Five Minutes With Olivia Williams

Olivia Williams

Olivia Williams

0
Have your say

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MAPS TO THE STARS CHARACTER, CHRISTINA?

Christina is a profoundly screwed up person. Her immediate impression is of a terrifying Hollywood mom, but her mental state is so much more complex than that. She is suppressing truths that are both unbearable and illegal, and the effect on her physically is that she is permanently clenched. It was difficult to play a woman who both loves her children and cannot stop tormenting them in such palpably misguided ways, but at the same time it was one of the most fascinating contradictions to play.

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE PROJECT?

I was driven in the first place by the script which had everyone on set both laughing and appalled in equal measure. It felt like we were in very dark territory, but was exhilarating at the same time. Given the subject matter, some feared we’d never be invited back... but ultimately Hollywood loves to see itself caricatured, whether or not it is flattering.

HOW DOES DAVID CRONENBERG DIFFER FROM OTHER DIRECTORS?

It felt as close to a Zen monastery as a film set is ever likely to be. An atmosphere of creative concentration. Amazingly quiet. A safe environment which gave me the confidence to be experimental, whereas an unstable environment can make me more cautious.

AS HE’S ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST ACCLAIMED FILMMAKERS, HOW NERVOUS WERE YOU ABOUT WORKING WITH HIM?

I was intrigued. I have always been a bit too squeamish to watch his work, but the script was so funny and appalling at the same time, I just wanted to be involved. My enthusiasm carried me through my nerves. Very quickly on set I felt I just wanted to tuck in, like a big meal. There were lines and scenes I just couldn’t wait to play.

THE GHOST IS ONE OF THE BEST THRILLERS OF THE PAST DECADE. WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF WORKING WITH ROMAN POLANSKI, AND HOW DOES HIS DIRECTING STYLE COMPARE TO CRONENBERG’S?

So happy that you think so. The Ghost was an amazing experience. Polanski and Cronenberg are similar in that they both know exactly what they want, but Polanski never feels he has got it, and is restless and frustrated until he has got close to his vision. Cronenberg is the opposite of restless and frustrated.

THE SIXTH SENSE IS BELOVED BY MANY. HOW EASY OR DIFFICULT WAS IT TO SHOOT BECAUSE OF THAT AMAZING TWIST?

I was blissfully oblivious to many of the problems of shooting the twist. I remember Bruce [Willis] whingeing about having to wear the same costume every day. The challenge of simultaneously playing grieving widow and lonely wife was one of the most interesting of my career - and I love an interesting challenge. I found my script the other day and saw that “Happy Anniversary” was originally Bruce’s line, so I should thank him for giving it up.

THE POSTMAN MAY HAVE BEEN SAVAGED BY SOME BUT I THINK IT’S A MISJUDGED GEM. DID YOU THINK A KEVIN COSTNER BACKLASH WAS INEVITABLE AFTER HIS SUCCESS?

Again it makes me happy that you appreciate that film. It is flawed but a great deal of good work went into it. The bottom line is that Costner is a great film actor and I get a kick out of watching him do what he does best in The Postman and the TV show Hatfields & McCoys. I love Tin Cup too.

CAN YOU TELL US ANYTHING ABOUT TV SERIES MANHATTAN?

YES! It is the perfect geek series about the invention of the first atomic weapon - hence The Manhattan Project. Set in Los Alamos, the real secret city where the scientists were gathered, it charts the years leading from the early attempts at nuclear fission to the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima, but not through the lives of the characters we know - Oppenheimer, Groves, Einstein, Roosevelt - but the scientists and their families who went to live in huts on a mesa in New Mexico for five years to work on the deadliest weapon in history in an attempt to end all wars. I play the wife of a scientist who has doubts about the wisdom of such an enterprise...

FINALLY, HOW WAS IT WORKING WITH JULIANNE MOORE ON MAPS AND NEW MOVIE SEVENTH SON?

We had a surreal summer; one week in Vancouver, she wearing claws and a corset made of bones and me dressed as a pig farmer. The next in Toronto, she’s in her underwear and I’m in a burn suit, both times chatting about how to raise kids and stay sane... we could equally have been at the school gates having just staggered back from the supermarket for pick-up time. She manages to combine being a consummate and dangerous talent with a total lack of pretension.