do this small budget movie. Or, yeah, go and do a big movie about human beings living a surrogate life as robots. That sounds pretty neat. It’s great. It’s lucky to be able to do either way.
The first time I remember seeing you, and probably most people do, was when you joined the long history of The Bond women. What was it like to be part of such a legendary franchise?
It still is amazing. It’s not even what it was like, but it still does feel like you’re a part of that. It’s phenomenal. Recently, I just recorded one of the Bond novels on an audiobook, because they are releasing the whole 20 original Ian Fleming novels next year. This one of them, The Spy Who Loved Me, was narrated by a woman. It’s a great read. They are great stories, even though it’s not that similar to The Spy Who Loved Me the movie. But you’re always a part of that, too. And you’re always called up to bat when there are things like that to be done. I love it. I love it.
You also have just done Made in Dagenham. I haven’t seen it yet, but have heard good things. It hasn’t really taken off here in the States yet. What would you like to tell people to get the word out?
Made in Dagenham is an extraordinary story. It’s a political struggle movie, but with tremendous humor, as only the Brits know how. They can do a movie about a serious subject, but do it with such an irrepressible sense of humor. It’s very funny. It’s kind of – you know, girls going about getting what they want in a very unexpected way. For women, I think it’s sort of a must-see film, because it’s the beginning of what we are still fighting for today, which is equal pay. England is lucky enough to have equal pay with their male counterparts and they have these girls to thank – the girls from the Ford car factory in Made in Dagenham. I love the film. I really love it.
|#1 © 2011 Jay S. Jacobs. All rights reserved.|
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Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 14, 2011.