Together caught up with an actress who likes to ‘stalk’ directors.
As an actor, Rachel Weisz operates a slightly different approach to the tried and tested method of waiting by the phone for a job. A more dogged approach.
“At this stage,” she says, “I pursue filmmakers who I admire, who I want to work with. That’s how I operate. I devise a way to make it happen. Doesn’t necessarily work out all the time though.”
An Oscar-winner for her stunning performance in The Constant Gardener nine years ago, Weisz enjoys a status that allows such foolhardy antics.
It’s exactly why the Londoner, best known for The Mummy franchise, Bourne Legacy and The Lovely Bones, found herself the romantic foil in Yorgos Lanthimos’ excruciatingly beautiful and bonkers The Lobster.
As the Short Sighted Woman, Weisz provides a humane solace for Colin Farrell’s David, recently separated from his wife who escapes from a hotel where singles are coerced into finding a partner or risk being transformed into an animal.
Ludicrously inspiring, it’s the level and diversity of work the 45 year-old actress has always desired, some 20 years after her breakthrough in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty.
And with upcoming roles in Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth and a lavish retelling of M.L Stedman’s novel, The Light Between Oceans, clearly Weisz has no plans to return to the Hollywood machine.
Which makes sense seeing as her personal life is so intrinsically played out in front of the paparazzi lens as Mrs 007. Though the level of discretion exercised by Rachel and husband of four years, Daniel Craig, means fans and well-wishers know very little about the superstar’s existence behind closed doors.
Typically beaming in a black and white nautical striped sweater, dark jeans and minimal make-up, the mother of nine-year-old Henry Chance (with director Darren Aronofsky) is polite yet always guarded as she gives her interpretation and opinion of the new film and what drove her to participate.
She also explains her stringent privacy when it comes to Craig and how it dictates their lives, her career goals for her son and the pressures of finding love.
Together: So Rachel, what attracted you to this ‘unusual’ film?
Rachel Weisz: It was Yorgos, first and foremost. I love his film Dogtooth. It was such an enthralling masterpiece and a psychological challenge so I basically sought him out until he gave me a job. I stalked and hounded [laughs]. I approached him with a script, and we got talking and it sort of opened up the channels of communication.
It never got made. But we got talking more, and he told me he was working on a script which didn’t have a name. He emailed it to me and I thought it was just remarkable. Extraordinary but when I spoke to him about it, I thought it’s wonderful but I don’t know how to play this character. And he didn’t seem to mind [laughs] he didn’t encourage me to do it. I simply bowed out.
So how did it all work out then?
I knew I wanted to do it, I wanted to work with him. I always knew that. I had to. What I wanted more than anything was to be putty in his hands. There was no traditional sensibility on the pages, no psychology and I found that intimidating and liberating. There was a freedom there for total interpretation, personal interpretation. That’s what this whole story is about. And to be a part of his first English language film with this international [cast], I mean, look, you have, Lea Seydoux, Michael Smiley, Ariane Labed, Colin, the list goes on and on. It’s testament to Yorgos and the allure he exudes.
I mentioned to Colin that I see this as a romantic comedy of sorts, and he didn’t quite agree. What do you think?
Yeah, I see it as a romantic comedy. I do. Yeah. He didn’t? I can understand but again, all part of Yorgos’ psychology of the story and the ultimate sense of open interpretation. Certainly not in the traditional sense, not in what one would expect of a romantic comedy. It’s dark and deep and unusual but ultimately, about… there’s the man and woman trying to find love against all odds. In a very dark way.
For me, the overriding theme was loneliness and wanting to find love.
Oh yes, that’s right. I think, it’s something most of us, if not all of us, crave. But it’s so difficult and it’s never easy, is it? There’s so many obstacles, so many mistakes to be made. So many learning experiences.
The pursuit of love and happiness and togetherness can be challenging. Trying. So when you do find it, you know it’s so precious. I don’t know, it’s a tricky topic to discuss – it’s different for everyone and I’ve been faced with so many questions like this recently. Love, finding love, it’s tough and exhilarating and heartbreaking.
Is there a pressure in society to couple up?
[laughs] I really don’t know. Like the film, that is all up to your own interpretation of society itself and its ideals when it comes to relationships.
You and Daniel have both been incredibly guarded about your relationship since you married, will you ever get to a feeling of not caring about who knows about your relationship?
Nope, still the same level of privacy and secrecy [laughs].
But you’ve worked together [Betrayal on Broadway] and appear relaxed on red carpets.
When there’s something to celebrate like an award or work, I’ll accompany him to a red carpet, he’ll accompany me. If it’s for work, something one of us has been working on, we’ll be there together. It’s as simple as that. But no, our private life is private.
As Mrs James Bond, is it difficult to have a life, especially with Spectre out soon?
It’s an incredibly easy thing to have – you just stay private. There’s not anything in particular [one does]. I love New York, and there are two or three restaurants that if we went to these restaurants, we would get caught by paparazzi outside. There are about 300 million other restaurants to eat in so we just choose not to go there.
So I kind of feel like, on the whole, maybe there are people who get constantly hounded and it’s not their fault but on the whole it’s about going to meet paparazzi. I go and meet them on a red carpet. I go meet them outside the Mercer Hotel in New York and that’s where they will be. There’s a contract, if you want to get snapped, go there.
There’s places I avoid where paparazzi are although sometimes they find you, but that’s life. Saying that, that kind of intrusion is pretty easy to avoid..
You once said you’d recommend acting to someone who couldn’t think of anything else they wanted to do with their lives? When it comes to your son, would you discourage him if he wanted to follow in your footsteps?
It’s his life to do whatever he wants with it, but I would definitely say the same thing to him that I would say to strangers, which is that if you can think of anything else to make you happy, do that for sure. I would tell him how hard it is to be successful at it, yes. For sure, but it’s his life.
Was there a point in your career when the rejection was getting to you and you were ready to throw in the towel?
Many times, yeah many times. In my twenties for sure, yeah. I can’t remember exact dates and years but there were definitely times when I thought about giving it up after one too many knock backs. I never followed through, I never found a proper job [laughs].
Your big break came with Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty. Was the early success exciting?
It was the first film I was ever in so it was a really big deal. It was really wonderful to be cast in a film made by Bernardo Bertolucci, one of great auteurs of 20th century cinema. It was a pretty unbelievable thing to happen. I remember auditioning for him with Liv Tyler, and it was kinda tremendous to get a job, let alone a job with Bertolucci. So yeah, pretty awesome time.
You mentioned before that you have no formal training in acting and that your career has been a constant learning process. Were there other movies where you learned more than others?
Every movie you learn something. Something I really enjoyed was doing a Michael Winterbottom film called I Want You. I felt like I learned a lot.
Any plans to do more directing or producing down the line? You did that short a few years ago [The Thief]?
I’d like to write something and act in it. I don’t really think of myself in any other genre, other than drama. I have to think of it like that because I don’t know how to act a genre, do you know what I mean? It will be an indie drama, I treat everything like it’s an indie drama, like this movie.
You won the Oscar in 2006. Do you feel like a peak has been conquered, and now you don’t have to concern yourself with awards anymore?
It’s an incredible thing to happen and it came incredibly unexpectedly. It was an amazing thing to happen but it didn’t make me feel that I can rest on my laurels, that I’ve arrived somewhere. You know, I hope to be, God willing, touch-wood, acting when I’m an old lady. For me, it’s a constant learning process. I never think I’m going to get somewhere where I think I’ve figured it out.
It’s a constant, elusive thing to keep plugging away. Though it’s lovely to get the recognition.