I don’t get parts, I grow parts. All three of those movies took years to finance and create. A “Hollywood” movie like Michael Clayton is a holiday for me.
You won an Oscar for that holiday!
Yes, that was lovely, but I have to admit that I’d never seen the Oscars on television and really had no idea that it was so important. It was a very long show, but it did move me up from the children’s table, professionally, in Hollywood.
Since you won for playing a villain, did you suddenly get offered more
bad guys to play?
Not really, although villains are a diffusion line in my repertoire [Laughs]. The only movie of mine that my children have seen is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where I played the evil White Witch. My daughter said it was too loud. They’re just not Disney kids: They live in Scotland and don’t have a television. When I brought my Oscar home and showed the children, nobody knew what it was. The thing sat on the kitchen table for two weeks. It was kind of meaningless to them.
Did it have meaning for you?
Not really [Laughs]. After winning, I went straight to Milan and started I Am Love. Since then, I haven’t done another Hollywood film.
I would imagine that the female characters in most Hollywood films are
too generic for you. You seem to be attracted to complex and often very
dark personalities. Do you have to like a character to play her?
I have to feel compassion. And I have to be able to imagine myself in the situation. I can imagine myself as the mother of a scary son who looks at you with hatred. It’s not about liking the person, but it is about understanding. The Greeks speak about the violence of the real. I want to get at something real.