Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. The film was shot in Romania, Nicole was it a rough shoot
because of all the wild animals?
A: The thing that was amazing shooting there was that it was
so different, even in terms of just taking a walk. The first morning
I was there, I thought I would just set off at 6am, to try and
get over my jet lag and I said, no, no I dont need
anyone with me, Im just going to go off by myself,
and there was this pack of dogs, and I sort of came running back
and I was told that there are lot of wild animals around. And
then we started to see bears, I mean on Saturday night would be
the sort of weekly bear-spotting, wed all have dinner together,
in the guest house. Youd drive to work and then thered
be sheep it was a real mountain town.
Q. Nicole, can imagine yourself coping in that situation?
A. You conjure up those images, because youre character.
I remember we were sitting out on the porch of the house that
we were shooting in, and there was something so simple about it,
that you see the way people existed then, and it was incredibly
satiating at the same time.
I mean, I think the way Ada takes care of herself, of course I
could eventually learn to do that [laughs]. But that, to me, is
one of the most powerful parts of the film, actually, and its
one of the reasons I really wanted to do the film, because I wanted
to work with Renée, and I thought the two of us up a mountain
would be fun. Its a shame shed not here. Where is
AM: Shes in Thailand, shooting Bridget Jones.
NK: Shes just great to be around. We spent a lot
of time together, well over two months, and so we really got to
know each other. And I think that just being the same age actresses;
actresses in the industry, basically in the same position, as
she had Chicago and I had The Hours coming out just when we finished
making the film together, so it was really strange timing, coming
together and being able to share and help each other in the movie.
I hope that friendship comes through, its one of the things
were most proud of.
Q. One of the most remarkable achievements in the film is
the romantic tension thats sustained through very little
dialogue and very few scenes. Obviously thats down to casting,
directing and writing, but was it ever a concern for you that
people had to buy into the reality of Inman being driven on his
journey by Ada?
AM: I remember when I was researching The English Patient,
and I kept reading about wartime romances and war brides, and
this strange thing that happens, that when death is very close
at hand, life becomes very urgent and it accelerates relationships.
People cling to each other, people cling to life in the face of
cruelty and death. It feels to me that in these periods all the
volume controls are turned up: The camaraderie and compassion
exists with enormous illustrations of violence and lack of tenderness.
There were stories of soldiers returning from the Second World
War and being greeted by a sea of faces of women at the barricades,
and not knowing which one they married four or five years previously.
It felt very true to me, that part of the story.
But also, I would say this, that first of all, these characters
are very conscious of the fact that they hardly know each other,
its the thing that pre-occupies them. Theyre holding
on to the idea of something good in the face of something bad.
Q. Nicole, does that raise the stakes for you and Jude in
those few scenes you have?
A. It was certainly something that the three of us talked
about, because it was really like a triangle in terms of Anthony,
Jude and I, when we embarked on this together. It was a strange
coming together when we had the rehearsal period.
Jude and I were like, okay, how do we make it believable,
when we would literally share, at most, a kiss and glances and
the occasional minute touch of a hand, and then make it believable
that that would stay present in someones head and be their
light for such a long period of time and draw them back.
I would constantly be saying to Anthony, are you sure weve
got enough? And it was more up to him to know what hed
captured, because I think we were both so existing in it, that
youre really in the hands of the director.
And I hope, you hope, that people will buy into it, that people
will believe it. Its also an idea that Jude and I bought
into, as we were basically passing ships in the night, because
he would be carrying one part of the film, and I would go back
to America, and then I would come back and he would go back to
London, so we were constantly crossing in the night.
But we would constantly say to each other, hold it, remember it
in the scenes, the presence of each other. Because we were both
very much aware of trying to feed that into each scene, to the
point where you feel snow and you remember Inman, that everybody,
somehow, has a presence of the person, that youre still
seeing the world through there eyes. Which I think is when you
are existing with the thought of someone, you view the world with
them, even if theyre not there.
AM: I wrote this moment, when Ada is reading from Wuthering
Heights, about the love of Kathy and Heathcliff (Little
visible delight, but necessary.) And that seemed to be the
clue to the character.
But also, we werent simply trying to make a love story,
and I think if we had, wed have approached the film differently.
The relationship between Ada and Ruby is at least as significant
as the one between Ada and Inman. And the fact that theyre
both on journeys, and their journeys collide, is important ,and
it was also the case that Jude is on an odyssey to get home. Ada
stands in for home. In the same way that there is a real Cold
Mountain, theres a series of Buddhist poems called Cold
Mountain, which is a spiritual destination.
If youll allow me to at least say there are other things
going on in this film, one which is to look at how people find
redemption, and how they find atonement, and the whole emotion
of walking and journeying, in the same way that a pilgrimage in
the medieval period was a penance that you did to be allowed home.
That was very much in my mind in the film, as well as the simple
romantic connection between a man and a woman.
Q. Nicole, any plans for any more theatre work in London?
A. I was going to do one with Sam Mendes, at the Donmar, but
I ended up doing Cold Mountain instead.
Q. Would you like to be directed by Anthony again?
A. We are going to do a recording of Ann Carson, the Canadian
poet, who Anthony introduced me to actually, and were going
to do a recording of The Glass Essay, which is one
of her poems. Its beautiful.
Q. This one of several quite arduous roles youve taken
recently do you ever take the trauma that you experience
on screen home with you?
A. This was my balance film. Dogville
and the The Human Stain, I
kind of pick things in threes, not consciously, but there seems
to be something there, and this, for me, was something I needed
to do because it was about belief in someone, not actually losing
belief in someone. I felt that Ada is not damaged, I think Ada
still has this beautiful innocence, and when somebody says theyll
come back, she still believes that they will, even though that
wavers within, the basis of that is always there, where as something
like Dogville is a lot different.
And it certainly stays with you, I think each roles takes something
from you, and then sort of circles around you for the rest of
your life. I dont really think you abandon any of them.
Q. Was working on the accent more difficult this time, given
that Adas personality changes?
A. I was conscious of doing that, of having some of the effects
of Renée, espeicially in the last quarter of the movie.
In terms of the Charleston accent, its very different from
the accents that the other actors were doing.
And some of the sounds sound unusual, but theyre very, very
precise sounds, and you have to do them, because to a well-trained
American ear, they can hear absolutely everything. Luckily, Charles
Frazier gave me the thumbs up on the accent, which was all I cared
about, and his wife and his daughter, and I remember when Charles
visited the set and hed spent six years writing this book.
So the idea of meeting the author and knowing that youre
portraying something that has existed in his head for such a long
time was very intimidating. I did it with Michael Cunningham [author
of The Hours] but Virginia was a person in real life.
But to actually meet the author and be playing a person that didnt
exist, except to them, was very difficult. He was very generous
to us and he came to Romania and he embraced all of us, which
was very important to me, in the same way that with Philip Roth,
for The Human Stain, and Michael Cunningham the last few
films have been based on important, important novels.
Q. On behalf of all the women in the world, how did you look
so fantastic with death and blood and guts all around. How was
the porcelain skin maintained.
A. I had a tan I did [she emphasizes, laughing].
AM: I want to say that the thing thats infuriating,
as a filmmaker, is that whatever you do to her, she looks beautiful.
NK: Thats not true [laughs and blushes]
AM: Thats so true. Ann Roth, whos the costume
designer, did a lot of work, because part of the story of Ada
is that she starts off as a kind of doll. She is this strange
creature, who appears in an ordinary town and everybodys
head turns. And she wears all of these costumes and corsets, to
represent d the idea that shes constrained and in her fathers
And Ann came up with this idea that when Donald Sutherlands
character dies, she simply gives the rack of Donald Sutherlands
clothes to Nicole and says this is what you have, make them
work. So for the rest of the film, shes wearing the
remnants of her own clothes, and some of Donalds clothes,
and from the minute she puts them on she looks like she just came
out of Prada. It was absurd!
NK: Thats brutal. There was a conscious decision
by Ann Roth, in terms of the trajectory of the character: at the
beginning, thats why she dresses me in that cream outfit
,when Im walking up that dirty mountain, and believe me
its very hard to walk up a dirty mountain wearing cream,
with Ann Roth going, dont get it dirty because we
only have one.
But it really fed into it, because I just felt like a strange
bird. And it was wonderful to have those things. The way you move
and suddenly you would have us in the real corsets, the real boots
which are very slippery, but it was great because when Renees
running me round the mountain, I was literally tripping and falling
around, desperately trying to keep up with her because all of
my things changed the way I moved.
And there was a huge emphasis on the hair and the size of their
waste. It was particularly important to a woman from Charleston.
And then by the end of it, no it was just trying to stay warm
and braiding my hair and thats more what I prefer.
Q. Nicole, everyone who works with Donald Sutherland has a
story to tell do you?
A. I have a crush on him. He has a lot of stories because
he has been in some of the greatest films. Id just sit there
and say tell me about Klute, tell me about Jane Fonda, tell me
about Dont Look Now, how did you shoot that love scene in
Dont Look Know, what was Julie Christie like? Hes
very open and a wonderful actor and has incredible knowledge,
in terms of books, and he was very willing to share, and I just
adored him. I was so glad he was playing my father.
Q. Nicole, you always seem to be in serious movies, can you
see yourself acting in a comedy?
A. I just finished The Stepford Wives, we hope its a
comedy. Scott Rudin, who produced The Hours, said you need to
go to Summer camp and Stepford Wives is going to give you Summer
camp. But I tell you, comedy is a lot harder. Im on holiday