I’m on a mailing list called Master Class that occasionally sends out notices for theatre artist talks occurring at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Today at 2:30pm I went to see one of my favourite film actors, Natascha McElhone. Most people would probably recognize her as Jim Carrey’s love interest in The Truman Show. But I adored her in Surviving Picasso, her first major film, and as young Clarissa in Mrs. Dalloway. She is strikingly beautiful and a captivating performer.
Composed. Sincere. Fierce. Gentle. Thoughtful. Mischievous. Maternal. Elegant. Opinionated. Steadfast.
I didn’t take proper notes, so please pardon the paraphrasing.
After theatre school, I played Dunyasha in a production of The Cherry Orchard with Russian director Mishe Mokier, who spoke no English. He often refused to make use of his interpreter; he was very eccentric. And yet he was a most powerful director because he could communicate with very few words, or sometimes none at all, and he only spoke when necessary. Sometimes directors who speak too much and offer excessive feedback, though they may have great vision, are not always the best at working with actors. His one piece of advice to me: just sing.
When you’re young, you often feel the need to please everyone. When I had children, I stopped caring about what people thought of me. Because they were my world.
If my children were on set with me, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate. I would be watching them. They’re far more interesting than me.
From playing Lady Anne in Richard III Shakespeare in Regent’s Park to playing opposite Anthony Hopkins in Surviving Picasso.
I wouldn’t do that film because I hated the script. It was ridiculous. But then my agent said, but Robert Deniro’s in it! And I said, only if they fix the script. And my agent came back to me later and said, David Mamet had a look at it; will that do?
Mrs. Dalloway. That film wasn’t going to happen due to a number of set backs. Then they called me on Friday and said we’re going to film on Monday. We did all the flashback scenes in seven days. When you watched it, did you notice that there weren’t many close-ups? That’s because those take longer to film and require several more cameras to shoot. We didn’t have the time, nor the money.
If you think you’re not being cast because you’re American, then play British at the audition. You’re an actor. You’re going to play a role anyway.
Just go to the party. You can always leave early.
In Hollywood, everyone thinks they’re getting somewhere because the producers make them think they’re getting somewhere. You’re wonderful. I love your work. It’s so emotional. And then you realize they’re saying the same thing to everyone. It’s different in London: you may receive fewer offers, but at least they tell you the truth.
I always had an opinion, and an opinion isn’t always what everyone wants to hear.
Afterwards, I shyly approached three girls chatting. One of them had asked the question about being an American trying to get work in London. Another had raised her hand, but hadn’t had the chance to ask a question. And the third I’d been noticing throughout the event because she occasionally gazed back through the crowd, and I thought she had a penetrating look (and told her so); a gingered Cate Blanchett, perhaps. We talked about the event and about working in theatre in London. I gave them my business card, and already two of them have added me as friends on that social network thing.
As I walked away from them, I had visions of the four of us meeting on weekends and reading aloud from Shakespeare plays and perhaps even producing a play or a film together. Because that happens sometimes, you know? You meet some people at an event, and that’s all it takes. Natascha had spoken, in fact, about how important it is to find like-minded people and start something, anything. And my imagination ran with that idea. It may not be these three girls, but I hope to discover my theatre clan… and who knows what might happen.