At what point in the process of making this film, for instance, does casting play a role?
I try to finish the script. You don't finish the script until the final cut. I took it as far as I could take it on the page, and I say a page because I write on paper, then start the casting process. What I've learnt to do is to take my time with that and refuse to rush into a bad decision, because it's so crucial getting it right. It's so important because once I do commit to an actor, I'm totally committed and I will do anything to help that actor to get to the right place.
It's interesting you chose American actors for these British roles. They were great, but someone like Christina Hendricks [who plays Ginger's mother in a powerful dramatic role] was almost unrecognizable.
You know people didn't realize it was her, and that Elle is Elle, it was a huge transformation for the film, to embody what they needed to.
Do the actors notice that they're making such a complete transformation?
Pushing themselves to new areas is what they love to do, that's their trade. Moving to new areas is dangerous, exciting, everybody wants to cross their personal limits and find out what else they can do, explore their range, and do something that's true.
I imagine by reading the script it's not immediately apparent that they are going to be that transformed so completely.
Actors are the best people to read a script. They can see from a page what the potential is, where they may go with it.
How long do you work with your actors?
It depends on the individual. Sometimes you meet someone for day, half a day or a few hours, but you have to see that their work carries on. Annette Benning and I exchanged emails. I insist on preparation, real preparation, whatever it takes for each individual. It's quite rare to get that. It's not really about quantity of time, but quality of time.
And do you think the quality was able to come through on your emails with Annette?
We sent each other some poems, references -- we also met, of course. You build a conversation to find a common ground and to know where you're going.
And so what was your experience of working with all these excellent actors?
They're brilliant! They're fascinating and intelligent. And another thing all of these actors have in common is that they are not only interested in their own part, they're interested in the whole movie, of which they are a part. They bring the feeling of responsibility which goes beyond the individual bit. You feel that. These people enter into a world, and helping to create the world and atmosphere of the world and presence.