Rachel Weisz on Playing Hester Collyer in ‘The Deep Blue Sea’

WRITER’S NOTE: As the opening sentence hints at, this article was written in 2012.

The 2012 New York Film Critics Circle Awards were recently given out, and one of the big winners was Rachel Weisz who won the Best Actress Award for her performance in “The Deep Blue Sea.” In the film she portrays Hester Collyer, the wife of a High Court judge who ends up having a passionate affair with Royal Air Force pilot Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston), and we watch as this affair throws her life into utter turmoil. “The Deep Blue Sea” hasn’t yet found the audience in America it deserves, but hopefully Weisz’s win will bring more attention to the film which has earned tremendous critical praise since its release.

“The Deep Blue Sea” was directed by British independent filmmaker, Terence Davies. His resume includes such movies as “Distant Voices Still Lives,” “The Neon Bible” and “The House of Mirth” which featured an extraordinary performance from Gillian Anderson. In an interview with Ara Aquino of Complex, Weisz described Davies as being “very different” and “unusual” compared to most other filmmakers she has worked with. Hearing Weisz talk about Davies makes him sound both rigid and yet full of life:

“He’s probably as passionate as Hester and led by his emotions and his heart. He’s more like her than I am,” Weisz said of Davies. “He gets really carried away both in happiness and sadness and anger. He’s a very emotional person. He likes things to be incredibly controlled in terms of where the camera is; you’re the center of the frame. It’s the opposite of contemporary, hand-held reportage style films that we’re used to seeing now. He’s got real rigor as a filmmaker, but he’s also really passionate.”

Weisz then went on to tell Aquino that what interested her about playing Hester was how the character “really, kind of completely humiliated herself” and has “no pride.” Those who have seen “The Deep Blue Sea” can agree this role is a frightening and challenging one for any actress as it forces them to convincingly portray conflicting emotions and to play a character who is not exactly likable. Still, it was those challenges which made Weisz want to take on the role.

“What I found interesting about her was she just fell so completely, devastatingly, utterly in love with someone who really didn’t even love her back,” Weisz said about Hester. “She just couldn’t control it, and I thought that was really interesting to see someone lose it. She just throws herself at his feet and kind of makes a complete fool out of herself in many ways.”

Actually, one of the most refreshing things I heard Weisz say about the roles she chooses is that she does not worry about whether the character is likable or not. Many actors tend to be very self-conscious about their work and how the public will treat them for playing someone who is far from being universally loved. But they do themselves a disservice thinking like that as they cut themselves off from many interesting opportunities worth taking advantage of. Weisz made this clear in an interview she had with the Awards Line website.

“I think if you ask the audience to like you, it’s all over,” Weisz said. “The most interesting characters are those you’re drawn to, then repelled by, and then come to understand. All that tension – I live that. But I don’t plan the tension. It’s just something that should happen. I don’t judge the character at all. It’s a bit like being someone’s defense lawyer-you have to believe in their innocence in order to defend them. Did I know that Hester was a pain in the ass? Yeah.”

Another interesting story about the making of “The Deep Blue Sea” involved shooting the love scene between Weisz and her co-star Tom Hiddleston. While Weisz has been in her share of sex scenes in movies, this particular one was the first that Davies ever directed. In talking with Michael Ordoña of the Los Angeles Times, it sounded like she spent a lot of time trying to make Davies feel more comfortable about doing it which was amusing because it’s typically the other way around.

“He just said, ‘I want you to lick his shoulder.’ He had never shot a nude scene, or a sex scene,” Weisz said of Davies. “I thought for a while, ‘Maybe I’ll just keep on my slip.’ But then he said ‘Ah, no, I don’t think so …’ He was really embarrassed. He had it in his mind he wanted audiences to see their bodies together.”

“The Deep Blue Sea” may not be the kind of movie that fills up multiplexes around the globe, but it is a must see for those who love complex dramas and great acting. Rachel Weisz continues to deliver one great performance after another, and this film features one of her best yet. If she continues to choose her roles in the way she told Aquino, then we can expect many more unforgettable performances from her in the future.

“You just have to read a script and think, I’d really like to play this character,” Weisz told Aquino. “It doesn’t really matter if it’s a big movie or a small movie. You still have to say the lines and make it sound true. I just need to be intrigued or pulled in. It’s hard for me to put it into words. It’s like reading a book: Some books grab you and some books don’t. It’s the same with a character. Some things you just really connect with. It could be a really silly book or a dark tragedy.”

SOURCES:

Ara Aquino, “Interview: Rachel Weisz Talks “The Deep Blue Sea” & The Madness Of Love,” Complex, March 21, 2012.

Q&A: Rachel Weisz on Deep Blue Sea,” Awards Line, November 21, 2012.

Michael Ordoña, “How Rachel Weisz put depth in ‘Blue Sea’ performance,” Los Angeles Times, November 29, 2012.

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