Five minutes with: Rachel Weisz

By Michele Manelis

Five minutes with: Rachel Weisz
Rachel Weisz talks "Youth", getting on with life and the importance of living with desire.

Rachel Weisz, 45, stars in the award-nominated drama, Youth, alongside icons Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel, in which Weisz plays the daughter and assistant of a retired composer (Caine).  Her life unravels when her husband leaves her for a famous celebrity.  Set in the Swiss Alps, the scenery is nothing short of breathtaking and there’s a must-see performance by Jane Fonda, who makes a cameo in the movie as an aging film star.

In Weisz’ personal life, she has been married to Daniel Craig (better known as James Bond) since 2011.  She has a son, Henry, born in 2006, from a relationship with her former fiancé, filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, with whom she maintains co-parenting responsibilities in New York City.

Weisz is also muse to fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez and was named L’Oreal’s global ambassador in 2010.

This role is quite different from what we normally see you do.  And it’s shot in Switzerland – what does it take for you to sign onto a project so far from home?

It’s kind of like, ‘Your husband is so handsome, why would you ever leave home?’ (laughs)  I thought it was a very beautiful meditation on all the really big existential questions about being alive on planet earth and being a young person, an old person and a middle aged person.  Michael Caine’s character discovers his youth at the age of 82; he finds a future and he finds optimism and I find that intensely moving. My character is too young, I don’t mean how she looks, but on the inside she is like a little girl. She is still sleeping in the bed with her daddy and she hasn’t flown from the nest.  She’s got to grow up; she has got to become a grown up and her youth is over. I thought it was a very beautiful moving story.

The scenery was amazing.  Did you climb some mountains?

Well, I appreciate mountains. I love mountains, and my character falls in love with a mountaineer but I have never mountain climbed, but I would like to try.

And she wasn’t just an ordinary assistant but assistant to her own father.  What did you think of that?

Well, it’s a really crazy idea to be your father’s assistant.  And let’s say you have a very famous father, that in itself would be a problem. I think for any child to have a very famous parent is complicated.  And then to become their assistant feels kind of wrong on so many levels so me. And so I think it’s probably the worst job that my character could have is to be an assistant to her very, very famous father.

What attributes make a good assistant?

Attentiveness, optimism, attention to detail, you’ve got to be quite ego-less I think to attend to somebody else’s needs. I think good assisting is a skill. And I do have a good one who is like that, Suzie.

In the movie your character is cheated on by her husband and he runs off with another woman. How would you react?

If I was dumped for another woman? I might be a little bit more Romanian than British. (laughter) Yeah.

In this movie we see a couple of guys romanticising about their youth.  Does aging scare you?  

Do I fear it? I don’t know, I am pretty excited about the future. I mean, I am not longing to be 80, (laughs) but what hasn’t happened yet is most exciting.

But dying is something most of us fear?

Well, I hate to break it you, but we are all going to die and that’s just what it means to be human.  We are all going to, even if you are eight years old, you are going to age and die, so of course yeah, something as a human being, you can’t help but think about. I think the film is really about how do you live fully? You could be twenty and not really be alive or you could be eighty and suddenly find life again for the first time.  It’s not really about the clock of time, it’s about the spirit of youth. Youth is gone in an instant, when is it officially over, 18, 20 and it’s gone before you even know what it was. So youth in itself is not very interesting and what is interesting is – can you not become cynical and can you keep optimistic?  Can you keep curious and hungry?
My job is really good for that because I get to become different people so I get that rebirth over and over again. So I have a good job for keeping a youthful spirit. But yep, we are all going to die. (laughs)

Cast members Jane Fonda and Harvey Keitel, director Paolo Sorrentino, cast members Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Alex Macqueen Madalina Diana Ghenea pose on the red carpet as they arrive for the screening of the film "Youth"
Cast members Jane Fonda and Harvey Keitel, director Paolo Sorrentino, cast members Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Alex Macqueen Madalina Diana Ghenea pose on the red carpet as they arrive for the screening of the film “Youth”

You mentioned that it’s complicated to be the child of a famous person – how does your son deal with it?

He has never seen a film of mine. Not because I forbade it, but he’s not interested. So it’s great, I have no problems with it.

What about him seeing you treated as a famous person?

He’s really just not very interested in it, but he must be aware of it. It’s just not something that… I am just his mum to him. If he sees me in makeup and a dress, he just thinks I look awful. He doesn’t like makeup. He’s got good taste.

Does your husband leave James Bond at the front door or does 007 exist in your house?

Well, he is a fictional character which a bunch of actors have played, Sean Connery, Roger Moore and there is a whole list of them right? And currently the very brilliant actor Daniel Craig is playing him.  Of course he can be mentioned.  He’s a very good fictional character.

When you were growing up, was there a movie that really stayed with you?

Yep. National Velvet with Elizabeth Taylor. Because she was a very young girl, I don’t know how old she was in the movie, maybe 13, 12, and you see that burning fire and passion in her. I think that is what we are missing a lot on screen, is women with great appetite and passion and desire.  It’s not always just for a man and that is interesting too, but in this case it was for horses and to win a race. And to enter into a world where only men are allowed and had to disguise herself as a boy, I think it’s one of the great movies and I love it.

Do you feel your age? When you were younger, did you consider yourself older?

I probably felt older when I was younger in a way. I am probably beginning to feel younger, but it’s good to stay young in terms of optimism and curiosity but it’s also good to be an adult. I think being an adult is underrated and it’s not good to be childish all the time. But being an actor, you have to be a bit childish, it’s like being a child being an actor, because you have to play all the time.

In what way did you feel older when you were younger? Was there more responsibility on your shoulders? 

Yeah. I don’t exactly why, but I just felt old. (Laughs) When I was ten I felt very old. (laughs) But now I don’t, l feel very young.

When did you know that you were an adult?

2PM, 2002, November the 4th. (laughs) I don’t know. I don’t know when I became an adult, I have no idea.
How was it when you left your parents home? How did it feel?

Yeah, it’s not there anymore, it was on the top of the New Experience Sauna, in Camden Town, a studio flat and it was great, I loved it, when you earn enough money to rent your own place it feels great. It was a studio apartment and very, very small. I think the sauna is gone now. (laughs)

What keeps you youthful? When was the last time you felt youthful?

Just learning anything new which happens all the time keeps you feeling,that there is so much more to learn and so much more to do and that the future feels immense so you feel like you are still at the beginning of the road, I guess.

Your son is now school age, how do you work out your schedule along with your husband’s?

Daniel hadn’t started filming Spectre when I did Youth and another film called Lobster, so he came to Ireland and Switzerland, which became our summer holiday and my son came to Switzerland to visit. We figure it out, airplanes, homework, skype.

Youth is released in cinemas on December 26.



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