Andrea Riseborough: Holding The Grudge

January 13, 2020
The Birdman/Mandy/The Death of Stalin actor candidly discusses her lead role in Sony’s The Grudge rebirth, and her connection to Sting.

So, you can tell us a little bit about your character and what drew you to this project?

First, I think Nic [Pesce, director] was the person who really drew me to the project. I met him and it was such a lovely, refreshing meeting. He didn’t want to make a genre film about a terrified woman running from sinister things in the forest…

We’ve talked a lot about how difficult it’s been for women to just have basic respect at work. And when I sat down with Nic, I felt like I was in a meeting rather than on a date, which often happened in the past. He’s a great guy really, and he’s so young and so talented. He was the thing that drew me to it more than anything.

The character, she’s moved to this very small place to get away from a somewhat difficult life. Complicated perhaps with addiction. That’s my idea of the character. She moved to a small town to find some sort of tranquillity and peace, and instead it’s the opposite, and she’s ill prepared for it. The other thing about my character is that she’s a single mother. She’s really struggling to find her own peace before any of this happens, disrupted by this powerful force.

I really just wanted help the audience relate to her. There’s this area of the world barren sometimes for women, like lawyers, cops and doctors, where people so rarely take any sort of bold move with the character because then it allows you something to play with or they’re not structured in a way that is particularly diverse. It was interesting in doing something different, something … if I was to say anyone would be an inspiration it would be Peter Falk – great actor!

How do you approach this kind of project?

Like anything else, it’s just … like doing a lot of classical work, you spend hours and hours sweating over how to deliver a five beat line. Here, you spend hours and hours trying to peel away everything, perhaps sound, guttural sounds. It’s like getting to the very root of fear, or getting to the very root of elation. It’s really difficult and really liberating as well. It’s liberating because it’s like acting without words. Because so much of it is visual and feral and the emotions are so feral all the time. You don’t spend a lot of time intellectualising a bunch of shit and dissecting stuff. Reacting and not knowing. Just a silent not knowing is what makes genre films so powerful. Because it’s a thing we’re scared of most. We always like to know as humans when to compartmentalise things and we know what things are…

Are you a fan of horror movies? Do you remember the first one that you saw that terrified you?

I think there’s one to be honest, I had to be taken out of the cinema when I was four because there was this face in a book in a Care Bears movie – honest to God that was my first terrifying experience.

And then, post-Care Bears, growing up, I really, really liked Kubrick which, to me, especially his earlier work, and that was stuff that we got on the telly, in the suburbs. The colours are mesmeric and so unusual, and there is so little done or said. I just found all that very interesting when I was a kid. And I really, really loved Hitchcock growing up and now I have very mixed feelings about him…. As a filmmaker, in terms of what’s come out of how he worked with actors.

You great up in Whitley Bay, Newcastle, which is where Sting is from…

Um, well. My mum and my auntie Angela used to work as secretaries. And Angela’s is Gordon’s [Sumner] sister. She actually ended up being my sister’s godmum. My knowledge of him was that he was my sister’s godmother’s brother. But, we didn’t see each other or anything. He once, very kindly, gave me tickets to his concert on my birthday. I remember being so embarrassed because he was wearing yellow pants and black Doc Martens and halfway through, he took his shirt off. And I was nine and I was with my dad and I thought it was mortifying. I think everyone lives in the shadow of Sting in Newcastle. You know, everyone’s like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, you know I used to date him, you know”. Everyone’s got a story.

When you work with different directors, what do you learn from them?

I love when directors are kind and uncompromising. And pretty much all of the ones that I’ve worked with have had that, and you get a sense of that really early on. And things go a little south, if that’s not the case. The worst is to work with a director who isn’t you end up making a, so much money goes into filming and there are so many people in need all over the world and you end up making a compromise of a lot of people’s different ideas, and I feel that’s a choice. So, it takes someone really kind and also someone really strong to be able to be that kind of a leader.

I just worked with Lone Scherfig [The Kindness of Strangers], and she’s both of those things and knows exactly what she wants and Nic’s the same. I feel very comfortable with Nic, you feel supported, taken care of and not like there’s no one driving the bus. When it feels like there’s nobody driving the bus, you’re in really bad situation.

He has his hand very firmly on the helm for this. You hear about what he likes and what he doesn’t like, and where he wants to go or where he doesn’t want. And that’s really important because, of course, you have to be flexible as a director in order to get the finances to make a movie! At the same time, if you have a vision, it’s really important that your anticipated vision ends up on the screen, rather than a wishy washy version of that, because then nothing groundbreaking ever gets made.

Have you considered directing, ever?

Yeah, I’m going to next year.

Watch this space!

The Grudge is in cinemas January 30, 2020


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