On November 23rd 2018, the theaters were treated to one of the most celebrated films to be released this year, entitled The Favourite. The movie stars Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Coleman, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn, James Smith, and Mark Gatiss. Masterfully directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, and written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, the film is sure to gain Oscar nominations.
Having won an Oscar, Golden Globe and Screen Actors’ Award for her role in The Constant Gardener, Rachel Weisz portrays the role of Sarah in The Favourite, a powerful, compassionate, strong-willed woman who controls the destiny of England and the emotions of the Queen. The accomplished actress has also been in films including: The Mummy, Enemy at the Gates, Stealing Beauty, The Shape of Things and About a Boy.
Rachel walked to the round table looking beautiful, charming and perky.
Louder Than War: How was it to work with Yorgos again in this movie?
Incredibly exciting, different from The Lobster. The Lobster was a made-up universe from his imagination, and this is part British history, part imagination – just really exciting and I’m excited to work with him. I knew how he liked to work; he doesn’t talk about anything. So there’s no discussion about character motivation or psychology. One journalist asked me, “Did you talk about where you were on the spectrum in terms of being queer, like what are you, bisexual or lesbian?” I said, “No, we didn’t do that.” We spent three weeks rehearsing, where we played games with all the lines. He made us do just ridiculous things so that we wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of each other to do anything.
You seem to be doing dynamic, interesting projects. What do you find yourself being attracted to as far as movies go, or is it just a free-for-all right now, an anything goes?
Well, I am definitely attracted to stories where, I’ve got the really dynamic cameo or a supporting role. You can have an amazing supporting role in the story, but it has also been interesting to do two films where the women are the center of the story. A good story with good thoughts for a woman – it’s not too much to ask for?
What is your viewpoint on the strength of your character as a woman?
She was very commanding. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw how strong she was. I was just concentrating on the story at hand. The story at hand was that I had a country to run because the Queen was really not up to it. I loved her and I wanted to protect her. I had to patrol around her and protect her. You know it was very high stakes. There was love and romance and friendship, but more than all of that there was a country to run. It was a really high stakes job – the future of the entire population of England – so I had to try and imagine that. I am not like her. I would be useless at running a country.
Did you do research for the role?
I did read one biography, which was interesting. I don’t think it would have made any difference if I hadn’t read it. It didn’t necessarily give me a different way of acting as her. It was very dense and complete. I did see some portraits as well. Whatever you can find to feed your imagination is really all acting is. So it was a dream of having power. That was me dreaming that I was her with power.
Your co-star Emma Stone talked about wearing a corset for the movie. She said her organs shifted. Did you have a similar experience?
People are so interested in Emma’s organs…actually which ones, her liver, her kidney…? It was her first time wearing one, so it was a big moment. There’s nothing to say. It’s painful. A corset can be a kind of oppressive thing. It could be pretty dominating.
This film has three strong women in it and there really isn’t a powerful male role at all. Do you think it will inspire woman in future generations?
I agree that for a new generation of young girls, I think for young people to watch stories and see themselves represented, be they women or if a person is gay or a person of color…for people that have never been represented in central roles on screen, it’s incredibly important. For me when I read the script, I didn’t think about it as three women, I just felt like having a role for me and two other people of my gender, it just felt natural and normal. I talk to women all the time; I am a woman. But the story had been written ten years ago, and Yorgos has been developing it for many years. It’s just a coincidence that it happened in this year where people are having this conversation about women, which is a very important conversation to have. But it’s almost like condescending to women that we say, “Well done, with three of you in a film.” Of course we have to talk about it because it has been an issue, not just in film but in politics. I believe in balance. I think it would be great for men and woman to be in balance. In my world there were more stories of men playing central characters than women, which is a real shame.
In 2005 you won an Award for The Constant Gardener, and chances are more than likely that you’re going to be back again nominated for this role. Can you talk about what it feels like to come back with an already great validation of your career?
Olivia just won two months ago Best Actress in Venice, the Volpe Cup, which is a really big deal. I wasn’t able to be there, but I got sent a picture of her. She looked like a starlet. So we are still celebrating that. It’s a wonderful thing to have that conversation, but I can’t speak about that. I can talk about Olivia because that just happened and I’m really, really proud of her.
How do you feel that England and the Royal Family will react to the film?
I really don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t know if they will see it. I mean there are love letters between my character and the Queen. Very, very passionate love letters between two women who were obsessed with one another. It could be that they were just codependent friends. We don’t know. Who knows what anybody does when they’re alone, behind closed doors. Cinematographers can write things until the cows come home, but when people are alone behind closed doors, they are behind closed doors. The fiction comes in and we get to dream. Writers get to dream what might have happened behind closed doors. That to me is my job. It’s the stuff of fantasy and I am really moved by the idea that maybe they were lovers.
I’m hoping that they were.
I think they were. I can’t prove it.
In The Favourite and Disobedience you play women whose desires are frowned upon by society. How did you relate to that?
I don’t think anybody in this room is frowning about Sarah’s role. I’m not sure in 1708 if anyone minded if women were getting it on. There was still no legal consent of women with women. But that subject is for another day.
All words by Eileen Shapiro. More of Eileen’s writing can be found in her author’s archive.