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Interview: In Demand 'Shadow Dancer' Star Andrea Riseborough On the Power of Silence

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire May 31, 2013 at 7:54PM

This time last year, few probably knew British star Andrea Riseborough by name. Prior to appearing at Sundance in January, 2012 in support of her staggering performance in James Marsh's IRA thriller "Shadow Dancer," the 31-year-old Royal Academy of Dramatic Art graduate had appeared as a scene-stealing supporting player in "Happy-Go-Lucky," "Never Let Me Go," "Made in Dagenham" and "Brighton Rock," as well as Wallis Simpson (aka the Duchess of Windsor) in Madonna's "W.E." But it wasn't until this Spring's Tom Cruise-starring sci-fi blockbuster "Oblivion," that many cinemagoers finally got their Riseborough fix. Her revelatory performance as Cruise's mysterious romantic and work partner was more transfixing than the bulk of CGI wonders on display.
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Shadow Dancers, Clive Owen, Andrea Risenborogh

And when you speak of your collaborative experience with James, what kind of work did you two do prior to shooting this film?

The blueprint was there, so he was very ego-less about wanting to make it work. And it’s not something that felt like we had to fix because it was so wonderful in the beginning. Our process was really a separate preparation and then shooting.

There are so many private things in that world that are wrought with paranoia. Everything is so private that really we were all allowed our own relationship with the story. James is very protective of that and supportive in that way.

That paranoia you’re speaking of is expressed so vividly in the film. For the first few scenes, you’re never really sure where the film’s going, who your character is, why Clive Owen’s character is interrogating you. Hardly any context is given.

Yeah, that was one of the things that kind of interested me most. I just think that we have such a vivid-minded, brilliant, bright film going audience internationally. And we should never really forget that. I thought it was wonderful to see it unravel and not be able to place it immediately. We shouldn't have the security of knowing exactly which fraught political situation we are in without allowing the characters to enter into our hearts first. And so I thought that was the most brilliant way to explore it.

It’s that mysterious quality of your performance that made you so fascinating to watch. Collette hardly utters a word in the film; everything's conveyed in her eyes. What was it like playing a character who doesn’t express herself vocally?

I think very familiar in lots of ways. It was desperately fighting through the anxiety, the terror of jeopardizing her son’s life and her own and an inability to escape -- this paranoia stemming from the discovery of betrayal that forced her into a state of verbal paralysis and almost calm. I think that really that’s the key.

It must be so, so very difficult to get through life with that kind of anxiety. I mean, it must be horrendous.

Shadow Dancer

I kept expecting Collette to have her breakdown scene, but that never happens.

Because the stakes are too high. There are certainly moments where a little air is let out of the balloon. There are little moments of release, little moments like that -- a euphoric misery because of the desperation of the situation. But there are also so many moments of happiness, in the sense that her son gives her total joy. She loves and has always been surrounded by a very loyal family. So that’s the thing that’s most trapping for her.

Given that you had to bottle her rage in, did you take this character home with you? As you’re talking to me now, I can sense you’re still deeply connected to her.

I think it’s just impossible not to take them home. But I’m sure you can imagine it’s just that thing of totally immersing yourself in it. Not only in them, but also in their world. You kind of have a dualism with which you approach the world because for a time I’ll see things through your eyes and then having another kind of perception of the world. Whatever you see, you have sort of two opinions about it and you don’t really put that down until you’ve finished the project. Until, of course, you play something else. Then that’s a completely different perspective.

I think that’s one of the most wonderful things about acting. That’s one of the reasons I’m most excited about what I do because I feel that it might even afford us the chance to have many great, very different perspectives on the world. And that’s a great thing. The fortunate thing, of course, is that I can pick it up, put it down and walk away from it. I’m not trapped in that situation.

Was last night the first time you saw the film?

No.

Where did you see it first?

I saw it with one of my representatives and it was just us watching it. And I think last night when I watched it, I watched it far more with my heart at the front of my mouth. Because it really felt like the whole room was going through it together. I could hear people breathe. And it was very exciting.

What’s it like watching yourself on screen? You’re almost in every frame of this film.

I think it’s something you get kind of used to. You can almost sit there and watch it objectively as if they’re a different person and then have those emotions again, but have them as an onlooker. It’s terribly embarrassing when you make yourself laugh or cry. Like to somebody sitting next to you, “I’m sorry, sorry! It’s the mood it’s the tone, it wasn’t me.”


This article is related to: Interviews, Andrea Riseborough, Shadow Dancer, Drama, Sundance Film Festival, Clive Owen





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