Olivia Williams Interview

Eleanor Young talks to Olivia Williams about her powerful new film The Ghost, working with ‘devastatingly handsome' Pierce Brosnan and being a fan of Sex and the City.

We predict great things for Olivia Williams’ new film The Ghost. Also starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan and Kim Cattrall, it’s directed by Roman Polanski and charts the journey of a ghost writer hired to draft the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister.

Marie Claire caught up with Olivia to talk about playing a powerful woman, working with ‘devastatingly handsome’ Pierce Brosnan and being a fan of Sex and the City.

In the film you play Ruth Lang, the Prime Minister’s wife with quite a few secrets up her sleeve. What was it like stepping into the shoes of such a powerful woman?

Ruth spends most of the film having to cover her feelings, and one of the greatest challenges of acting is having a motivation which you have to keep well concealed. She tries, but can’t quite hide her anger or contempt, it’s very interesting. If she was better at flattery she might have been a more successful politician in her own right, but because she’s so tough and bright and unable to hide it, she’s consigned to the wife role.

She’s quite strong and fiery – are you like her at all?

I’m quite strong and fiery! (Laughs) She’s alarmingly like me, I have a short temper.

Do you think that having such a strong personality works against women sometimes?

I think it’s a shame that tough, intelligent, argumentative women put people’s backs up. There is something about it that women don’t like and won’t vote for, like Hilary Clinton losing her bid for power. It was all because people don’t like a smart arsed woman.

It’s interesting to watch Ruth clash with Amelia, her husband’s secretary, played by Kim Cattrall. They don’t get on very well, do they?

No, they don’t. But what’s lovely about these kinds of roles is that people can’t just start chucking things at each other, or get their nails out. Fighting has to be done through restraint and carefully chosen words that have built up over a long period of time. And that for me is drama – you know, sort of modern Jane Austen. It’s where real long-term unpleasant feelings finally escape.

And Amelia’s the stylish one, isn’t she? Ruth doesn’t seem to make much of an effort.

I know many women who are like Ruth and they really don’t give a damn about clothes. The only time she gets any colours out is when she’s trying to seduce Ewan’s character, and her idea of seductive is red. It’s the only time she gets out a trace of red lipstick. Her clothes reflect that total disregard for her shape or her sexuality.

But you styled Ruth carefully?

I got on very well with Diana Coen the costume designer and we really worked hard. We looked for quite odd asymmetric things, strangely cut linen skirts and things that are sort of drapey that theoretically should be nice, but actually just look like a sack of potatoes. We’d consciously look for shapeless, triangular cashmere sweaters that were very warm, but utterly, utterly unflattering. It wasn’t my big Sex and the City role.

Are you a fan of Sex and the City?

Of course! I always found that I felt like I needed a good shower after watching it, but I got on incredibly well with Kim. She’s utterly unlike her role in Sex and the City. She’s very gentle, quite vulnerable and just a sweet, sweet person.

And how was it working with ex-007 Mr Pierce Brosnan?

Pierce is actually the nicest man in the world. Someone as devastatingly handsome as that who’s played James Bond for ten years should be unbearably arrogant and he’s just not! And I’m still trying find the catch with Pierce…

Catch The Ghost in cinemas nationwide from April 16.

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