Follow Us on Twitter

Straightheads - Gillian Anderson interview

Gillian Anderson in Straightheads

Interview by Rob Carnevale

GILLIAN Anderson talks about appearing in revenge thriller Straightheads and why it’s set to shock people as being one of the most hard-hitting films of her career.

She also elaborates on some of the more violent elements of the film and reveals why she hopes it will open up some relevant debates about the nature of crime and the capacity for forgiveness…

Q. This is possibly the darkest thing you’ve ever done. What was the appeal?
Gillian Anderson: It’s funny because sometimes one doesn’t actually consider these things for one’s self until one’s in a situation like this [press conferece] where one has to kind of think about it. In retrospect, I think that I’ve been given quite a few scripts over the years that had dark elements to them but most of them took place in the countryside with a haunted house. I think I’ve probably had that script about six to 10 times over the past few years. Or it was something to do with the supernatural.

This was the first time a script came across my path that kind of floored me in its darkness. I’m fully aware of the presence of darkness in the world today, in my own world, and the juxtaposition between dark and light in human beingness. But I think that’s always been something that I’ve wanted to jump into; I’ve wanted to express that aspect of myself. This was an opportunity to do so. But I also liked the script and met with Dan and liked his intentions for it and vision for it.

Q. Were you intrigued by the strength of your character given that she really takes the lead in getting revenge?
Gillian Anderson: Yes, it’s not very often that you see that kind of situation in a realistic kind of set-up, that isn’t Tomb Raider or where you see the female coming on with huge machine guns strapped over her shoulders. It was an interesting opportunity as an actor to explore that kind of cathartic rage that might get pent up over time at being the victim of such an atrocious act as that degree of rape.

What I find very interesting in that a lot of the conversations I have about the film, not many people talk about the rape. They do have a tendency to jump immediately to the last scene of revenge and skip over the fact that there is quite a brutal rape that takes place which contributes to getting this character to the place where she might be able to do what she does at the end of the film.

Q. The final scene is a difficult one because there’s a moment when you even start to feel a bit of sympathy for Heffa?
Gillian Anderson: In reading the script and partly in playing the scene with him, I did as a human being find myself for a minute feeling sorry for him – in regards to the story about his daughter and being terrorised by these guys. I experienced the same dilemma in a way. On the one hand, I tried to view that last scene with a bit of sympathy, but there’s only so far one can take that before doing what my character actually does.

But what is interesting about this film is that it does bring up these conversations and these issues. We’re at the very beginning of doing press and there’s been some really, really fascinating coversations about all different aspects of it. So, if that’s what comes out of it ultimately – people sitting down and having discussions about violence, the nature of violence, about rape, or even forgiveness and the ability to question one’s own morality – then that’s brilliant.

Q. Was there an element of improvisation in your relationship with Danny Dyer?
Gillian Anderson: It was all very scripted. But I think from the moment Danny and I met in the audition we got along really well and understood each other on some strange level. He’s a joy to be with. He cracks everyone up and everyone starts swearing around him. So he made it really easy.

Q. Did you find that casting directors perceived you differently after playing Lady Dedlock in Bleak House?
Gillian Anderson: I think what happened with Lady Dedlock was that when I was offered the role, I’d been so used to being typecast that when they were presenting it to me I was literally thinking: “Are you talking to me? Do you know who you’re asking?” I felt like I could do it but I was amazed that there was somebody out there who thought I might be able to.

I think the way it’s all shaping together – Lady Dedlock, X-Files, Straightheads – is all part of a bigger whole. Right now, they might seem a bit disjointed. People might ask: “What the hell is she doing this for?” And it might not make sense. But I think overall it makes sense to me and that’s all that really matters.

Read our review of Straightheads

Read our interview with writer-director Dan Reed