British actress Rachel Weisz continues to take on different and challenging roles.
Her latest film is a comedy of sorts, “The Brothers Bloom” revolving around two swindling millionaires who have decided to take on one last job – showing a beautiful and eccentric heiress the time of her life with a romantic adventure.
This fun-filled film was the hit at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, where Paul Fischer caught up with the luminous actress.
Question: So why this particular little film? It’s a really beautiful little – quote ” little” movie.
Weisz: Yeah. I wanted to do a comedy and I think Penelope’s a pretty darn good character to get your teeth into, you know? She’s not like every girl in a romantic comedy, or a comedy. She’s eccentric and kooky and off-the-wall. I found it charming and delightful; it spoke to me. I think because it’s about people who are – I probably identify with it, because it’s about people who are storytellers. The Brothers Bloom are storytellers. Stephen, the older brother, makes up stories for them to live and Penelope’s had to make up – she’s, in a way, had to – she’s had a pretty tragic childhood. But she’s told herself a story, which is – actually, it wasn’t tragic. It wasn’t a story about a girl stuck in a house, not going out. It was actually about a girl who was going to learn all the things she could possibly learn in the world. It’s about people who tell themselves stories. It’s about fantasists. And I’d seen Brick, and I thought Rian was very good at creating a very unique little fantastical bubble. Fairy tale. It has a kind of fairy tale-ish quality.
Question: Does it remind you of why you became an actress in the first place, playing somebody immersed in this kind of fantasy world?
Weisz: Well, you know, I think that’s just who I am, really. Penelope’s who I am, really. But no, not really. No. It was just really kind of fun and delightful to try something really different. You know, it’s not a role that people would think of me for. They weren’t running after me to play it. I ran after them. You know, so it was – yeah.
Question: You are a very funny person. You have a sense of humor. I’ve seen it.
Question: I’ve witnessed it.
Weisz: Yeah. I don’t know – maybe I haven’t felt comfortable enough ’til now to get it out. You know? In public.
Weisz: I don’t know. I’m not sure.
Question: Are you that shy?
Weisz: I’m shy in a way, yeah. Definitely, in a way. But Penelope – you know. I’m not shy when I’m acting. But, more shy in real life.
Question: Has motherhood changed your priorities in terms of your work ethic?
Weisz: Definitely, I used to just work back to back. Now I don’t do that. I take – you know, I do two projects a year, and take a big break between both of them. And – yeah. I mean, it’s different. It’s different. I mean, I have to consider where I’m traveling to. If Darren’s gonna be working at the same time. You know, we’re keeping – I mean, I just did a film in Malta. I was in Malta for four months. And Darren edited there. So, he just finished – I was at home, while he shot. We were both at home in New York. He was shooting. We finished shooting, I started the film. Two weeks later, he came out with his editor and he edited there. So, we managed to keep the family together.
Question: What was the film you shot in Malta?
Weisz: It’s called Agora. It’s written and directed by a Spanish director called Alejandro Amenabar.
Question: And you play?
Weisz: I play Hypatia. It’s set in 300 AD, in Alexandria. It’s a historical epic. And she was a mathematician and philosopher. It’s a true story.
Question: What do you wear?
Weisz: I guess you would call it – I mean, there are togas involved, and sandals.
Question: Have you done that kind of thing before?
Weisz: No. No, I haven’t.
Question: I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in – I mean, you’ve done period films. But not that far away.
Weisz: No, deep period. Yeah. It’s 300AD, yeah.
Question: When you look at yourself in the mirror with all that get-up on, do you say to yourself, ” Gee, this is a really weird profession that I’ve chosen to be a part of?”
Weisz: I think it’s a fantastic profession. You know, to get to time travel, and get into the skin of people who existed, and fantasy characters, and – get to explore things like that, and tell stories, I think – and get paid – is amazing.
Question: How tough was the Fountain on you, especially given the director, and all that? Or do you have a very philosophical outlook on these types of things?
Weisz: You know, I think perhaps he hadn’t realized how uncommercial it is. And, you know, when is death gonna be commercial? Death is just a very uncommercial subject.
Question: Funny, that.
Weisz: Funny, that, isn’t it. But, you know, it’s interesting, because as time goes on, I meet more and more people like yourself and others, who are very – you know, very passionately love it. And there are people out there that love it. You know, I think it was distributed by a studio as if it was in the mainstream – and it’s not a mainstream movie. And – you know, we’ll see what happens. I think time will tell. But in terms of – I think Darren was very – he’d met enough people that loved it, and he knew that it wasn’t just speaking to him. He met the general public, who came up to him and said, ” This movie changed my life. This movie spoke to me. This movie helped me come to terms with my own death.” I mean, all sorts of things. So, his heart was full and proud. And he’s immensely proud of it, I think. As am I.
Question: Would you want to work with him again?
Weisz: Yes. Yes. I would love to. I would love to, yeah.
Question: Is he finding something for the two of you?
Weisz: No. No, he’s not.
Question: Is he nervous about the prospect of directing you again?
Weisz: No. No, I think he’d like to. There’s just nothing – he just says, ” Well, find – you’ve got to find the right scripts.” It’s quite hard to find a script that I would like and he would like, and that is good, and blah blah blah. You know, it takes a long time to develop movies.
Question: The very first time I met you was with this festival.
Weisz: This one?
Question: At this festival. It would have been – probably one of your first films.
Weisz: Was it Amy Foster? Swept from the Sea?
Question: Swept from the Sea.
Weisz: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Question: A long time ago. Nobody knew who you were. You were very sort of up and coming, and all that.
Question: So how surprised are you by your own success, and also by your own evolution as an actress?
Weisz: The way I feel about acting is that I feel like I’ve really just started. I mean, even though that is ten years ago, probably, you’re talking about – I just feel like I’m just getting going. Which is really exciting. I just feel, there are so many different roles that I want to play, and different roles I know no one’s seen me do, and I don’t even know that I can do yet. So – in evolutionary terms, I feel like I’m still bacteria or something, you know? I haven’t got to homo sapiens yet. I’m like, on the journey, you know? I want to still be doing this when I’m an old lady, so.
Question: Why did you want to be an actress? What was the single thing that prompted you do to this?
Weisz: There wasn’t a single thing. It’s kind of – it’s a very kind of visceral – I’d say it’s a non-intellectual thing, why a lot of real actors want to act. It’s kind of – they have – I don’t know. Just a need to explore different personas, and explore storytelling. And – I don’t know. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Question: Was there always an actress in you?
Weisz: Yes. I think sometimes she was very hidden away. But yeah, probably. Yeah.
Question: When did she come out? When did you realize she could come out?
Weisz: You know, I think part of what makes actors actors is that there’s a part of them that’s very watchful, in real life. You know, you’re in your life, but you’re really – you’re in it, but you’re also watching it. You’re observing it. You’re really watching people. And I think all actors have a real fascination with humanity. With people. And, when did it come out? I don’t know. I mean, in high school, I wasn’t very good.
Question: At what?
Weisz: Acting. Yeah, I wasn’t the star of the school play or anything like that. Rebecca Crankshaw was the star of the school plays. I used to get little parts.
Question: And we’ve seen a lot of Rebecca Crankshaw since then, haven’t we?
Weisz: [LAUGHTER] Yeah. I was a bit shy of it. I was shy. You have to get used to people looking at you, if you’re on the stage. And if you’re on a film set, you have to get used to that level of attention, and – you have to get used to being looked at.
Question: Have you gotten used to that?
Weisz: Totally, now. Yeah. Totally. And I now – I’m completely relaxed in front of a camera now. It took me a long time, though. It was challenging, just to be able to focus, and just imagine the camera wasn’t there. But, yeah. No, I’m very relaxed now. I was much more relaxed on stage, actually, in the beginning. When I got onto the stage, I found that a very relaxing place to be. But film sets, I found difficult. They’re difficult places.
Question: Do you yearn to return to the theatre?
Weisz: Yes, I do. And I will. I shall. But I don’t know in what.
Question: Is there a particular character that you would love to play? A classical character, from –
Weisz: Well, I mean, there are so many. I mean, all of Ibsen’s girls I’m kind of into.
Question: Have you asked your agent to look around for you?
Weisz: Yes. Yes. No, and I have been offered plays. It’s just, they haven’t worked out for scheduling reasons. Because there was one I was offered in London, and I would have had to be in London for five months, and it didn’t work for our life. But I’ll find something. Definitely. Do you like theatre?
with me, too.
Question: You love going to the movies?
Weisz: I love it. I love it. I find it very transporting. Sometimes it’s not –
Question: Is there a favorite film?
Weisz: I love – the first one that comes to mind, I love Being There.
Question: That’s interesting! That’s a great film. One of the few regrets I’ve had in my life – I’ve interviewed a lot of people in my time. But the biggest regret I have was never meeting him. Never got a chance to interview him.
Weisz: What a great actor.
Question: I mean, I interviewed Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and people of that caliber. But never – he – I never met Sellers. Which would have been interesting. I mean, I know he was probably a neurotic mess. But he would have been an interesting guy to talk to.
Weisz: Definitely interesting, yeah.
Question: But yeah, I loved that movie.
Weisz: I felt like Penelope in The Brothers Bloom was a distant cousin of Chauncey Gardiner’s – you know.
Question: A little bit.
Weisz: A tiny, tiny bit. Just in that she hadn’t been out much. You know.
Question: Sheltered, and –
Weisz: Yeah. Just that.
Question: Just like you, really.
Weisz: [LAUGHTER] Just like me.