OK, actress Abbie Cornish went on far too long this weekend during the “Limitless” junket about being a vegetarian (booooring), but the Australian beauty is still tops in our book. Coming off an amazing (and sadly unrecognized turn) in Jane Campion‘s “Bright Star,” Cornish’s career has taken some interesting twists and turns. While it feels as if she’s gone mainstream or at least is taking off, nabbing roles in Zack Snyder‘s tentpole ,”Sucker Punch,” the high-concept “Limitless,” and seemingly finding herself in the mix for several hot projects (“The Great Gatsby,” “Prometheus” and many more), Cornish’s journey seems to simply be an exploratory one; trying on whatever comes her way that sounds like a new challenge, indie, tentpole or otherwise.
Case in point, her next picture will be a small, small indie film by relatively forgotten filmmaker David Riker who was hailed in 1998 for his debut picture, “La Ciudad,” which was nominated for several awards that year including the Independent Spirit Awards, The Gotham Awards and the SXSW Film Festival . While it’s been almost 13 years since “La Ciudad,” Riker, who penned “Sleepdealer” in the interim, is finally set to shoot his next picture, “The Girl,” starring Cornish, who replaced Emily Blunt earlier this year.
“It’s the story of a 25-year-old Texan girl who lives quite close to the Mexican border,” Cornish explained about her character Ashley. “She has a five-year-old son that she’s lost to the welfare system, she sees an opportunity to make money bringing illegal immigrants across the border. So she does it as a one-off and during this incident in a river, she’s left with the responsibility of a 9-year-old girl. So it’s her journey with a 9-year-old Mexican girl through Mexico to get her home.”
With a nine-week shoot planned in Mexico later this Spring, it occurred to the actress that it’s the most challenging film she’s ever done so far and she’s actually learning Spanish for the role as well. “I’m prepping more on this film than I have on any other film before. The only one that would come close in regards to preparation is ‘Sucker Punch’ but that was very much physical preparation, because we trained for three months before we started filming. 70 percent of my dialogue is in Spanish. I don’t know how to speak Spanish, if only the NZT drug was real!” she said, referring to the smart drug in “Limitless” that allows its users to unlock the other 90 percent of their brain and therefore unleash an intelligence that makes learning new languages an afternoon task.
“I wish I had a year up my sleeve before I made the movie,” she said of her prep time. “I’ve only got a couple of months, but I can only do what I can do. I go to Mexico really soon. I’m going to spend a lot of time with the little girl, her name is Maritza, she’s a non-actor and doesn’t speak a word of English, so it’s pretty awesome.”
Cornish also spoke about her role in Madonna’s upcoming sophomore feature-length effort, the two-tiered romantic drama “W.E..” And while the actress said making the film was enjoyable, it was also one of the hardest shoots she’s ever had to work on because of the surplus of material they had to get through in a limited amount of time. “There was so much in the script. I was amazed, we shot it all,” she said. “I know Madonna had to work hard in the editing room because it could be like a four hour film — you have two stories that run parallel. So you have two whole lives that you are trying to express and tell, and get [the film] under two hours.” [ed. “W.E.” is bifurcated and focuses on the affair between King Edward VIII and American divorcée Wallis Simpson plus a contemporary romance between a married woman and a Russian security guard.]
The actress had nothing but praise for the musical icon-turned-filmmaker, though noted her approach to visuals was atypical. “Working with Madonna was great,” she said. “It was different because she comes from a music background, but she’s a natural director that’s for sure and it’s in her blood, because throughout her life she’s dealt with choreography, dance and orchestrating things in that way, it was definitely a forte for her during the process of filmmaking.”
Cornish, who first broke out in the 2004 Aussie film, “Sommersault,” extolled the virtues of working with first-time feature-length filmmaker Cate Shortland as a near-magical experience and said she would certainly be game to work with the director again, who is busy tending to her family. “Who knows when she’ll make her next film. She seems to be taking her time, but if I get the opportunity, I would love to work with her again.”