Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. You look very different now to when you are on screen as
Cassandra in I Capture The Castle
A. Yes! They cut my hair off, made it quite short and dyed
it brown. Cassandra is not supposed to be a great beauty, so the
dresses I wore were not flash, or anything.
I didn't mind. My little sister is the beauty in my family, so
I am used to taking a back seat. She's this gorgeous, tall, skinny,
Nordic-looking blonde, so I'm very used to having guys elbow me
out the way.
Q. Was there much competition in your family, as with the
Mortmains in the film?
A. Not really. What's nice, because in our family we'll all
good at different things, there's not a great deal of rivalry.
Our parents are very laid-back - there was never any pressure
to succeed at anything, as long as we were happy and content.
My elder sister is in publishing, my younger sister is at university
doing Equine Science - she wants to be a horse doctor, while my
elder brother does nothing at all!
Q. Do you relate to Cassandra and her situation?
A. I'm in this bizarre situation, where a part of me is very
like Cassandra, but another part of me is very like her sister,
Rose. Because I'm an actor, it's very much being the centre of
attention - which is the 'Rose' side. But I'm also gormless and
geeky, and that's more like Cassandra.
Q. Is your family like that of Cassandra's?
A. Oh, yes! My family is mad. I think everybody's family
is eccentric, in different ways. Families by their very nature
I'm lucky in that I have a very close relationship with my Dad,
and that really rang true to me in the film. There comes a point
when daughters grow up and they're not little girls anymore -
and Daddy isn't the man who can fix everything. Cassandra has
an element of that with Mortmain, and I've had to go through that
with my father. We've had to come to terms with the dynamic of
being two adults.
Q. You were working with established actors like Bill Nighy
and Henry Thomas. How did that feel?
A. I just really felt, especially during the rehearsal period,
that I was not bringing anything to this table in the way that
everyone else was - in terms of their talent. I was just some
school kid. They were used to being in front of cameras, and I
wasn't, and it was hugely intimidating.
But everyone I worked with was unendingly supportive, and if I
needed help, or asked for advice, they were always fantastic without
ever being patronising.
Q. From your own perspective, were you curious about Henry
Thomas' experiences as a child star?
A. I didn't know he was the boy in E.T.
until three weeks into the shoot. I suddenly had all these questions
- all these ideas you have in your mind about child actors, like
'Are you a really damaged soul?'
It had never crossed my mind before. He was very tolerant. I managed
to hold out for a long time, but in the end I cracked. He told
me all about the experience, but when he talks about himself,
he doesn't talk about his work but his life. He's an incredibly
real man. He's not like an actor or a star. It's an incredible
testament to his spirit that he wasn't damaged by it in anyway.
Q. How was it filming the lake scene, where you go swimming?
A. It was really cold. It was the end of October and I was
wearing a woollen swimming costume. They told me I'd have to jump
in once - but I jumped in eight times.
Q. And the nude sunbathing at the end?
A. Well, you can't see the vitals! And that was the only thing
that worried me. Tim [Fywell, the director] said very early on
in the shoot, 'We're not going to see your nips!'
Q. Where were you brought up?
A. I was born in Hong Kong, lived in the Far East until
I was eight, then Wiltshire until I was 16. Then I moved to London,
and moved in with my sister. I did my A-levels at City, then went
to Queen Mary & Westfield University to study literature for
a year, but left when I got the role in I Capture The Castle.
Q. So, this was your first film experience?
A. No, I had a small role in Gillies Mackinnon's Last of the
Blonde Bombshells when I was doing my A levels. I had already
done school plays and been in the National Youth Theatre.
Q. You recently starred in the BBC dramatisation of Daniel
Deronda, and you are coming up in a screen version of Nicholas
Nickleby, as his sister, Kate. Is it getting easier or harder
A. It's taken me a while to realise it takes a lot to be a
good actor, and you have to respect the craft. Every job I do,
I realise how little I know. I still think the best performance
I have given is Cassandra, because I had no idea about the industry
and how it would effect my life.
Q. Given that you left university early, do you have any regrets?
A. No. I'm very much into self-improvement - particularly
with cinema. I've just started watching Hitchcock films and I
recently saw Michael Moore's Bowling
For Columbine, which was a revelation for me. I do my best
to extend my knowledge, but I always seem to be ten steps behind
everyone else - but I do try.
Q. What else do you like to do when you're not acting?
A. Read, go to the theatre, clubbing, playing pool in the
pub with my friends. They're all students - all the people I went
to school or university with. In one way it feels like everyone
I know is having these great experiences, but I'm sure they're
also going, 'God, you're so lucky!'
Q. And you are about to star in Havana Nights, the sequel
to Dirty Dancing, for Miramax
A. Yes. I sent a tape off in October, and they liked it and
I auditioned - three weeks later I found out I had the part.
It's set in the Fifties, and it's about an American family who
move to Cuba just before the Revolution. It's about the difference
between the White Americans and the Cubans at that time. I'm playing
the rich, white American girl who falls in love with a Cuban guy,
played by Diego Luna, from Y
Tu Mama Tambien.
Q. It doesn't sound much like the original
A. There's a lot of Salsa dancing too! He teaches her to Salsa
dance, and that's about the release of passion. She's become uptight.
Q. Do you think it will propel up the Hollywood ladder?
A. It's bizarre to see it as a ladder. It's different from
careers where people do just go up a rung. It's an American film
- but massive budget studio films can flop, while tiny British
movies can be the film of the year. Every time you start a film,
you want it to be successful, but just because it's American and
big budget does not guarantee success. It's more hit-and-miss