May 2003
The Shape of Things : An Interview with Rachel Weisz

Interviewed by Wilson Morales

The Shape of Things: An Interview with Rachel Weisz

Itís been a while since anyone took a role they created on stage and brought it to the film world. In fact, that seems to be a rarity since too many producers think about marketing the film with a different and bigger name. For example, Catherine Zeta-Jones just won an Oscar for her portrayal of Velma Kelly after Bebe Neuwirth and Chita Rivera won Tonys for their roles on stage. Rachel Weisz is most known as a film actress. Sheís done films like Chain of Reaction, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, About a Boy and most recently Confidence with Ed Burns and Dustin Hoffman. Over a year ago, she played the part of Evelyn in Neil Labuteís theatrical production of The Shape of Things, a play about the changes of couples in love. Neil has decided to make a film out of the play, and once again, Rachel Weisz is back to play the role she created. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Rachel talks about the role sheís at ease with.


WM: Can you talk about the production of the film, when the original plan was to not do a film based on the play?

RW: It was just Neilís idea. While doing the play in London, he said, ďWouldnít it be fun ifĒ and we all said, ďYes.Ē Thatís how it happened. It was Neilís idea.


WM: You ended up producing the film. How did that come about?

RW: Neil had asked me if I wanted to produce it with him, which was very flattering and I felt honor, and I said yes. I had just worked with Working Title doing ďAbout a BoyĒ so I took Neil to meet Eric Fellner. I helped him set up financing for the movie and from then on it was a learning experience. I brought passion to the table and deep knowledge of the story but I hadnít produced before, so I was learning. I also thought it was a natural extension of my character that she should be producing the movie that she was in. It seemed kind of fitting.


WM: Whatís your philosophy on couples trying to change one another in a relationship?

RW: Well I think my ideal philosophy would be that you should accept the person that you love for who they are and not try to change them in any way. But I think anyone whose has been in a relationship and says that they havenít tried their partner in any way would be lying, at least to themselves. Couples will say, ďDarling, I prefer it when you wear the red shirt.Ē Little benign things like that and then it could go into more serious things like not accepting someone for who they are.


WM: Is that the ultimate lesson as you go on in life to really try to accept your partner for who they are?

RW: I think definitely so.


WM: Neil wanted to cast an American in the role, but you came along and wowed him. How did you wind up meeting him?

RW: I was on fire when I went to meet him. I was sitting in London and reading and I was holding out on a play and ďThe Shape of ThingsĒ came upon me. You donít ever read plays like that. Itís just very funny piece of writing which is about some very important profound issues on how couples trying to change each other and contemporary societyís obsession with the surface of things like appearance and they way people look. I was a fan of Neil and heís a wordsmith. He writes like a dream and as a young woman, itís the ingťnue role in a piece. Itís an extremely complex interesting character and they really hardly ever come along. I was really blown away by it. I also love his writing because heís not an elitist. He writes plays that anybody and everybody can understand and they are about really big important issues. Heís provocative. Heís a provocateur. People leave the cinema and already they are in a hot debate and I like it when writing does that. I think itís interesting.


WM: Is it hard to shake this character after playing her in countless theater performances and in a movie?

RW: I was her for a year and I can slip back into her easily. Whenever you play a character, you canít judge them. You have to identify with them, so yeah, I relished her. I wish I was as ballsy and gutsy as her. Iím way too good and timid. I think sheís a great character.


WM: Do you know people like her?

RW: Some people have told me that the character reminds them of people they know.


WM: Everything your character was for art. Did you ever have barriers in your own life about art? Did you have the similar type of credo like, ďI will do anything for my art?Ē

RW: No. I donít believe Iím good enough to have a credo like that. I think that you have to really believe youíre good at what you do. Iím joking. Yeah, I have a tons and tons of boundaries all over the place as what will or wonít do for the sake the art. There are different degrees. I wouldnít do anything to hurt anybody to do my art but Iím away from my family for months and months, so I hurt my family. Maybe I already crossed that boundary. I donít think my work is worth it.


WM: How difficult was it letting go of the character?

RW: I relished her conviction and her anarchy. I was sad to see her go but at the same time I was getting a little old for her. I didnít get depressed. I think my family was happy to see the character go. Theyíve had enough of her at dinner. She turned up every now and then at home. When you play a character for a year, they show up at times and you donít even know it.


WM: Are you going to be in the Mummy sequel? I had read somewhere that you decided not to.

RW: Thatís absolutely not true. I donít know how that got leaked in the press or internet, but there isnít a third film planned. The director and writer, Steven Sommers, is directing another film, Van Helsing, with Kate Beckinsale and Hugh Jackman. He will be editing that film for the next year or so. There isnít another ďMummyĒ in the works, but if they do plan another film, I should be back. The family is going to need a mom.


WM: What do you look for in taking a role?

RW: You just know it when you read it. I just read in innocence. You read something and you just know if itís a story you want to tell and if itís a character whose skin you want to get into. Your gut tells you that this is the story you want to tell next. Itís a big commitment, but when you read it, you know it.