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Is Anybody There? - Anne-Marie Duff interview

Anne-Marie Duff in Is Anybody There?

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ANNE-Marie Duff talks about her role in comedy-drama Is Anybody There?, working with younger and older actors and preparing for her own role as the owner of a nursing home.

Q. How did you first get involved with Is Anybody There?
Anne-Marie Duff: I felt the script was funny and irreverant. It was about something we never see on the big screen, ever. I also had the chance to work with some really, really talented actors… people I’d watched growing up and been inspired by; some of my heroes. Also I’d been aware of John [Crowley, director]. We kind of know each other socially through the theatre and I just think he’s an astonishing director. So, it was a real no-brainer. That recipe makes for a very good cake and I couldn’t say no.

Q. What do you find the differences are between acting with young actors and middle aged co-stars?
Anne-Marie Duff: Well, I think age is sometimes just a number. But it’s a real joy. They don’t come with any of the baggage that we load ourselves up with. They’re not worried about their profile, they’re not worried about how good they look, or all the nonsense. They just tell the story and ask: “What happens in this scene?” Well, I’ll do that then. And professionally it’s good for you because it means that you’re forced to do the same thing, and that’s always a good thing.

Q. Taking the name of the film, is there anybody there in the after-life?
Anne-Marie Duff: I’d like to think there was and I’d like to think that everybody is smoking cigarettes and eating sausage sandwiches and it wouldn’t do you any harm.

Q. How did you prepare for your character?
Anne-Marie Duff: The tricky thing for me was that she’s loses much sense of herself, hasn’t she? I suppose I was just trying to find somebody who didn’t just become the wallpaper. She’s so desperately trying to please everybody that she doesn’t please anyone, least of all herself. Yet within that, you have to try and flesh that character out and make her a real person – someone who is interesting and vibrant. I suppose I just thought about that, the period that we were filming in and my memories of that as a teenager. It was quite easily accessible work in that way.

Q. Have you ever had a supernatural experience in real-life?
Anne-Marie Duff: Sometimes you think you’ve had a supernatural experience when you think: “Did I really leave my cup of tea there?” That’s about my experience. I have pixies in my house who move my keys.

Q. How was working with David Morrissey as your husband?
Anne-Marie Duff: It’s funny because he works on so many project where he’s very intense, very dour and very serious. But he’s such a funny, funny clown. He’s really, really good fun to be around. And it was great because you have this excuse to have this mid-life crisis and a chance to really go for it. And he does.

Q. Can you just say a final word about working with Elizabeth Spriggs in what was to be her final role before her death?
Anne-Marie Duff: I grew up watching Elizabeth in things like Harvey Moon and all sorts of productions. What struck me was that it was as if she’d just started acting. She was so keen and so playful and bold. Her choices were always really bold. I admired her greatly as a woman as well. She always had a twinkle in her eye and you could have a good laugh with her. She was one of our greats in every sense.

Read our review of Is Anybody There?

Read our interview with John Crowley