Peter Fraser talks to Rosamund Pike, the ex-Bond girl who likes to take risks in her acting roles
Rosamund Pike is one of the UK's most talented and adventurous actresses, mixing films of varying scale with the stage acting that she says she enjoys more than anything else. Indeed she confesses when I meet her that she pursues her film acting as a way to ensure that she can bring audiences to her work in the theatre and expresses concern that theatre audiences may be dwindling. Rosamund first came to widespread public attention in her role as Miranda Frost in the Bond film Die Another Day in 2002 before acting on stage in the acclaimed play 'Hitchcock Blonde', Roles have followed in Promised Land, The Libertine with Johnny Depp, John Malkovich and Samantha Morton, and Pride and Prejudice in 2005 in which Rosamund played Jane Bennett to Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Bennett.
In Fracture, Rosamund plays high flying corporate lawyer Nikki Gardner whose looks and ambition attract Ryan Gosling's Willy Beachum while he struggles to win a case against his sadistic nemesis Ted Crawford, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. In the film Gardner is an enigmatic and amoral presence who Rosamund says she doesn't agree with 'ethically, politically or even stylistically'. So perhaps the obvious question is, what attracted her to the role?
What attracted you to the film?
Well it was the film rather than the part in this case. I said after Pride and Prejudice that I'd like to do a thriller because it was the kind of thing that I haven't done and then this came along. I'd seen Primal Fear, which was Gregory Hoblit's most famous film, and I was so disconcerted by that film that I thought, “My goodness, this is something that he's going to do really really well” and I just wanted to be part of it.
Would it be apt to describe your character Nikki as a latter-day femme fatale?
I don't know. I know that the production notes talk about her as a siren and if that's how she comes across then that's fine but you can't really play someone like that. She is quite hard and she was quite hard to play. I think that in some ways she has that effect because the director deliberately wanted to pretty much play a single quality. He wasn't so interested in trying to portray a three dimensional character. He didn't want a back story for instance. He wanted to capture the idea that these people always perform on a public stage, never in private. I always look for a character's vulnerability because that's what I'm interested in. Gregory was always making me take the upper hand, take control and play the Alpha Female and every time I softened it or tried to give Ryan an easier time Gregory said “no”. So she comes across as really tough I think. The association of the femme fatale is with noir film and I love all that. I love the gloss of the film with slick, shiny LA and she's quite a slick, shiny girl.
Hitchcock is an obvious reference and you've played a Hitchcock Blonde on-stage…
Yes. I think also fairy tales. I mean we grow up and our, the very first stories we're exposed to as children are thrillers really. Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel are thrillers in a way. They're set in a world where things are not what they seem and terror lurks beneath the surface and I think that there's something of that in a thriller when it's made in a way that is fantasy as well as reality. The film is slightly Hitchcockian in the way it is shot and the entrances that people make. You rarely see people coming towards you in the film. They just slip into frame. There's that wonderful shot in which you're looking at someone and then they walk out of shot and you realise that you're looking into a mirror. I love little things like that.
It's interesting that you mention fairy tales because the film has a somewhat surprising moral didacticism that I think is quite rare these days. Willy, the central character, has a very definite moral choice to make at one point that could take him in one direction or another, which is quite reminiscent of a fairy tale or fable. Morally, the film is certainly a critique of the values of Ted Crawford, the Anthony Hopkins character, but do you think that it's also a critique of the values that Nikki lives by?
I do. Not many people have mentioned it but I think that it's an anti-capitalist film in a way because Ryan's character gets morality and gets a conscience halfway through the film. Nikki is trying to live her life without a conscience. I thought that was a lead into the character. We met these LA attorneys and I asked this woman, “How do you feel if you're representing someone who you think is guilty and you get them a verdict of innocence? What goes through your head?” and she just looked at me she said “That the prosecution didn't do their job well enough.” So I thought: “Well that's it. It's just a game and Nikki has no moral qualms with it at all.”
I think it's fair to say that the viewer isn't sure what kind of role Nikki is going to play in the overall plot until the very end, whether she's central or peripheral…
Well, she's working at this corporate law firm and Willy has a choice between working for the greater good and the underdog or representing big high-powered clients. In other versions of the script her legal knowledge came to the fore more. Then David Strathairn was cast as the District Attorney and some of Nikki's dialogue was taken away and given to him because of course with an Oscar nominee on board his role needed to be bulked out a bit. Of course we were all very pleased to have him but I sacrificed all my slightly more impressive legal language to him.
How did you find working with Ryan?
I learned a lot from the film from working with Ryan, because he really interrogates the script and pulls it apart. He refuses to say things whereas I'm much more dutiful. I think it's because I come from a theatrical background where you would never think to change a playwright's lines. You wouldn't dream of acting in a Tennessee Williams play and saying, “Well I don't think I'll say that, I'll say this instead.” Whereas in a film, people think it's a complete free-for-all. The difference is quite interesting and in Fracture it comes off very well because Ryan does create this indelible character out of Willy and a lot of the lines are his, like the scene in which he talks about the various flavours of jelly beans. There's the wonderful scene at the opera where he fluffs his line and gets the character's name wrong because the name was changed in the script. They have to get permission from anyone who has the same name as a character in the script, all the Willy Nelsons or whatever, and in this case they had to change the name Bert to Bob and Ryan got the name wrong but it just came off as the arrogance of the character for not having done his research properly.
Did you do much research for the role?
There's only so much you can do. I love to do preparation and throw myself right into something but there wasn't that much I could do for Nikki apart from hang around down town and watch people go up and down in escalators and look slightly dodgy with a digital camera trying to take pictures of women that I thought might resemble Nikki. I realise that I must have looked pretty suspect. It was interesting that I stuck out there. People are quick to recognise an imposter in their midst. I was trying to belong in that fast moving business world. I think I just don't move fast enough.