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Made in Dagenham - Rosamund Pike interview

Rosamund Pike in Made in Dagenham

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ROSAMUND Pike talks to us about making Made in Dagenham and the appeal of her character and the story itself, which tells of the 1968 strike by women at the Ford Motors factory in Dagenham over equal pay.

She also talks about some of her forthcoming roles and her sudden switch to comedy.

Q. How much did you know about the story before you joined the project?
Rosamund Pike: I think nobody knew the story. [Producer] Stephen Woolley heard something on the radio, an interview, and got the idea for it. But it’s not taught in schools, is it? They start the story of women’s fight for equality with getting the vote.

Q. Why do you think the story was so buried?
Rosamund Pike: Well, perhaps because it wasn’t a massive movement. It was quite a small thing, as opposed to a nationwide movement. This small group wanted to change things but didn’t really want to see fame and attention from it. I saw one of the women being interviewed and she said that people kept coming up to them at the time saying: “Well done!” But they felt really embarrassed. So, I don’t know… But I like how it started off as a very simple grievance – a desire to be classified as skilled workers as opposed to unskilled.

Q. Do you think the film is just for women?
Rosamund Pike: No, I’ve seen it with men who have been in floods of tears about it. I think it resonates with a lot of people and their own families, who haven’t perhaps realised their own potential. I think it’s a lot about realising one’s full potential as much as it is about equal pay. Equal pay is just one little facet of that. With my character as well, she sort of realises in this moment that everything she dreamt of at 21 hasn’t been realised by the time she’s 31. So, I really have seen men be really, really moved by it.

Q. Is there anything you personally feel so passionate about that you’d perhaps fight for as strongly?
Rosamund Pike: God, that’s a good question! I don’t know… have I ever? Yeah but not enough on a public level. If I see any sort of injustice, I can fight like a dog. I’m not frightened to be outspoken and I can get very angry. I think expressing anger is not something that’s considered very feminine… or British! If I saw someone slandered in the press… libel is something I really loathe. So, I probably would speak out about that, whether it was about myself or someone else.

I’m learning to be more outspoken in terms of rights anyway. When you start of self-employed in this business, self employment can be wonderfully freeing or it means you can spend your whole life being under-valued and under-paid. So, you have to re-write the rules a bit, and you have to actually investigate what your contract is. It’s only now that I’m starting to have the courage to do that and work out how things can be better. Usually, when you first start out, you’re so grateful to get anything that you just sort of take it and say: “Thank you very much.” You’re too afraid to even mention the money because it’s embarrassing. But it’s so important to value yourself, and this is a film about valuing yourself.

Q. Did you get to meet any of the actual women?
Rosamund Pike: No, I didn’t.

Q. So, what drew you to your character?
Rosamund Pike: Well, I think without her the film would be very different. Without her, the film is a working class film and with her it’s a film about all women fighting for something. She’s a character who really influences the state of the film. So, that was interesting to me. But it’s also about someone who realises they’ve sort of let themselves down in a way. Partly, her husband treats her like a fool, but she’s also bought into that. It’s not a film critical of men, though. Daniel Mays’ character, for instance, isn’t presented as any kind of chauvinist; it’s more that’s the status quo that’s been accepted by men and women. So, it’s also a turning point to see change in thought. I was on Sky News this morning, and the woman who was talking about the sport said: “Well, I still do everything at home – I mow the lawn, I cook, I clean, I wash…”

Q. How did you enjoy wearing the fashions of the time?
Rosamund Pike: I love the make-up because think it suits everyone. Men really love it, women love it. So, it’s a win-win situation. The hair isn’t so good – the beehive thing isn’t so good on your hair. But it’s funny… it’s quite a done look and yet I find it quite sexy. Often, nowadays, really done looks aren’t considered quite as sexy, but that was quite a winning combination. The very heavy eyes and pushing away of the lips, it was kind of a warm, innocent sort of look. The dresses also flattered people without sort of being figure hugging.

Q. What was the atmosphere like on set?
Rosamund Pike: It was amazing! It was a real team feeling. I’d done An Education with a lot of the crew, so it was the same little fraternity of people doing this rather cool British films that keep cropping up. The production designer was the same, the director photography was the same, the hair and make-up team were the same. So, it was a nice atmosphere. But all my scenes were with Sally, so I didn’t get to mix too much. But the girls had a really wild camaraderie. I think they filmed all the factory scenes in Wales somewhere and I know they had a really crazy, wild time! I think Sally was the only well behaved one, actually… well, according to her!

Q. Can you talk a little about Barney’s Version, which you were also in Toronto promoting recently?
Rosamund Pike: That was a great experience and a really lovely film. I’m so proud of it. Paul Giamatti and I play lovers over 30 years, so I have toy age in it. So, she’s a really different character to any other character I’ve played. She’s very warm, she’s very steady and a really lovely, sweet person. She has brown hair and she becomes 60, so it was all quite exciting.

Q. What was it like looking at yourself when you were made up as a 60-year-old?
Rosamund Pike: Quite scary and quite uncomfortable! We worked on it very hard and it was very convincing… very convincing. To the point, in fact, that certain crew members when we moved into the studio at the end of the shooting period, and all my scenes that I’d shot there first were of my older self, and the last day I was the 28-year-old again, they were like: “My God, they did a really good job of making her young!” I was like: “Oh my God!” I mean, that’s astonishing, right? It wasn’t just the make-up, you see… you adjust your posture and act physically accordingly.

Dustin Hoffman also stars in it and it’s based on a Canadian book of the same title. It’s a cynical comedy that turns into a really romantic story. It suddenly flicks halfway through, and it’s quite an interesting shift. You don’t think it’s going to be this big romance that’s going to move people.

Q. Did you get to share scenes with Dustin Hoffman?
Rosamund Pike: He was around. I only had one scene with him, but he’s just a real raconteur. He was the same as the character in the film, but he’s such a method actor that I didn’t know how much he was playing the character off-screen as well. So, he was telling lots of dirty jokes, but that’s what the character would have done [laughs]. Dustin Hoffman’s son is our son in the film, which is interesting, because he’s about four years younger than me! So, he was playing 19 and I was his mum sending him off to college. But it worked, so it’s weird to watch. But it’s all part of the strange wizardry of film. It’s out in January over here.

Q. What else have you got coming up?
Rosamund Pike: I’ve started filming Johnny English 2 with Rowan Atkinson. An Education really opened all these comedy doors, so I did a comedy called The Big Year and then Rowan asked me to be in his film. So, I thought: “Yeah!” You don’t get to work with two comedy geniuses in a year very often.

Q. So, what was The Big Year like to film, because there’s so many comedy actors on that one, from Owen Wilson to Steve Martin?
Rosamund Pike: Very, very funny. The whole raison d’etre of the set was humour, so that was great. I wondered what I’d been doing all these years… all those serious roles.

Q. So, were you nervous walking onto a set like that?
Rosamund Pike: No, no. I can hold my own I think. I mean, you get the vote of confidence of those guys. They don’t want you in it unless they think you can hold your own.

Read our review of Made in Dagenham

Read our interview with director Nigel Cole