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Olivia Williams Diary from London Evening Standard

Olivia Willaims Diary

Olivia Williams

28 October 2011

I try very hard not to be annoyed by those hilarious social comedians who refer to unemployed actors as ‘resting’. ‘Aha, very good!’ I say, and move my shoulders up and down to simulate laughter. I think that throws them off the scent of my violent temper. To be precise, I am technically ‘between jobs’.

I have what passes in my business for an iron-clad contract (a text from director Joe Wright saying, ‘Wanna be in my movie?’) to work on a new film of Anna Karenina. For a second I started to prepare mentally for my tragic swallow dive on to the train tracks of the mainline between St Petersburg and Moscow, then I read to the end of the text and came to terms with the fact that I am to play Count Vronsky’s mother. I had a word with Tom Stoppard, who is adapting the screenplay from the novel, indicating that it is clear from the subtext that the Countess Vronskaya actually pushes Karenina under the train to rid her son of the social albatross that Anna has become, but he didn’t seem to go for that…

Far from resting, I have been taking the opportunity to do some research and to rehearse my pivotal three scenes at Sands Films, one of those hidden resources to which London and my job give me access. Housed in a pre-Victorian granary, it began as a costume house and has become a costume and film archive, a film club, an inspiring and atmospheric rehearsal/party space and something you can buy shares in to stop it being turned into executive housing above another branch of Pret.

Having lived in London all my life, I surprised even myself with the range of things a resting actor can do to stave off the temptations of relaxing on a chaise longue and sipping ambrosia. I went to see the harrowing Truth and Reconciliation at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, and a seminal Much Ado at the Globe (in the rain). I heard the Elias String Quartet play Janacek’s Tolstoy-inspired ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ at The Reform Club (in the magnificent, sepulchral library) and Ruby Wax at the Duchess (from the gods). Whether I was in or out, up or down, each performance nourished a different part of my brain. It’s not just what or whom you see, but where, and how they came to be there. And whether you brought a mackintosh.

The other thing I’ve found time to do is solve London’s traffic problems. I came back from the US last year to find my tempor- arily successful 300-signature petition to improve the crossings on Marylebone Road had been over-ruled. Twice this summer I had to explain to my children why the road had been cordoned off where crowds were gathered around a corpse. When I started the petition I was told – off the record – that only a death would force a change in policy, but three deaths later we are still entrusting our survival to the way-ward green man who tempts you into the middle of the road, then buggers off and leaves you there snatching a fallen child, a wheelchair and your life from the undercarriage of a lorry. I strongly favour the countdown system on Oxford Circus, so that whether you are on a scooter or a Zimmer you can at least make an informed assessment of whether you’re going to make it across the road before a juggernaut runs over your legs – the fate of the latest Marylebone Road victim.

Now, if rioters and looters are thrown out of council housing, surely fairness dictates that expenses fraudsters, tax evaders and those responsible for the sorry state of our economy should be denied access to council facilities, too; such as roads, rubbish collection – and the common sewer. Take all the fraudsters off council property and the Marylebone Road would soon be down to one lane of milk floats.

The end-of-shoot party for the film Hyde Park on Hudson that I’ve just finished was at the Ecology Pavilion in Mile End Park, a haven of inner-city wetland bio-diversity most days, but last Sunday afternoon transformed into a fabulous disco-quiz-night-kids’-crèche-buffet-piss-up for the cast and crew. My children went twitching with Sam West while I made some elementary mistakes on the dancefloor.

Swiftly back home to put the children to bed then out to the launch party of The Gentlewoman, a new biannual magazine, which has been kind enough to put my picture on the front cover. This has been my only recent skirmish with the London scene, as when I am resting I find it difficult to summon up enthusiasm for staggering around trying to balance the contrary demands of neat vodka and high heels, with the result that I ended up sitting barefoot on the pavement of Duke Street waiting for a taxi to take me home. A couple of passers-by clutching the magazine featuring me looking serene and ageless offered me assistance, then backed away. ‘Just having a little… rest,’ I assured them. To the relief of all, I stop resting next week.

Broken Lines is on limited release in cinemas now and out on DVD on 5 December

Original article at This Is London

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