The Oscar-winning actress (for her role in Room, in 2015) plays a war photographer opposite Tom Hiddleston and Samuel Jackson.
It’s after midnight and she’s just shot a scene with her British co-star, as well as King Kong, who will be magically inserted into the shot in post-production. She pulls up a chair for a quick chat and an iced tea before she will continue filming into the early hours of the morning.
What can you tell me about this character you’re playing?
I play Mason Weaver, a war photographer. She has a bit of a reputation for taking photos that seem more anti-war than for the war. She gets in and wants to see the real moments so she’s very fearless and totally willing to put her own life on the line and be at risk in order to expose the truth.
So did have to fight for the role?
I mean I auditioned for it. I am not really a fighter as a human being.
How can you survive in Hollywood without being a fighter?
You just love things. And when you love them, usually they come back if they are meant to be yours. I think a very important thing about the creative process is understanding that you can’t force a creative relationship to happen.
How did life change since winning the Oscar?
Almost all of my life is exactly the same. Friends are the same, family is the same, my dogs are the same, (laughs) I still question if I am a good actor, I still wake up and wonder if I am doing enough to make the world a better place and that stuff didn’t change at all. My career is a little bit different, I was able to direct a film which I have always wanted to do and I know that that’s a huge part of the work I did in “Room” and the recognition I received. I have always been picky about which projects I choose, but now I just feel like I have even more of a right to be picky about it. So I feel kind of exactly the same to be honest. (laughs)
This film is set in the early 70s. What do you think about that time period?
Well when I think of the 70s, the 70s are kind of varied. Cause there is a 70s that is sort of like disco and glittery and sparkly, but then there’s the side we are showing in this movie, that feels like classic Americana to me. It’s more tactile, we don’t have i-Phones, everything is physical and so it allows us to be really freed of…..I still have a hard time watching i-Phones in movies and I find them to be really disturbing and sort of ugly. Unless you are doing a movie that is about the future, I still want to see people doing real things and using their hands and when you are doing a movie that is about the physicality of combating nature, it’s so nice to see it not through laser beams but to see it through actual, sheer force, taking a shot of a camera that needs to be wound, and the imagery of it is so pure in that way I think.
What sort of training did you do? It’s obviously a very physical role.
I mean a lot. I worked with a trainer and I was working out two hours a day. Basically, think of the hardest Pilates class you ever did and that would be one hour of the warm-up. And the second hour would be a lot of weights.
Was there any journalist, male or female from that time in the early 70s that inspired you for this role?
Interesting question. Jane Goodall was a pretty big inspiration and she was my main one, even in style. She is so beautiful, but I think she is very functional as well and there was a natural beauty to her and she was not trying to play feminine. She was probably the main one. And then also, it’s not so much about the 70s to me as it is about the women that turned things and changed things and saw things differently. So like Kathleen Hanna or Gloria Steinem, they were pivotal people for me and seeing women that have found their way to continue to be feminine but still assert a sense of force and a sense of strength. Or even Sigourney Weaver in Alien, seeing women who are holding their own, but aren’t trying to act on top of the man, but coming from their own feminine strength.
You have to travel a lot for your job. Are you a good traveller? What do you take with you when you’re away from home?
I really love it a lot. I really like being off balance and being in different places and I really enjoy being alone a lot. So I have always been a solo explorer. I mean I have been traveling for work since I have been a little kid and since I was eighteen. And then you have to do it on your own, there’s no parent with you. So I think I am just well trained at this point at being a stranger in a new place and getting to know different cultures. And I have been lucky that there are a lot of places in this world that I feel like I have lived in, because I was there for a month or two or longer.
I don’t really bring fancy clothes or anything nice when I travel. I don’t like to bring anything that I would consider a loss if I left it behind. So I just usually bring comfy clothes, shoes that I can walk in, a lot of pairs of headphones because I like to listen to music and walk around the city and I always lose my headphones. And sometimes, through this film in particular because I was flying back and forth every weekend to do award season press for “Room” I just carried a lot of vitamins, (laughs) and that was the one thing. I had my suitcase of clothes and my suitcase of every natural remedy for whatever sickness that could possibly hit me, because I had no room to get sick. (laughs)