From Hampstead to Hollywood: Rachel Weisz reveals all about her meteoric rise and how motherhood is now her favourite role.
Rachel Weisz first appeared on the big screen in Chain Reaction, followed by Bernardo Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty. Neither film showcased her real ability, but Hollywood took notice.
Other film roles came her way, none more eye-popping than her part in The Mummy and its sequel, The Mummy Returns. Hollywood had found a new English rose, and in a few short years, she appeared in Enemy at the Gates, About a Boy and Constantine. But it was Weisz’s fiery and compelling portrayal of Tessa Quayle in The Constant Gardener that finally raised her profile. ‘That was one of those scripts when I just felt, ‘I don’t know how many times in my life I’m going to read something like this,’ she says.
What happened after the film was released is folkloric. Weisz’s star turn evolved into a magical red-carpet ride when, pregnant with her first child, she took home the best supporting actress award from the Screen Actors Guild, the Golden Globes and the Oscars. Did the scripts come pouring in after that? ‘Oh, well, yes,’ she says sheepishly. ‘Things came in from really interesting directors, and I felt really lucky.’ But choosing what to do next proved daunting. ‘It’s all about your choices,’ she says. ‘That’s what a career is made of. I like people who make really bold choices. Nicole Kidman has – she’s made some very commercial films but she’s also made some bold choices.’
And if the choices get smaller? ‘I suppose I’ll take myself back to the theatre,’ she says, without even a trace of resignation. ‘I started out there and I think I can always go back and be an old lady on the stage. It’s so much more forgiving about wrinkles. It’s more forgiving in general. Hollywood is hard. I think it’s very much an old boys’ club. There aren’t enough female directors telling stories from a woman’s point of view.
For now, Weisz need not worry about where her next dollar is coming from, but one thing is clear: motherhood has altered her outlook. ‘In the two films I’ve done since Henry was born, I didn’t take the lead role,’ she says. ‘The first one, My Blueberry Nights, was just ten days’ work, and I had Henry with me the whole time. I wanted to get back into work, but I wanted to ease into it slowly and that seemed like a good way to do it.’
What she really wanted was a comedy. ‘After The Constant Gardener, everything I was offered was really tragic. Then Definitely, Maybe came along.’
The film stars Ryan Reynolds, Elizabeth Banks and Isla Fisher, and in it Weisz plays another supporting role. ‘It was shot in New York, so I could stay home and be with my family. I thought about all those mums who work in offices or factories, who can’t have their babies with them,’ she says. ‘I’m very fortunate that film sets are so open.’
I ask her how motherhood has changed her. ‘Motherhood has made me more content, more fulfilled definitely. It gives me another really good reason to be alive. I didn’t know how I’d be at it,’ she confesses. ‘I’m much less neurotic than I would have expected. I’m pretty laid-back. [Henry’s] a tough little guy. I’m here to protect him and care for him, but I feel comfortable with him exploring the world a little bit.’