Sunday, July 24, 2011

Interview with Andrea Riseborough - June 22nd, 2009

Promoting: Mad, Sad & Bad
Venue: 13/1 Cornwall St, Edinburgh, Edinburgh Film Festival
Interview type: One-on-one

ViewLondon (VL): What's the film about and who do you play?

Andrea Riseborough (AR): I play a manic depressive, Shoreditch-type clay sculptor. I'm not sure that's a very good description but Julia is a very fragile, very loving, very naturally artistic soul who happens to be in a relationship with a guy who – they're like yin and yang and I think when you watch the film you think 'How did these two get together?' and one of the things that attracted me to the project was that very fact, because so rarely is it depicted on film how extraordinary couples can be.

VL: Were there any other elements that attracted you to the film and how did you get involved?

AR: Firstly what I was saying before about their relationship being so unique. But I suppose what attracted me to it initially was just reading it and then closing it and thinking 'That is a lovely film'. You know, like, it's incredibly uplifting. It's quite an extraordinary thing because I don't really know where to – what I like about it is that you can't really pigeon-hole it. It's this real independent film but it's like super-uplifting. And it's also really accessible – in a brilliant way, it's accessible to a big audience, but you also can't pin it down.

VL: Was the part written for you?

AR: No, no, no. It was already written and then I think [writer-director] Avie was just really open to finding out who this Julia would be and then I went and met him, we talked about it, we did a bit of work and he offered me the part. And she really grew, or rather, we excavated what he'd already laid down, just as much as possible, to see exactly where all of that came from. And I really liked the fact that Avie wasn't scared to take Julia to this other place. We met so well, I think, in terms of how we perceived Julia. After, we went through a series of improvisations which we did through psychoanalysis, because he's a psychiatrist, so he put us all in therapy as our characters, which was brilliant and then we had group sessions and couple guidance sessions.

VL: What was Avie like as a director?

AR: My relationship with Avie throughout the shoot – and beforehand, in pre-production, when we were improvising – was such a great one. I felt thoroughly supported by him and challenged, you know. Because he has a very good way of noting you, you know, giving you notes, because he's a psychiatrist. So he kind of just cuts to the bone.

VL: Were there any scenes that were cut that you hated to lose?

AR: When you make a film, there are always so many scenes that you do and then they might not get in. Originally, my character ended up with Zubin's character. Or there was a spark, some kind of strange spark, like this repulsion, but ... So there were scenes that we shot, but they didn't work. It works much better this way. But Zubin and I found it hard to let go of this, because we were like, 'But that's what happens!' It's like when you say goodbye to a character - and you don't generally get much time to do it at all because you're straight into the fray with the next thing – and you have to be very good at letting someone very close to your heart just completely go. And you leave them in a certain place and then I saw Zubin somewhere and he was like, 'You know we don't get together in the end?' and we were both like, 'Oh my God!'. Even though we'd finished the film - and actually, in terms of the film, all we want is what's best for the film and we completely trust Avie – it was a strange thing to find out because you just think that that's what's happened to that character and you kind of play out their post-film fantasy in your mind a bit. So we had to reassess our post-film fantasy, but that's fine.

VL: Speaking of the post-film fantasy, how attached do you get to your characters generally?

AR: Like I said, I think you have to really be good at putting them down. I would never say disposing of them, because I think that would be too harsh. And impossible, because so much of yourself is in them – you are essentially your own tool. But there are certain times where I've wanted to have some sort of like mass exorcism, where we all burn them on something like, I don't know, Hampstead Heath, and all the possessions they had and all the thoughts they had. But other times you can learn so much from them. I know it's strange, because I'm talking about them like they're real, but they're so real to you. Some of my characters have introduced me to different things that I never thought that I would like. I've found sympathy or empathy in things that before were completely alien to me.

VL: Like Thatcher? [Andrea played Margaret Thatcher in The Long Road to Finchley]

AR: (laughs) Or I've made a journey to somewhere else in my mind that I would just never have got the chance to go on had I not been an actor. Because it's very specific, particularly being an actor, that you read something and then you become so – it's such second nature to you, to go there, emotionally, to completely surround yourself with it and your mind instantly makes a picture, you know?

VL: Did you take pottery classes and stuff for preparation?

AR: Oh, my flatmate was just at her wit's end – there was clay everywhere. There was clay in the tea, there was clay on the kitchen table, there was clay in the living room. She'd be taking a book out of the library and she'd be like, 'There's clay in the book', I'm like, 'I'm really sorry!' And then I made this little succession of little creatures, clay creatures, that I then proceeded to -when I needed some anger or whatever- these lovingly crafted creatures that I'd then smash up on set with a mallet. But also, with Julia, a lot of music was very helpful, especially the Velvet Underground. And Tracey Emin's Strange Land was a really, really useful book. It changed so many things in my life, that book. It really helped me with the character.

VL: What's your next project?

AR: My next project that I'm doing currently, doesn't have an official name. It's called We Want Sex but it's also called Dagenham Girls. It's me, Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson, Bob Hoskins, Rosamund Pike, John Sessions and Danny Mays. And it's about the 1968 petitions for equal pay at the Ford Dagenham factory.


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