Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thandie interviewed in FT

Thandie Newton
November 8 2008
Actress Thandie Newton, 36, has starred in the television show ER and several films, including the Oscar-winning Crash (2005). She is an ambassador of Volvic and World Vision's campaign (, for which Volvic supplies 10 litres of drinking water in Africa for every litre of Volvic bought in the UK. Newton stars in W , which opens this weekend in the UK.

What is the first charity you can remember supporting?

When I was 11, I became vegetarian, and sent my pocket money to the League Against Cruel Sports.

As I've got older and become exposed to person to person violence, my focus has changed from animal to human rights.

Fame is the toxic by-product of an acting career, but if I can use it for good, I'd rather raise awareness of human rights issues. Humans are going to destroy the world before animals do. I gave up vegetarianism when I was 21.

Which cause do you feel most passionately about?

In general, it's about protecting children and innocence. I'm working with Volvic because they've wisely chosen to support World Vision - a brilliantly constructed and very effective organisation that is not well enough known in the UK.

Are you concerned that bottled water is an environmentally damaging, unnecessary product?

Yes. I went in with that attitude. I wanted to see if my cynical view could be changed, and World Vision did change it.

Bottled water isn't going to go away and so I'd rather there was a brand that donates large sums of money to genuinely valuable causes, and which creates philanthropic competition between brands. I'm not a blinkered purist. I know that by infiltrating these large corporations, I'm in a much better position to suggest changes. Right now, for example, I'm encouraging Volvic to switch to biodegradable containers.

Is it more important to give time than money?

It's both; they create each other. Personally, my time has a very high value, because I'm going to generate a much larger audience.

What do you get out of your giving?

Knowledge. For a while now, I've been wondering if my job contributes anything to the health of the planet, or whether entertainment just dumbs people down, keeps them indoors and stops them from looking at the world and themselves.

With the knowledge gained from charity work, it makes it much more difficult to ignore what needs to be done, and I'm compelled to talk to people about it, talk to my children about it, talk to my children's school about it . . . and as a result, perhaps give more value to my acting career and its by-product of fame.

Is there a duty to use fame for good causes?

It's not a duty, but most celebrities do it, and that's what makes it such a beautiful thing.

Interview by Angus Watson

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Be very quiet, I'm hunting stars
Hollywood North by Andrea Woo
November 19, 2008 11:47
It is star-hunting season and the prey is plentiful. In the past couple of weeks alone, the following were spotted traipsing around town: Julie Andrews, The Rock and Stephen Merchant (all here filming Tooth Fairy) at the Sutton Hotel, the Steve Nash Sports Club and the Blue Water Café, respectively; Halle Berry, Montreal-born model boyfriend Gabriel Aubry and their daughter Nahla having lunch at the Cactus Club Café in Yaletown; Amanda Peet (filming apocalyptic thriller 2012) and Phil Morris (Smallville) dining separately at the Blue Water Café and Thandie Newton (also 2012) at the Scotiabank Theatre.

Thandie Newton To Star In 'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton To Star In 'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof'
Posted Nov 19th 2008 9:10AM by Wilson Morales

Initially reported by BlackVoices two months ago as something that was in development, producer Stephen Byrd has confirmed that Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton will play the roles of Brick and Maggie the Cat, respectively, in the London theater production of 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof'.

Debbie Allen will again direct the play, and James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad will travel overseas and reprise their roles as Big Daddy and Big Mama.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Thandie Newton: 'Condi was my hardest role ever'

Bafta winner Thandie Newton's latest role sees her playing Condoleezza Rice in Oliver Stone's George Bush biopic 'W' – but don't expect to see a lookalike, she tells Sian Lewis

Friday, 31 October 2008 The Independent Newspaper

Thandie Newton has a knack of always looking at ease on the red carpet.

Her former dancer's figure is perfect for couture and she regularly eschews the services of a stylist, preferring instead to choose her own dresses by more obscure designers such as Jonathan Saunders and Jasmine de Milo.

Yet, despite the frequency with which she graces best-dressed lists, Newton doesn't want to be known for her looks. She is one of those actresses who seems to be running from her appearance, trying to lose herself in serious roles that prove she can act. And she's certainly made some varied choices.

Yes, she was the sexy accountant in Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla, the love interest in last year's Brit comedy Run Fat Boy Run, but she also played Will Smith's harried wife in The Pursuit of Happyness, won a Bafta for her raw portrayal of sexual assault in Crash, and now she's Condoleezza Rice in the George Bush biopic, W.

But, try as she might, Newton can't escape that she is stunningly beautiful. Having spent five days in Africa with her earlier this year, I can testify that even after a sleepless night, hours on dusty roads and without make-up, she's quite simply one of the most gorgeous women I've ever seen. Huge eyes grace a flawless face, and her frame is so slight you wonder how she managed to produce two children.

This makes her even more of a surprising choice to play the US Secretary of State, alongside Josh Brolin's George Bush. Rice may be accomplished in many fields, but she's hardly known as a great beauty. And, if the blogs are to be believed, there were many American actresses clamouring for the part.

"When director Oliver Stone first approached me I knew nothing about Condi," she says, sipping tea in the kitchen of the north London house she shares with her husband, the writer and director Ol Parker, 38, and their two daughters Ripley, seven, and Nico, three.

"Obviously I'd seen her on the news but I didn't even know how many z's she had in her name. I felt sheer terror about whether I could actually unlock the character. She's right there on our TV screens. Everyone knows how she moves, how she speaks. And I am nothing like her. It's the most terrifying role I've had and that fear made me feel very alive.."

The 35-year-old actress says she used the research skills honed during her anthropology degree at Cambridge to study for the character.

"It felt like doing a PhD," she laughs. "I read everything I could on Abu Ghraib, Bush, the war on terror. I watched endless DVDs of Condi giving speeches while moving my face in front of a mirror. I wanted to capture her mannerisms. If you get that right it doesn't matter whether you look like the person you're playing, you will feel familiar to the audience."

And looking like Rice wasn't an option because the heat in Shreveport, Louisiana, where filming took place during the summer of 2008, meant any prosthetic make-up would simply melt. This simply added to Newton's terror. "Just six weeks before filming started, Oliver told me he wanted a feelalike not a lookalike, and I just didn't know if I could do that."

So Newton worked with fashion make-up artist Kay Montano to subtly change her looks, unleashed a dynamic speech-giving voice through work with coach Joan Washington, and even learned to play piano – although those scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.

"It's ironic that I put in all those hours of piano practice to have the scenes cut," says Newton. "But in a way that was good for the part, too. It was a discipline and Condi is a very disciplined woman."

However, Newton reveals that she felt disappointed when she saw the rushes. "I'd gone to such lengths to create this person, like crafting a sculpture, that I kind of expected to see her there on the screen."

So, what does she make of bringing such current events to the screen?

"Playing Condi is my contribution to human rights," says Newton, half-sarcastically. "It's audacious to make a film about events so recent, but we live in a society where challenging the way things are is, thankfully, a part of our lives. Oliver is a director who likes to do that. I'd never worked with him before and it's amazing that he simply lets you go out and play."

After a role which she says "made every ounce of my being sit up and work", her next project was always going to feel dull in comparison. Newton admits this was the case with 2012, a film about an academic battling to prevent an apocalypse predicted by ancient Mayans, in which she plays the president's daughter.

"It didn't help that work started on 2012 so soon after finishing W," she says. "I'd shot my last scene as Condi, then days later I'm stood in a different Oval Office playing the president's daughter. That was such a headfuck! You really need to lay low before you plant the seeds of a new character."

Even A-list actresses, it seems, need to think practically and take big budget roles when they're offered them. But in Newton's case, family life has often taken priority over career. Just as Hollywood had fallen head over heels for her sassy turn alongside Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible II, Newton famously turned down a role in Charlie's Angels to spend more time with her husband of 11 years. She quit her agent and her manager and seemed to turn her back on stardom. Within weeks she was pregnant with her first daughter. Since then, she has run her career on her own terms. This means working around her family, who spent six weeks with her in Vancouver during summer while she worked on 2012. "We had a blast," she says. "Playing on the beach, eating oysters."

It also means applying a calm, calculated logic to choosing roles. "You should see the mental gymnastics Ol and I go through when I'm trying to decide what to take," she says. "Which roles will be good financially, which will be good for my career so I can keep doing this. I've got to make the right choices to stay in the game – I don't want anyone to get sick of me." This is unlikely as Newton, who got her first break at 16 starring opposite Nicole Kidman in Flirting, has been working solidly since leaving school, without anyone ever feeling they've seen too much of her.

When she's not working, Newton "nourishes her soul" with personal projects. She originally trained as a dancer and talks of going back to it professionally. She's written a screenplay – which she insists will never see the light of day – and has plans to open a children's boutique with a friend. It's exhausting listening to Newton talk, and you wonder if she somehow magically creates more hours in her day. At the same time, she also reveals her down-to-earth side and the kind of insecurities that the rest of us have. "I want to do everything now. I'm prone to anxiety and depression, I moan about having too much work, about how tired I've been with all the travel to promote W, about being away from my kids..." She checks herself for a moment, before adding: "Talk about high class problems! My mum grew up with no bathroom or toilet and she didn't own a pair of shoes until she was 10!"

Much has been written about Newton's African heritage. In fact, she was born in England, then lived in Zambia with her Zimbabwean mother and English father until political unrest drove them back to the UK when Newton was three. She hadn't been back to Africa for "many years, too many" until this February when she travelled to Mali with the charity World Vision to see their well building projects. The trip awakened her love of Africa. "It also made me feel ashamed of how little I live life," she says. "There's this sluggishness because we have everything we need. Although we rarely think we do. The people I met in Mali are so much more alive than we can ever be. I want to help them in my own small way. One of the only good things about 'celebrity' is being able to use it well."

Newton uses the word "celebrity" carefully. Almost turning it over in her mouth and mind. She may be one of Britain's most successful actresses, and wants to remain so, but the idea of becoming a household name clearly doesn't appeal greatly.

Suddenly voices in the hall signal the return of her daughters. "Well hello there, what would like for lunch?" she asks them. "Shall I make you a risotto? Or would you prefer crackers and fruit?" And with that Newton's gone, deep into another role. Her favourite to date.

'W' opens on 7 November; for more information on Thandie Newton's work with World Vision visit or

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Guardian Saturday November 1 2008

The first lady
Unsurprisingly, Oliver Stone's new movie depicts Dubya as a foul-mouthed frat boy. But, says Lesley O'Toole, wait until you see Thandie Newton as Condi Rice

Condoleezza Rice always seemed the outsider in George W Bush's administration. The first black woman to serve as secretary of state, she was a smart addition to Bush's circle; even many neocons considered her a safeguard against the boys' club that Bush gathered around him. Instead, she simply stood by as the White House team prepared for war, her dazzling smile seeming ever more odd and, after Hurricane Katrina, downright inappropriate.

Just as odd is Oliver Stone's choice to play Rice in his biopic of Bush, called simply W. But at 35, some 18 years younger than her character, Thandie Newton is also the perfect actress, a natural beauty who dissolves into the part, playing Rice as a smirking bundle of hair and makeup whose stance on Bush's war never quite emerges through the soundbites. In Stone's own words he cast her because, "Thandie's one of the top 10 actresses in the world." Newton's not so sure, however. "I haven't told him this," she says, breaking from filming on set in Shreveport, Louisiana, "but when he said, 'What do you think Condo-leezza?', I was thinking, 'Are you crazy?!'"

W might well be Newton's most important moment in the spotlight since her Bafta-winning turn in Crash, a role that won her a Best Supporting Actress Bafta, vindicating her decision to turn her back on the Hollywood mainstream and concentrate on raising a family with her writer-director husband Ol Parker. As a result, she said yes to a string of hit Britflicks (Run, Fat Boy, Run; RocknRolla) that arguably did her more good than the Charlie's Angels movie she turned down. Here, she tells the Guide about life in Oliver's army …

How hard was it to turn yourself into Condoleezza Rice?

It was a huge amount of terrifying work. There was always more to learn, new books coming out. But I love research. It was like going back to Cambridge again, getting out old dusty books at Haddon Library. It was like doing a PhD. I could do a Mastermind on her now. But I was mostly preoccupied with Oliver Stone's Condoleezza Rice. She serves this story and Josh Brolin's Bush. Our dynamic was a real little slice of uniqueness.

You couldn't use prosthetics due to local humidity but the physical transformation is uncanny ...

Hearing that was scary because we have different-shaped face muscles and jaw lines so makeup shading was key. I worked with makeup artist Kay Montano to create a look inspired by [conceptual American photographer] Cindy Sherman. This whole thing's like a dream, a whacked-out Wizard Of Oz, Cindy Sherman opera. And Condoleezza reminded me of Maggie Thatcher. They both went to a finishing school and there's a similarity in how much they smile, sometimes in the most inappropriate places.

Was this your first encounter with Oliver Stone?

We met a few years ago about something else. I really pissed him off because I hadn't seen his current movie at that time. This time I met him at his house in LA. On the drive there I thought, "Is this really where he lives? Where he exists?" That anomaly, for me anyway, was so refreshing. Having a proper angry intellectual in Hollywood just seems not to make any sense. What's there to be angry about? You have to look for any disease or disturbance.

Going to Oliver's place was like finding a museum.

You've mentioned that "it's so good to act again". What do you mean by that ?

I really don't know what I do normally. And that's not out of disrespect to the people I've worked with but it can be horribly easy to have this be a hobby. Well, not even a hobby because it pays you money. You can give it your best but it can be difficult to think, "Am I going to do this for the rest of my life?" Working on W was brief but every now and again there's a recharge of the battery. This was one of them but honestly RocknRolla was too. It's when things take you by surprise; you think you can do something without thinking and suddenly realise you've got to actually use your attention and be present.

What was it like working with Guy Ritchie on RocknRolla?

Guy is special. I was so excited to work with him and knew this kind of banter and characters were his preferred vehicle. I did think, "Oh God, this is unknown territory for me" but I like jumping without opening my eyes. Not to jeopardise my equilibrium but to push myself out of my comfort zone. And if the director believes you can do it then you can, even if you don't know it. It's a question of respect.

Had you met Madonna before?

Just at a party years ago, in a long line at the court of Madonna. But I had a little time meeting her after the movie was finished. I was at jujitsu practice with [my daughter] Ripley. Rocco goes to the same jujitsu school which Guy had told me about. Madonna came and was just a mum sitting there, but also someone I really like and admire. It was a lovely warm feeling. She's this exquisitely beautiful, delicate woman.

You starred in last year's Norbit with Eddie Murphy, a hit film perceived by some as racist. Did that worry you?

The first draft, written by Eddie and his brother [Charles], was so out-there offensive it became satire. But I think it was mainstreamed so much it became hateful rather than satirical. You do things with your best intentions that don't always work out. End of story.

How important do you think your ethnicity has been to your career?

Jason Isaacs [Harry Potter adversary Lucius Malfoy] said to me once, "I wish I was in an ethnic minority when I look at your career, Thandie." And it's true. God, lucky me. There are times when I think about my mum and the rural upbringing she had in Zimbabwe. You can't get more rural. And I've been to Cambridge University, I've got a successful career. How fantastic. I think accountants are most responsible for who gets cast and if you happen to be black - well, look at Will Smith. He's the biggest star in the world and if we get caught up in the fact that it's because he's black, we're missing the point. But there are times when I wonder why I don't get more magazine covers.

Have you ever discussed this with your friend Oprah?

She's a good friend of mine, the fairy godmother. At times I need a little help with my direction in life and she is one of those inspiring people. I don't overuse that channel because she's busy, but her love for, and knowledge of, me are a huge help. We shoot each other emails now and again and if I don't get one back that's cool.

Do you regret any of the films you've made?

Absolutely none. I make a film, I move on. I accept responsibility; I have to because I was a part of it. Some people don't like it, some people do; there it goes. That's not just a blanket "everything I've done is fine". But often, more challenging things that come from having made mistakes are what make you grow artistically and personally. I just accept all of them