Sally Hawkins interview

The star of Mike Leigh's new comedy-drama talks to Marie Claire

Rising British actress Sally Hawkins, 31, stars as Poppy, the eternally sunny primary school teacher heroine of Mike Leigh’s new comedy-drama Happy-Go-Lucky, a role that won her Best Actress at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival.

Are you as upbeat as Poppy, your character in Happy-Go-Lucky?

I naturally have an optimistic approach to life and I’m told I’m a smiley person. I love humour and comedy and I’m a giggler, like Poppy! I was aware from early on that Mike wanted to draw out that side of me. So, yeah, I do have a similar energy to Poppy. It was really nice to be free with my love of humour and to make jokes and to be naughty and mischievous – and not be told off for it!

She wears some very loud clothes. Is that your style?

Well, it was good fun to do. I don’t wear bright orange clothes or leopard skin boots, but it was really good fun to play someone that does and have an excuse too! I’ll never go to those extremes – touch wood – but when I was rehearsing, I was aware of how it was having an effect on my style. I do remember going on a shopping trip for myself, and coming home with this collection of colourful T-shirts – and then having to take them back!

What about the bright orange knickers?

Should I admit this? Yeah, they’re mine! [laughs]. Oh, dear!

Do you have sisters like Poppy?

I don’t have sisters, but I have an older brother who I love very much. We’re very similar in some ways and very different in others. A similar sense of humour. I admire him so much. I look up to him. He works on the Internet – he has his own company designing web pages – but he’s a very talented writer and comic. He’s very funny and could’ve acted as well.

What do your parents do?

My parents are very creative. They write and draw children’s books. They’ve done Mr. Wolf, Cosmic Cat, Mick the Pig, Jenny the Hen, Todd the Dog, Zug the Bug! But I don’t know how they work together 24/7. They’ve done it for over twenty years, now.

You’re also coming up as Colin Farrell’s wife in the new Woody Allen film, Cassandra’s Dream. How was it to work with Colin?

Oh, God! Lush! Colin is just adorable. I can’t say that enough. When I first met him, I couldn’t get it out of my head that it was him and I was intimidated by the fact he was a huge star. But he was so down-to-earth, and he really took me under his wing. I was overwhelmed. He’s a beautiful man! In all ways – not just the eyes!

Happy-Go-Lucky opens on 18 April.

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