Rachel Weisz has long campaigned for more equality in Hollywood’s “boys’ club”.
The Academy Award winner (the London-born star took home Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Constant Gardener) has a particular distaste for the tag “strong female”, previously stating: “You never say to a male actors, ‘You play lots of strong men’, unless they play men with really big biceps!”.
The conversation, she insists, should be far simpler.
“It would be great to have more female directors, just more leading parts for women,” she explains, her tone defiant.
“That they’re the main character so it’s a story about a woman, rather than just a story about a man with some supporting females.
“I’m not one for complaining too much because I think I don’t know how much it helps,” the 47-year-old quickly adds. “I just think women should do things by example and just get things made and done.”
Weisz, who impressed in Yorgos Lanthimos’s 2015 Cannes Jury Prize winner, The Lobster, is on her way to doing just that.
Subverting ageism and sexism in Tinseltown, the brunette crusader is quickly racking up producer credits, including an adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s novel, Disobedience, among others.
She has also admitted to buying up the rights to novels (one being Susan Minot’s Thirty Girls) where, as she puts it, “I can see parts for me to act in”.
“Men develop and create their own roles as well, so it’s not just unique to the female condition,” she elaborates, “But yeah, I’m just finding roles that I want to play.”
It is apt, then, that her latest outing in Roger Michell’s big-screen take on Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel, My Cousin Rachel, puts her front and centre.
The dark romance tells the story of a young Englishman who plots revenge against his beautiful cousin, believing that she murdered his guardian.
It’s a titular part Weisz could play with conviction.
“The whole fun of the film is to trying to figure out whether Rachel can be trusted, and I just love that the story is equally weighted both ways,” she gushes. “I think it will divide people on the question of whether or not Rachel is up to no good.
“That’s what makes it such an unusual love story and so compelling and haunting,” she muses. “It asks how much do you really ever know a person and can your impressions of someone go completely, devastatingly wrong?”
The chance to work with Michell was also a draw for Weisz.
“I’ve always wanted to work with Roger, as I’ve been a fan for a long time,” she enthuses. “I found that he’s a director who really searches to find out what makes actors tick.
“He’s always gentle and kind, but he’s exacting. He knows precisely what he wants, and he also likes things to be surprising. There’s nothing rigid or boring about the way he works.”
Does she worry about the risk, translating du Maurier’s world to film?
“I think every job is a risk,” she answers poignantly. “It’s a big collaboration, particularly with film, [because] it’s a directors’ medium. Everything might get cut... Not everything but you know, it’s all a risk.”
She has had to learn to let go, however: “It’s a bit like life, you just don’t know what’s around the corner,” says Weisz. “As much as we try and control things, try and be the author of our lives, you just don’t know what’s going to happen, right?”
But while she can relax somewhat in front of the camera, plays, she believes, are “way more dangerous”. You can’t do it again.
It is a something, despite years of stage experience (Weisz most recently trod the boards in an off-Broadway revival of David Hare’s Plenty), that terrifies her.
“But if you didn’t get scared any more it’d be time to give up,” she insists.
“It’s like a blur; I guess maybe somebody would say that after getting married if they had a big wedding, I didn’t have a big wedding, but you know people go to a big event and you can’t remember it afterwards? It’s like that.”
My Cousin Rachel is in cinemas from Friday June 9