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Olivia Williams Diary from London Evening Standard

12 November 2011 Leave a comment

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

Olivia Williams Tells The Guardian What She Sees in The Mirror

16 October 2011 Leave a comment

What I See in the mirror: Olivia Williams

‘I consider it an achievement to have survived the 90s without eyebrows that look like spermatozoa’


Olivia Williams

guardian.co.uk, Friday 7 October 2011


Olivia Williams: ‘It’s undeniable I have a huge face.’ Photograph: Getty Images

My face is alarmingly symmetrical. I can’t remember if that is supposed to mean I am a psychopath or I’m not a psychopath, but the iPhone face-symmetry app produced a photo that still looked just like me. I think gravity is tugging slightly harder on my right eyelid, though.

I avoid dwelling on what I don’t like about my face: that way surgery lies. I try to make disinterested observations, and it is undeniable I have a huge face. There’s a picture of Kevin Costner and me from The Postman and my face just filled up so much more of the screen – the sheer square-footage of it, nostrils like rugby balls.

I’ve spent my career dodging the self-loathing game. You have to be vigilant. Someone’s tried to wax my moustache. I wanted to say, “What moustache?” but then wondered if I just couldn’t see it. And Americans love to suggest dentistry, particularly to the Brits, who have, in their eyes, notoriously appalling teeth.

I consider it an achievement to have survived the 90s without eyebrows that look like spermatozoa. Apparently thick eyebrows are back in fashion, but as I got changed for a recent photoshoot, my pubes were referred to as “retro”. I decided to take it as a compliment.

I’m playing Eleanor Roosevelt at the moment, who was too busy writing the Declaration of Human Rights to worry about her several chins. It has been a timely lesson in priorities.

Olivia Williams can be seen in Broken Lines, in cinemas now on limited release.

Original Interview at The Guardian

Metro Interview Olivia Williams

31 August 2011 Leave a comment

Andrew Williams – 26 August, 2011

Olivia Williams: Kevin Costner taught me a lot about film-making

Hanna star Olivia Williams talks to Metro about her love for bears, reading Shakespeare with Joss Whedon and working with acting legend Kevin Costner.

Isn’t Hanna – a film about  a teenager going on a violent rampage – a bit inopportune in light of the recent rioting?

One feels she’s on the side of good rather than evil. She’s not nicking tellies and trainers. I don’t want to be trite about the social problems that make people take advantage of a smashed window to nick tellies. I’m a bit of  a pinko lefty. I was around ten when Margaret Thatcher said: ‘There’s no such thing as society.’ Well done, Mags, this is the natural conclusion of your brilliant policy. Now there isn’t a society, she’s too doolally to know what she’s done.

You and Jason Flemyng make an unusual couple in the film, don’t you?

I think we make a very nice couple. We were a couple before when we were fresh young things out of drama school in an episode of a rather bad TV show called Beck.

Was it nice to catch up?

Jason Flemyng is one of the nicest people in the world, so it was lovely. I think it’s a very well-observed relationship of the kind of people who get together at Glastonbury and get pregnant  by mistake.

This was a bit of a reunion for you, then?

Yes. I’ve been an actor for 22 years but it’s only recently I’ve shown up on set and known people I’ve worked with before. I get to be  a bit of an old luvvie. I can say: ‘Do you remember when Freddie walked on in act two with his hat on back to front? How we laughed…’

Who have you learned the most from working with?

Kevin Costner directed the first film I was in and taught me the whole practical side of film-making. More recently, Roman Polanski taught me what the actor’s function is in a film. It was interesting because it turns out to be quite a small contribution. The directors of Cheek By Jowl theatre company – Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod – taught me about pure acting. I was in The Changeling, which became a thorough exercise in how to unlock  a scene, how to see past what’s going on to the underlying drama.

You’re an expert on the spectacled bears of Bolivia – what’s your favourite bit of bear trivia?

I was present when it was proven that spectacled bears are not nocturnal. I was with my friend, Suzy, at the top of a mountain at night with  a radio receiver waiting for signals  of movement from a bear that was clearly asleep. Before then, people didn’t know if they were nocturnal  or not. This bear and his mate, who we’d also radio collared, didn’t move all night, which suggested they were asleep and hence not nocturnal.

How did you get involved with the bears?

My friend, Suzy, studied the bears for her PhD. She asked all her friends if they wanted to visit and I was the least likely to since I was swanning around Hollywood at the time. I’m quite bloody-minded, so  I thought: ‘I’ll show you,’ and I went. I made it 16,000ft up the mountain and stayed up there for three weeks. It was an amazing experience.

You were in cult writer/director Joss Whedon’s TV show Dollhouse. Were you perplexed by the twist at the end?

I didn’t understand what was going on most of the time. I had no idea but I loved his writing. Joss is a great one for studying you and uses bits of your personality in his characterisation  so, as the series goes on, you become more like yourself. I started the series as an overdressed super bitch and ended it as a north London hippie.

Was that a nice experience?

It was amazing. He used to get everyone together to read Shakespeare plays  in his garden on Sunday afternoons.  I have this theory Gertrude from Hamlet has a drinking problem so  I played her drunk, aided by Joss’s Californian chardonnay. The next week my character developed an alcohol problem on the show.

Hanna is out now on DVD.

Original Interview at Metro

Olivia Williams on Being Eleanor Roosevelt from The Telegraph

22 August 2011 Leave a comment

Olivia Williams on being Eleanor Roosevelt

After some slightly embarrassing begging, I have secured the part of this great woman of the 20th century. Perhaps some of her dignity will rub off on me…

By Olivia Williams

3:43PM BST 15 Aug 2011

When I last wrote to you I was embarking on a 12-week run of a play in the West End, extolling the virtues of theatre over film, the self-applied slap over the hour and a half in the make-up trailer, the warm applause of a living, breathing audience over the bored nose-picking of a weary film crew…

Well, I’d just like to make a little correction. I have just started filming again, and have found that what this Tigger likes best is to be picked up from her doorstep by a handsome man in a Merc, deposited half-asleep into a warm trailer where people apply make-up and a rather fetching blonde wig, and only having to remember a maximum of four lines at a time. I’m not saying that I won’t crave the Boris Bike ride down Shaftesbury Avenue again very soon, I’m just saying Hello Movies, It’s good to be back.

I decided to go temporarily blonde for Now Is Good as I am playing Dakota Fanning’s mother, and she is improbably, but naturally, very, very blonde. I have always been too chicken to reach for the peroxide bottle after an early skirmish with it in my teens that left me looking like a Muppet – not exactly the “highlights” I was trying to achieve but rather a dander of fluffy broken hair that waved in the wind like a cornfield. So for this movie I have a fabulous wig.

I mentioned late Debbie Harry to the hair designer, and we have gone a little more Meg Ryan, but it has put me in the perfect position to observe from a disinterested brunette point of view whether or not blondes have more fun, and it is my considered opinion that they do.

Not that my brunette life has been dreary. I arrived on set to overhear Paddy Considine trying to explain to Dakota who the Milk Tray Man was, and I was able to throw in the fact that I have dated the Milk Tray Man – not the original one from our childhood, but the Comeback Milk Tray Man from the mid-Nineties.

Dakota remained puzzled but Paddy was suitably impressed, so I explained the next step in the game, which would be to leave the Milk Tray Man and another former beau, the present Foreign Minister of Poland, in a room together, and see how long it took them to work out what they have in common…

I would like to think, as I write this, that I am preparing for my next role, Eleanor Roosevelt, who among myriad other duties and passions, wrote a daily syndicated newspaper column from 1935 to 1962.

After some slightly undignified begging and pleading I have secured the part of this great woman of the 20th century – I admit she’s a rather minor figure in a film about her distant cousin Daisy Suckley, but ferreting around in her writing and biographies has been an end in itself.

After years of haggling over camera angles to try and live up to present standards of beauty, it is a relief to play Eleanor who was too busy drafting the Declaration of Human Rights to disguise her several chins.

The director is very anti-wig, so I have dyed my hair grey and been fitted for some Eleanor teeth, as they were so much part of the smile, which was so much part of her.

I have had a fitting with the maestro of movie teeth Chris Lyons at Fangs FX, whose dental surgery is not decorated with dog-eared copies of Hello, but framed messages of love from just about every movie star you ever saw – all of whom seem to have donned false teeth at some point in their career. It seems they are as vital to an Oscar nomination as overcoming a disability or fighting the Nazis. I realise I have been missing a trick.

It is important to get used to speaking with my Eleanor teeth in, so I’ve brought them on holiday to Tuscany. I’ve become so used to them that I forget they are in, and some of our recent acquaintances here are a bit puzzled by my inconsistent appearance. If I could just whisk them out with a flourish, we could all laugh about it, but taking them out involves a rather obscene two-handed struggle and trails of saliva, so I just leave them in and let them wonder.

I have been attempting to relive my youth, when Merchant Ivory and Room with a View made Tuscany the Ibiza of my generation.

I came here to get high on the Boboli gardens and an unrestored Perugino, and it is a relief to see that Chianti-shire is still moving with the Renaissance groove.

Listening to the unaccompanied chants of Orlando Lassus in the cathedral of Pieve and staying at La Foce, a beautiful villa and estate that was restored to a kind of feudal idyll by Iris Origo in the Thirties, it is possible to forget that Berlusconi and the “bunga bunga” generation have redefined the female role as one where crawling around in a cage being sprayed with foam, wearing little more than a sequin, is considered entertaining daytime television.

Dignity was a word beloved of Eleanor and Iris. I know I had some somewhere. I think it’s in the suitcase I left going around and around the carousel at Fiumicino airport.

Original Article at The Telegraph

 

Olivia Williams Cast in Anna Karenina

8 June 2011 Leave a comment

Olivia Williams has been cast in an adaptation of Tolstoy’s epic novel, Anna Karenina, alongside Kiera Knightly who plays the lead. Olivia will play Countess Vronskaya. Filming begins in September and will take place in Russia and the UK.

Source: Comingsoon.net

The Guardian Interviews Olivia Williams

1 June 2011 Leave a comment

Portrait of the artist: Olivia Williams, actor

‘In Hollywood, they don’t respect you if you make your own tea and go by bike instead of limousine’



Interview by Laura Barnett

guardian.co.uk, Monday 30 May 2011

 

 

 


‘Do something else’ … Olivia Williams.

Why did you decide to become an actor?

From a very young age, I wanted to get up on stage whenever I went to the theatre – the actors just seemed to be having so much fun. One of my worries about theatre, in fact, is that the actors are quite often having more fun than the audience.

Do you suffer for your art?

If you have a scale of human suffering that’s at its height if you’re a detainee in Guantánamo, or living in Japan right now – then no, I don’t suffer. But if you want to make an audience believe that you’re in Guantánamo or Japan, then I think it’s your duty as an actor to engage with that suffering.

Stage or screen?

That’s like saying you’ll only ever eat sushi or Christmas dinner every day, for ever. I want to eat both sushi and Christmas dinner alternately, please.

How does the British film industry measure up to Hollywood?

There’s a Dunkirk spirit around British independent movies – you don’t kick up a stink if your trailer’s nasty because you’re sharing it with 10 other people. It’s the opposite in Hollywood. If you don’t use the limousine they send to pick you up because you’d rather take your bike, or make your own tea rather than letting them make it for you, they don’t respect you. Suddenly, you’re always the one filming at 4am.

Should government funding for the arts be cut?

It’s a tough one, but we’ve all got to take the hit. I can’t be the person to say to someone, “You can’t have a blood transfusion because people need to go to the theatre.”

Is there anything about your career you regret?

Nothing – every bad choice has ended up being a great anecdote. After my spell in Hollywood, I did a series of British independent movies, none of which were hits. But I did get to drive in a car with Bill Nighy.

What one song or piece of music would work as the soundtrack to your life?

The Bach cello suites. They encompass all human emotion.

What advice would you give a young actor?

Do something else.

What’s the worst thing anyone ever said about you?

[The critic] Nicholas de Jongh once said I was “curiously wooden”. You read something like that and crawl around for the day, questioning your reason for existing. But then you have a glass of Chardonnay and a Pret A Manger choc bar, and you feel much better.

In short

Born: London, 1968.

Career: Films include The Postman, Rushmore and The Sixth Sense. Stage work includes Richard III for the RSC, and In a Forest, Dark and Deep, which is currently at the Vaudeville theatre.

High point: “Jumping on to Kevin Costner’s horse [in The Postman]. The stuntwoman had failed three times, so I did it myself.”

Low point: “Playing a corpse in a cop show.”

 

Original Interview at The Guardian

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