Saturday, October 08, 2011
The actor on Baftas, backstage pranks and her West End debut in Death and the Maiden
Thandie Newton can't hide her excitement. The actress has starred with Tom Cruise and Will Smith and won a Bafta, but now she is about to make her stage debut in a West End run of Death and the Maiden. "I just can't wait. Ten years ago I would have been terrified, now emotionally I am ready to do this," she says.
It is a few days before rehearsals start and we are the only people in an enormous cafe at a west London studio where Newton, dressed casually in skinny grey jeans and a sweatshirt, has just been photographed for the play's poster. Isn't she jumping in at the deep end by playing the lead role as the tortured political prisoner in Ariel Dorfman's acclaimed play?
"It's such a great part and the opportunity to play a role from start to finish," she says quietly. "Acting on a film is like having to interrupt peeing or an orgasm. Literally having to 'uggh' [she takes a sharp intake of breath] start and stop."
Newton, 38, has starred in films for 20 years since her debut in Flirting, alongside her friend Nicole Kidman, but her stock rose significantly, especially in Britain, after she won a Bafta for Crash in 2005. "I don't think people ever really knew where I was from before, so they assumed I wasn't British." Her latest film, Retreat, a tense drama co-starring Cillian Murphy, about an unhappy couple stranded on a remote island, opens this month.
Working in the theatre means a short commute from her north-west London home where she lives with her husband, the writer and director Ol Parker, and their two daughters. With Parker busy directing his second film, Now Is Good, Newton has been on domestic duty. "I was feeling smug at the start of the summer as he was working really long hours and I was taking the kids off to Ibiza. Now I'm tired, it's such a marathon." A few minutes later Newton's mobile bleeps: it is her nanny phoning to say she has set off the smoke alarm by mistake.
As well as the opportunity to immerse herself in Death and the Maiden, Newton is looking forward to playing some pranks. During the press junket for Run Fatboy Run she filled Simon Pegg's water bottles with vodka, so what is she planning now? "I wouldn't want to do anything to them during the play, this is not a play where you want to corpse, just saying the word corpse in the context of this play seems incredibly inappropriate. But I think a dressing room door locked now and again is OK."
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
10 minutes with Thandie Newton
15 Apr 2011
The fashionable film star talks protests, rehab and practical jokes with Hannah Nathanson
You studied social anthropology at Cambridge, would you have joined the recent protest?
God, yes! I think that protest was hugely significant. The government should take into account the fact that people have taken to the streets unhappy and allow that to be part of the ongoing dialogue.
How are the cuts affecting you?
It's always the arts. It's the most obvious place to make cuts, but it's also the place everyone goes when they need their broken hearts mended.
Who are you wearing today?
Jonathan Saunders. I get a huge amount of attention when I wear his designs. They flatter me and make me feel unique.
Would you feel comfortable wearing John Galliano?
If someone's gone into rehab, I'm not thinking about their clothes. This is a much bigger deal than clothes; this is about a human being who's trying to check out of life.
Would you be willing to forget about what he said?
It goes way beyond what was said and any insults or offence taken. This is a human being who is in pain and I hope to God that he finds a way through that. I will be there to applaud him.
You obviously feel strongly about it…
It makes me emotional to talk about it.
Let's change the subject. What do you do when you're bored?
I play practical jokes.
Do you have a signature prank?
Growing up in Cornwall, we used to play a joke called 'shitty handbag'.
Goodness. How does that work?
We'd scoop up hot, fresh horse poo, put it in an inexpensive handbag and leave it on the roadside. We'd then hide in the bushes nearby until some kind, honest person would come along and pick up the handbag thinking it had been accidentally dropped and look inside.
Did you run away at that point?
No, they'd be hit in the face by this steaming poo and at that moment we'd scream 'shitty handbag!' and then run off. It provided hours of fun. I played a version of it on Graham Norton when I went on his show.
Have you ever had your comeuppance?
Filming Mission: Impossible II, my co-star Richard Roxburgh got me good. It's a gorgeous feeling, though, when you think, 'Oh my God, someone's left a poo in my handbag!' and then you realise that it's actually a squashed Mars bar. It's a sense of relief followed by good humour.
Thandie Newton is ambassador for the British Designers Collective, a unique collaboration between Value Retail and the British Fashion Council (01869 245 618; bicestervillage.com)