Emmanuel Itier: How has having a child altered your work life?
Rachel Weisz: Before, I worked probably just back-to-back, and it was just too much work and I was just doing too much anyway. I think it’s made me more selective and I take time off in between. Right now, he’s very little and very sociable and happy to go with me everywhere. I think when proper school begins, it will be another matter, which I don’t really know what will happen. But right now, I think motherhood has made me do more things, just less work that’s more special.
EI: Did motherhood really change your life, in terms of how you look at the world?
RW: Yes, it changes your entire outlook on life. I mean, it couldn’t not have changed your whole life. Motherhood is one of the most fulfilling, gratifying, exciting, moving, beautiful experiences a woman can have.
EI: It’s even better than winning an Oscar?
RW: Actually, my son won an Oscar too, because he was in utero. He was there with me the whole time. [Laughs]
EI: How many months pregnant were you when you won the Academy Award?
EI: This summer, how did you feel when they did a third installment of The Mummy without you?
RW: I was brokenhearted. I felt like Brendan (Fraser)’s character had left me for another dame. Can you believe it? [Laughs]
EI: Why didn’t you do The Mummy: The Curse Of The Dragon King after all? Was it because of the baby?
RW: I never even read the script because I was filming Brothers Bloom in Eastern Europe, and I’d been away for three-and-a-half-months. I would have to film The Mummy straight afterward, and they said it was five months in China and that was just not possible. I would love to go to China, and I would have liked to have done the job, but it would have been with a ten-month-old baby, and it just wasn’t feasible.
EI: You had the baby by the time you did The Brothers Bloom?
EI: Is it tough taking a baby to the set?
RW: No, not at all.
EI: Don’t they make most sets fairly child-friendly these days?
RW: Yeah, totally. Movie sets are like circuses — you know, dogs, babies, parents, everyone…
EI: Where do you live now?
RW: We spend out time living in New York and London.
EI: Are you able to have a certain level of anonymity in New York, or do you get recognized a lot?
RW: I get recognized, but New Yorkers are better, really. They’re just the heroes in their own lives. They don’t really care. I think New Yorkers are either too busy or too cool to bother with celebrities. I’m not sure why, but I don’t get hassled.
EI: What happens when you do get recognized? Do most people come up to you at dinner to say they like your work?
RW: Sometimes. They rarely even do that. They’re just doing their own thing. I don’t know; it’s strange for me.
EI: Do you have a beauty tip? Is there one thing you do to stay looking so beautiful?
RW: Yeah, but shall I plug a product first? [Laughs] In real life, I’m really kind of low-maintenance. I don’t know if there are any real secrets or tips. Most importantly, I think you just have to get some sleep, eat right, and exercise.
EI: Do you have a particular workout schedule or regimen you stick to?
RW: I do Pilates.
EI: Pilates seems so popular. It must be a lot of fun.
RW: Actually, it’s not fun. [Laughs] It’s really painful. It hurts, so you know it must be very good for you.
EI: Where do you keep your Oscar?
RW: It’s in my bathroom.
EI: Everybody seems to keep their Oscar in their bathroom. That never seems like a dignified place to me.
RW: It’s not a loo. It’s not a W.C. or whatever you call it in America. It’s one of the biggest rooms in my house, and I like it very much. It’s also a room that no one goes to, apart from my family, so it’s kind of private.
EI: Does everyone want to see it when they come over?
RW: No, actually, they don’t. I don’t know why. Should they? [Laughs]
EI: What did winning the Oscar for The Constant Gardener mean to you?
RW: It’s a massive honor that you know you never really think is the kind of thing that will really happen to you. It’s a really huge honor.
EI: Did you win a BAFTA (British Academy Award) for the film too?
RW: No. Actually, they put me in a different category. They put me in Best Actress rather than Best Supporting because they choose the category for you in BAFTA. You can’t tell them which one to do. In America, the studios choose which category you’re going in.
EI: They suggest during the campaigning for voting.
RW: I guess so.
EI: So you lost the BAFTA?
RW: Yeah, to Reese Witherspoon. She won Best Actress, as she should have.
EI: What attracted you to a project like The Brothers Bloom?
RW: The writing and the character. I guess it was the character of Penelope, mainly. I loved the writing as a whole. I thought it was very unusual, heightened, beautiful dialogue, but Penelope was a character that I just couldn’t pass up. I called (writer/director) Rian (Johnson) and I told him I really wanted to play her.
EI: Had you seen Rian’s film Brick?
RW: I don’t remember if I’d already seen it. Yeah, I saw Brick.
EI: So you knew what his style was like?
RW: Yeah, although this is very different, and I asked him, “What do you want the acting to be like?” because it was obviously noir, where people behave in a very unrealistic way. I would say noir acting is sort of people being cool.
EI: Cool and maybe stylized?
RW: Yes, stylized. The writing of Brothers Bloom is very stylized, so my main question to him was, “Do you want the acting to be like it was in Brick?” I must have already seen Brick. And he said, “No, I want it to be completely naturalistic and real.” And I was like, “I’m on.”
EI: So can you actually juggle chainsaws?
RW: That’d be something I still haven’t mastered. [Laughs]
EI: Do you get a lot of comedy scripts, even though you’re not really known for comedy?
RW: Surprisingly, I still do.
EI: What’s the secret for a dramatic actor to switch to doing something where you’re getting laughs and being naturalistic?
RW: Realistic? Well, I find drama or comedy, for me, is to be naturalistic. In a funny way, there really isn’t any difference, because Penelope doesn’t think she’s being funny. I was just being completely, seriously Penelope. [Laughs] It’s just the situation she’s in and what she happens to be saying, and who she is is little off the ball, I suppose. Comedy is just about commitment. There we go. That’s my master class. I’m finished. [Laughs]
EI: Everyone in The Brothers Bloom seemed as if they are named after the characters in the story of Ulysses. Was that intended?
RW: I don’t know. I mean, Rian is really literary and very, very smart, and obviously you are too. I never asked him that question. Those are the kinds of things that I will probably muse about now. When you’re going to play a character, that stuff doesn’t help you, but it’s really interesting. I’ve never read Ulysses.
EI: Who has?
RW: Some people have. I’ve never read it.
EI: The Brothers Bloom is great storytelling.
RW: I think it’s totally about storytelling and about one’s life as a story. What is actually just real life then? Like, what isn’t story-making? The brothers are story-making. They’re making fiction out of their lives, in a way. They’re trying to write the best story possible and they’re trying to control the surprises. They’re in control of the denouement, but Penelope’s all about throwing a firework in and seeing what the fuck happens.
EI: Is your character, Penelope, simply naïve? Does she know the first or second time she is getting conned?
RW: I guess she just must be naïve.
EI: Does she possibly overlook the cons because maybe she’s just in love?
RW: She’s definitely in love and she thinks even if there’s a con, she doesn’t care. I don’t think money matters to her. She’s grown up with ten gazillion dollars. It’s meaningless to her. So I think the thought that there might even be a one percent — point-five percent chance that the ransom note is true, she better send the money. She doesn’t care. My other thought is about her in general. Even when she knows they’re con-men, I think maybe she might know that they’re con-men, but I think the fact is she doesn’t really care because this is more fun than she’s ever had in her life. What a great thing, to be caught up in this story — so much better than juggling a home.
EI: So you think she was a willing participant?
RW: Yeah, I think so. I agree.
EI: Did you have to go to New Zealand to film your next movie, Lovely Bones?
EI: Director Peter Jackson hates to film anywhere else, it seems.
RW: Well, we actually filmed a lot in Philadelphia as well, because it’s set in the suburbs of Philadelphia and that’s kind of hard to recreate in New Zealand. But we did…I think it was like half-and-half.
EI: How long ago did you finish filming?
RW: I finished in February.
EI: How strange was it to have a new leading man after the first week of making the movie?
RW: You know, it was definitely unusual, but Mark Wahlberg is a wonderful actor. He made a very good husband and father to my children. He was very, very good.
EI: What was it like working with Rian Johnson on The Brothers Bloom? How did his style differ from other directors?
RW: It differed totally from anyone. Rian is completely unique. He’s extremely intelligent and is equally as laid-back as he is intelligent, and for him, the whole process is about having a wonderful time.
EI: Did you find Rian very hands-off, in terms of your acting style?
RW: He gives you a lot of freedom, but he also gives you direction, so it’s kind of the best of both worlds. He gives you a vast playing field on which to roam, and then if you go down a certain road, he’ll gently tack you back into a zone that he feels might be more productive. It’s a really beautiful dialogue. He’s really wonderful to work with. He said right at the beginning, “One of the most important things is that we have a really lovely time making this movie.” So he’s not like some directors who get very tense about the results, understandably, but he just took each moment day by day and we had a lot of fun. He’s a very cool guy.
EI: What about Peter Jackson?
RW: Peter’s actually got a very good sense of humor too, and he’s actually pretty laid-back, I would say, as well. How is he different? He is very eccentric. [Laughs] He’s eccentric and he obviously has this extraordinary imagination, which is sort of a mystery. Sometimes it’s kind of a mystery — what he’s thinking? He’s got these extraordinary things going on in his head.
EI: The Lord of the Rings trilogy has a lot of special effects. Does Lovely Bones have a lot of effects?
RW: It’s more drama, but there will be some effects.
EI: Like angels?
RW: No angel. A lot of the thing is set in heaven, so we’ll have to wait and see what heaven looks like. My character was alive, so I never got to go, so we’ll see. I guess that’s what we’re waiting to see — “What does heaven look like?” Jackson’s going to show us.
EI: Do you have plans in the future to work with Rian again?
RW: I would love to.
EI: What else do you have coming up?
RW: I just did a film with a Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar, called Agora. It is set in 300 A.D. in Alexandria. It’s a historical epic.
EI: What are you dressed in?
RW: Toga and sandals.
EI: Do you play nobility?
RW: Definitely upper-class. I play an astronomer. It’s drama.
EI: Who acts with you in Agora?
RW: Max Minghella and an actor called Oscar Isaacs. There’s also an actor from the Middle East called Ashraf. You won’t have heard of most of the actors, actually. Have you seen Ashraf? He was in that movie with Jennifer Garner (The Kingdom). Okay, there we go. [Laughs] It’s a historical epic. We were in Malta for five months and they built Alexandria in Malta — 300 A.D. Alexandria. It’s a pretty amazing project.
EI: Is it hard for you to do an American accent?
RW: Not anymore. It was definitely challenging at the beginning, but now I have a kind of American version of me.
EI: Can you give an example?
RW: No, I mean, I often do when I’m in New York. I’m American for a few hours.
EI: What’s the American version of you? Is it really different than your British personality?
RW: Just vocally.
EI: As opposed to your personality?
RW: Yeah. [Laughs] Your voice resonates in a different place, and American resonates — you already know all this.
EI: Have you thought about going back on the stage?
EI: On Broadway in New York, or London’s West End?
RW: Both. I mean, I’ll have to decide when it’s time. It’s been seven years.
EI: Anything else coming up?
RW: I’m going to do a film called Luna, which is the story of Julia Butterfly Hill who is an activist. Well, she wasn’t really an activist. At first, she was just a person who lived up a Redwood tree in Humble County for two years and eight days to save the Redwood and to raise awareness of the plight of the Redwoods in general.
EI: Did you get to meet her?
RW: I’m meeting her in November. I’ve spoken to her on the phone at length.
EI: When you can meet the characters that you’re playing, do you find that good for your performance, or do you like making up the characters like you did in The Brothers Bloom?
RW: Well, with this film, there would have been no one to meet. [Laughs]
EI: Your costar, Mark Ruffalo, said he met with a conman.
RW: Oh, that was cool.
EI: Do you find meeting real people helpful?
RW: Well, definitely in the case of Luna, because it really is about Julia’s life in a Redwood.
EI: In The Brothers Bloom, is Penelope kind of a fairytale figure? Is she the poor little rich girl who’s been raised isolated and, instead of being damaged, she’s proficient in so many things? Were you worried about making her real because it is a concept?
RW: Sure, that was definitely the challenge. You just summed it up. To make someone of flesh and blood out of someone who is that type of person… I’ve met that type of person. She’s an unusual cocktail. [Laughs]
Summit Entertainment's 'The Brothers Bloom' is released on May 15, 2009.