Stephen Schaefer’s Hollywood & Mine

Rosamund Pike had a successful career before David Fincher’s hit 2014 film version of Gillian Flynn’s global bestseller ‘Gone Girl’ bumped her up another level.  Oscar-nominated as Best Actress for the Fincher, she had gone from Bond girl Miranda Frost (‘Die Another Day’) to her first real breakthrough as a sublimely funny gangster’s gal in ‘An Education,’ a supporting turn that led to leading roles, most memorably as the murdered journalist Marie Colvin in ‘A Private War,’ which won her a Golden Globe nomination. Now she offers a detailed portrait of one of the greatest-ever women of science, Marie Curie in ‘Radioactive.’ This is an edited and condensed version of a recent phone interview.
Rosamund Pike in ‘Gone Girl.’Q: Rosamund, I wonder, did you do a lot of research, get to a point where you say, ‘Forget all that!’ and go with your Marie?
ROSAMUND PIKE:  When I’m doing a real person I’m constantly asking them for guidance the whole time. I’m always hoping that a new clue or a new detail will come to light while I’m filming. So I carry on [as we film] reading, exploring. I’m constantly looking at old photographs until the last day of filming. I carry these huge  display boards around where I have printed out every photograph I could find of her at every stage of her life and pasted them on. I have her young, then it’s middle aged and older.

Q: Is it easier to play someone who was real when it’s a century ago? As opposed to someone who lived recently like Marie Colvin where you captured so remarkably her voice as well as the way she looked?
RP: Absolutely, I had much more leeway here.  I wanted to do [Curie] justice but I didn’t have the kind of the intense pressure of the facts, that of Marie’s loss or a family who were still in mourning or friends who could hardly bear the loss of their dear friend. With Marie Colvin it was a very different process.  With Marie Curie we have a graphic novel, a kind of renegade filmmaker in Marjane Satrapi. We’ve got more artistic license, sure. I tried to, at least in some moments, use the body language from her position in photographs.
Actress Rosamund Pike poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘A Private War’ showing as part of the BFI London Film Festival in London, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
Q: She died from her exposure to radium and I understand she always carried with her glowing green radium in a small vial.
RP:  When war broke out her first step was to transport an ounce of radium in a lead box to the south of France. That was her first priority – to get it out of Paris in case the Germans came.

Q: Could the title ‘Radioactive’ refer to her personality as well? She seems to be the opposite of ‘cuddly’ Albert Einstein, the most famous scientist of his era.  Why was she so brusque?
RP: I did notice when someone gave me a bobble-head of Marie Curie, I thought there was going to be a very small run of these. I found her directness very, very charming. People find it surprising because we don’t expect it in a woman.  We always give male geniuses massive leeway to be ‘difficult.’ Or slightly odd. Or distanced. Or rude.  We treat them with compassion because they’re ‘genius.’ Then when we’re presented with a female genius we aren’t so relaxed about the way they judge her. I sort of relish that, that we’ve started the debate. Because again how do we expect women to be? She had a tough life. She says, at the end, that the things she most loved brought her very little happiness. She suffered tremendous losses in her life.  She was incredibly strong individual who bore an awful lot, including the wrath of the press and the public. When she was most celebrated she didn’t kowtow to that – and quite right!  Cut to a few years later when suddenly the very press that adored her, turned on her. She went through both with equanimity: Both the success and the rejection. I’ve got this nice copy of a card she used to carry around with her: ‘Please understand that Mme. Curie will not give autographs.’ [Laughs]

Q: It was years after her husband Pierre Curie died that this scandal erupted, an affair with a younger married man that was fueled by anti-Semitism. She was falsely accused of being a Jewish homewrecker. I don’t think that part is mentioned in the film.
Actress Rosamund Pike poses before Christian Dior’ s Fall-Winter 2017-2018 ready-to-wear fashion collection presented Friday, March 3, 2017 in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)RP: It is in the movie. She’s with her sister who says, ‘You’re not worried what the press is saying?’ and Marie says, ‘They’re calling me a dirty Jew or something or other.’ And she says, ‘I’m a dirty Catholic – and a dirty lapsed Catholic at that — but they won’t seem to listen.’

Q:  After this immersion for six months in the history and emotions of woman like Marie, when you finish is it easy to let go?
RP: She taught me a lot, as characters will. I took science lessons and I re-ignited a kind of deep interest in chemistry.  And I felt very moved by her. There was this amazing – through all her brittleness in the way she presented herself to the world — deeply emotional person.  As was proved in the Grief Journal she kept in the days after her husband died.  Which came to light about a year before we started making the film.  It’s one of the most passionate, beautifully committed love anthems that I’ve ever read really.  And so no, I didn’t have an easy time letting her go. I really admired her. I felt she taught me a lot and had a very, very profound connection with her.

Q: ‘Radioactive’ suddenly has these flash forwards — to a hospital in 1960 where a young boy’s cancerous tumor is about to be treated with radioactivity or on the Enola Gay airplane that we see drop the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Was that in the graphic novel?  What does that do for the movie?
RP: I think the film is a bio of radioactivity as much as Marie Curie. And Marjane Satrapi, our filmmaker, was absolutely right to jump into the brain of this woman. Rather than sort of packaging her from the outside. I think if anyone’s brain had the capacity to see into the potential of the future it was someone like Marie Curie. So I think for me it crystallizes everything I feel about her:  Uncanny premonition. Curiosity. Ability to sort of make the invisible visible. That can also include the future. For me that’s existing in multiple dimensions. Of course she couldn’t have actually seen it but again it’s the dawning of what is to come. That is important. I wouldn’t have been interested in making the film if it was a cradle-to-grave story. I would have left it to somebody else to play her.

Q: Have you stopped working?
RP: I had a great time shooting ‘I Care a Lot’ in Boston last summer.  It will come out soon, it’s a sort of dark comedy.

Q: Is it reality-based?
RP: Pure fiction – I needed to play someone who wasn’t real. I had a real wonderful summer at exactly this time last year.

AS IF          Sometimes, in order to have an enduring career all it takes is one brilliant turn in one brilliant film.  Consider Alicia Silverstone, inimitable and original as Cher Horowitz in writer-director Amy Heckerling’s 1995 ‘Clueless’ (Blu-ray + Digital, Paramount, PG-13). A sublime adaptation of Jane Austen’s ‘Emma,’ buoyed by a phenomenally pitch-perfect supporting cast led by Paul Rudd, the tragic Brittany Murphy (1977-2009), Donald Faison and Stacey Dash, ‘Clueless’ scored for its unerring ear for teen speak, the artfully constructed timelessness of the plot and its easy way with laughs and, somehow, heartache.  Bonus Features:   Clue or False Trivia, ‘Creative Writing with Amy Heckerling,’ Stories from cast & crew, ‘A look at the cast then & now.’
From Left, Clare Kramer, Donald Faison, Paul Rudd, Alicia Silverstone and Breckin Meyer seen on day 2 during the Clueless Reunion Panel at C2E2 at McCormick Place on Saturday, March 23, 2019 in Chicago. (Photo by Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP)
SUPERNATURAL BY KING     What begins as a routine homicide in HBO’s 10-part ‘The Outsider’ (Blu-ray + Digital Code, HBO/WB, Not Rated) quickly morphs into something …. quite strange. Starring Cynthia Erivo (Oscar-nominated twice for ‘Harriet’), Jason Bateman, Paddy Considine and Ben Mendelsohn, ‘Outsider’ is an adaptation of Stephen King’s 2018 bestseller. The saga begins when a boy’s gruesome corpse is discovered in the dark Georgia woods yet the prime suspect, the Little League coach and high school teacher Terry Maitland (Bateman), doesn’t quite compute for detective Ralph Anderson (Mendelsohn) who pages unorthodox P.I. Holly Gibney (Erivo).
Cynthia Erivo is an investigator in the HBO miniseries “The Outsider,” a television adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. [Photo/HBO]Bonus: Six ‘Making of’ features including an interview with the master himself Stephen King. Also an exclusive piece on the origins of the supernatural creature El Cuco and ‘The Outsider: Inside Episodes’ a 4-part exploration of the series by the cast and producers.

BRAVO BRANDAUER!         Istvan Szabo’s ‘Colonel Redl’ (Blu-ray, Kino Classics, Not Rated) is the triumphant third of  the Hungarian auteur’s 3 Oscar-nominated features. ‘Redl’ reunites the director with his incandescent star, Austria’s Klaus Maria Brandauer.  They first collaborated on Szabo’s 1981 Oscar-winning Best Foreign Language Film ‘Mephisto.’  That was set in pre-war 1933 Germany. As Hitler’s Nazi regime gains control, an actor pacts with the Devil to gain fame.  ‘Colonel Redl’ has Brandauer as a counter-intelligence agent in the pre-World War I Austro-Hungarian empire.  The Crown Prince is played by Armin Mueller-Stahl who would become, like Brandauer, a celebrated Hollywood favorite.  In 1985 Mueller-Stahl was an East German resident; the Berlin Wall and the Cold War remained in force.  Redl’s status is compromised — as a closeted homosexual he’s subject to blackmail, putting his job and his country in jeopardy.  Bonus features include a booklet with Szabo’s introduction and an essay by film critic Bilge Ebiri plus a featurette, ‘The Central Europe of Istvan Szabo.’

UNDERWATER & SILENT      Long before Kirk Douglas and Walt Disney plumbed the watery depths in Captain Nemo’s Nautilus submarine, Jules Verne’s ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ (Blu-ray, Kino Classics, Not Rated) was filmed as a silent epic by Universal Pictures in 1916.  This new 4K restoration by the studio preserves the film which was shot in Bahamian waters and incorporates material from another Verne classic, ‘The Mysterious Island’ (filmed in  1961 in Eastmancolor).   Set during the Civil War, a group of soldiers escape to an exotic island (guess where!) where they encounter a beautiful woman they name ‘Child of Nature.’  Like the Disney version, this ’20,000 Leagues’ boasts stunning underwater photography including a diver versus a giant cephalopod. That was enough to see the film added to the National Film Registry.  There’s a musical score and an audio commentary.  Silent with English intertitles.

VERY EARLY WYLER       Who knew that William Wyler, one of Hollywood’s most honored and successful filmmakers (see ‘Dodsworth,’ ‘The Letter,’ ‘The Little Foxes,’ ‘Mrs. Miniver,’ ‘The Best Years of Our Lives,’ ‘Roman Holiday,’ ‘Funny Girl’) actually began his brilliant career in the silent era?
Movie director William Wyler, left, and producer-actor Gregory Peck find the shade of a tree a good spot to go over the script while on location for a new western thriller, “The Big Country,” at Stockton, Calif., on Sept. 20, 1957. The picture stars Mr. Peck as well as Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker and Charlton Heston. (AP Photo)Wyler’s 1929 ‘The Shakedown’ (Blu-ray, Kino Classics, Not Rated) arrived as sound became triumphant, marking an end to cinema’s first 30-odd years.  This silent, a boxing drama now in a new 4K restoration by Universal Pictures, is unabashedly sentimental and uplifting.  Pugilist Dave Roberts (James Murray who starred in King Vidor’s now-classic ‘The Crowd’) takes dives as part of a traveling con game that gets suckers to bet and lose.  But then Dave meets a good woman and a spunky orphan and reforms.  There’s a bonus audio commentary, a booklet essay by film historian Nora Fiore and Michael Gatt’s score.  Murray, truly a tragic figure, was an unknown with a remarkable naturalism when he triumphed in ‘The Crowd.’  Vidor had spotted him on the lot.  Fame and fortune quickly evaporated and he was dead at 35. An alcoholic who ended up on Skid Row, Murray either drowned or committed suicide in 1936.

2 QUINNS IN ’52      Anthony Quinn had a lengthy apprenticeship beginning in the late 1930s before finding international (and lasting) fame in the 1950s with first his Oscar-winning supporting role opposite Marlon Brando in the ’52 ‘Viva Zapata!’ and then Federico Fellini’s now-classic 1954 ‘La Strada.’  Quinn is featured in 2 colorful purely Hollywood adventures now on Blu-ray.  ‘Against All Flags’ (Blu-ray, KL Studio Classics, Not Rated) boasts Errol Flynn as he was fast approaching the end of his swashbucklers and ‘The World in His Arms’ (Blu-ray, KL Studio Classics, Not Rated) with Gregory Peck as a sea captain in 1850 San Francisco eager to rescue his kidnapped love (Ann Blyth) and win a sea race against Quinn, his dangerous rival.  Audio commentaries on both.
French actor from left to right Christian Marquand, andAmerican actors Gregory Peck and Anthony Quinn chatting between shots of Fred Zinneman’s “Behold a dark Horse”, certain scenes of which are now being made at St. Maurice Studios near Paris April 8, 1963. (AP Photo)
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