INTERVIEW: Lovely Bones star Rachel Weisz
Rachel Weisz started the year off right with her wonderfully wacky performance in THE BROTHERS BLOOM. While the film wasn’t perfect, it was incredibly sweet and original. And now, she is back with another film, one that happens to be directed by Peter Jackson. While most critics have not been too kind in regards to THE LOVELY BONES, it certainly isn’t due to Rachel. And as I found out, there is more of her work to be had, which hopefully will be featured in an upcoming directors cut… at least, I hope so.
When I spoke to Rachel, I was happy to hear that she remembered me from a time before, my voice at least. Hell, even if she didn’t and was just being polite, it was a terrific way to start off a conversation. Honestly, I could listen to her speak for hours and not get tired of hearing it. She talked about what is next for her, working with Mr. Jackson and how Susan Sarandon is a super hot mom. While The Lovely Bones has been playing in select theatres, it will find itself opening wide this coming Friday. It will be interesting to see how it fares up against the current box office champ.
Yes, I did.
Did you read it before you were given the role?
So you were a fan of the book before?
Yeah, I mean, me and ten billion other people. It wasn’t a secret find or anything, you know [Laughing].
Now when Peter [Jackson] approached you about it, especially about how he’d handle it on a visual level, what were your thoughts going in? It seems like it would be an exciting project just on a visceral level.
Well, all the visual stuff wasn’t my… you know, I’m on earth, I’m not in heaven. And for me, watching the film at the end was the same experience that you had. I mean, I got to see heaven for the first time. So I was involved in the drama side of things which is kind of a small fraction of the movie. Most of it is a visual feast which he’s created as you said.
There was a moment when you are told that the authorities found blood. Right then, you see on your face that you know what happened. It is really a terrific moment that you have. What kind of research went into this performance?
I read a few books, which were first person accounts of people who’ve lost children. I didn’t go and meet actual parents who have lost their children, I just felt that was too much.
A bit heartbreaking…
Well no, I just didn’t feel that it was respectful to those parents. I just didn’t feel like they should be interviewed for the sake of the film… I don’t know, maybe there would be parents who would want to talk about it. I just had to go there emotionally, so it wasn’t a question of it being heartbreaking, I just didn’t think it was appropriate for the parents. It was really just an act of imagining. I had the book. I had the screenplay. So I had a lot of stuff to feed my imagination. And in that moment that you mention, it just seemed clear to me that she was dead. The blood was just a euphemism for, she is no more.
Now, I haven’t read the book, but I wonder if there were many scenes shot that did not end up in the finished film, especially on the “family“ side?
Yes. Yeah, unfortunately, it was an ensemble piece and it would’ve had to been a miniseries to get everything in. A lot of it didn’t make it.
How was it to work with Peter on a smaller level, as he dealt with the family and not so much the fantastic elements?
He created an atmosphere where we can play and improvise. And [we] felt free to have the back and forth, the to and fro of the family. It was a pretty small role for me so I wasn’t there for weeks and weeks and weeks, but he was very supportive and created a really nice atmosphere on the set. He’s an easygoing guy.
You’ve had a really interesting year, with a couple of really fascinating characters. Especially with THE BROTHERS BLOOM, which you were fantastic in…
Oh, thank you.
No problem. What is next?
Well I just finished shooting THE WHISTLEBLOWER for a first time director Larysa Kondracki and we just finished that last week in Romania. It’s a true story about a woman who went to work in Bosnia at the end of the Nineties and blew the whistle on the U.N.. I have a film coming out in the new year called AGORA which is directed by Alejandro Amenabar.
What is it about?
It is a story set in fourth century Alexandria about a woman named Hypatia. It is a true story about a woman who is a philosopher.
It seems like you like the challenging roles, as opposed to the more mundane roles.
[Laughing] Maybe I should do some mundane ones.
No, no, don’t do that [Laughing].
Yeah, I just do what interests me, what I’m drawn to. I don’t know why one would be drawn to anything mundane.
Well, there are always those films that take the mundane and make it unique.
You could even say that about The Lovely Bones, especially within the family unit.
Yeah, my character Abigail is a very ordinary lady. She’s not a heroine, she’s not noble. In fact, she falls apart when the tragedy happens. In fact, I liked that about her. She’s a very ordinary woman who is frail and weak like the rest of us.
Also, they took out of the film which was in the book, the affair she has…
Was that ever shot?
Yes it was.
Really? Wow! They put this together on DVD, this could be a six hour movie.
Yep. Exactly, exactly.
As a real life mother, was it a difficult experience filming some of these scenes?
It was a difficult experience, not because I‘m a mother. You know, everyone asks me that, I’m not sure… I played a mother before I was a mother, and I have to imagine all sorts of things. I have to imagine I’m American and I have to imagine I’m a young woman living in the 1970’s. You imagine some things and some are beautiful, some are ugly, some are difficult and I’m not sure that being a mother helps really. It might though, it would be a hard experiment to find out if it helped or not [Laughing].
In preparing for the role, did the book ever become detrimental because there was already a fixed idea…?
No. For me the book just only helped because I had a sense of the characters inner life and back story and who she was. Its incredible fuel for the imagination to have a novelist words.
Can you talk a little more about THE WHISTLEBLOWER? You mentioned it was a true story?
Totally, totally true. Beat by beat it’s true. It’s a true story of a women, she’s called Kathryn Balkovac. She was a cop in Nebraska in a very small town. For various reasons at the end of the Nineties, including financial necessity, she went to work for DynCorp, a recruiting agency which brought law enforcement officers to Bosnia to help train and monitor the local police force there and help rebuild the country after the war over. It was called the International Police Task Force and it was all under the auspices of the United Nations. And while she was working there, she uncovered a huge, human trafficking sex trafficking scandal which basically involved girls as young as nine being brought over the border in Bosnia, and being kept as prisoners. Basically sex slaves. I mean, they weren’t prostitutes, they’d been desensitized and demoralized to the point where they didn’t really try and escape anymore. Anyway, she uncovered this and her investigations were not only shut down, but she was threatened and she discovered that the U.N. had sanctioned this and they were basically bringing the girls over the border, in U.N. vehicles. And who the girls were for, they were for the International Police Task Force that were there. So it’s a very scandalous story about a very feisty lady.
This is not the first time you’ve taken on a role that tackled a controversial story, you also had THE CONSTANT GARDNER a few years back. Is that something that attracts you to a role?
Well, it’s definitely… I think a film that has an agenda or a message, that can sometimes really be the death of art. I think you can have a beautiful film about characters, or as you say, about the mundane, I don’t think it has to be about something important. But if you have a drama that has great dialogue, that has a great story and it also happens to be about something really, really important, that’s wonderful.
Right… finding the balance between the two and just an agenda or propaganda…?
Exactly. Propaganda is just doltifyingly dull.
I agree with that. Now, going back to Lovely Bones, I have to talk about what it was like working with Susan Sarandon who I’ve never gotten to meet…
Ah… I hope you do. She’s a blast.
She’s very funny in the film. What was it like working with her as your mother?
[Laughing] Well, she’s the most glamorous mom I’ve ever seen. She felt more like a big sister really, she didn’t really feel like a mom, she’s way too hot and sexy and glamorous to be anyone’s mother, I think. She’s a firecracker. She’s a blast. She’s a great, great lady. She’s very funny and she is completely irreverent. She’s a great lady. We had a lot of fun together.
Well the choices you’ve made remind me a bit of her own career as you don’t necessarily take the safe choice.
Oh, well I thank you, I’m a big fan of that so I take that as a compliment.
What about working with Saoirse Ronan and seeing her grow in the role of Susie Salmon?
She’s just a great young actress, you know, she’s incredibly talented. She’s the real deal. And it’s funny because I think she was twelve when we made the movie and now she is fifteen and she’s not a child. She was a child when she made it and now she’s a young woman. It’s just terrifying to see her [Laughing]. She’s here at the press junket, in her little dress with her eyeliner on, and she’s just a young woman now. It’s amazing how she’s changed. But she is a very beautiful performer.
Let me know what you think. Send questions and/or comments to JimmyO@JoBlo.com.