Saturday, November 14, 2009
Thandie Newton had to get serious on the set of new disaster movie 2012
By John Hiscock on Nov 13, 09 05:00 AM in Interviews
Film prankster Thandie Newton is known for her practical jokes on movie sets. While shooting Run Fatboy Run, she switched Simon Pegg's water bottle for vodka and sewed up the neck and sleeves of his T-shirts. However, Thandie had to put aside the joking on the set of her latest movie, the disaster blockbuster 2012, because she was just too tired.
"This movie required a lot of stamina," says the 37-year-old, London-born actress. "There were huge sets, lots of cameras and it was kind of exhausting. Also, because there were so many people involved, there was less of a family feel to it.
"When I was working on Run Fatboy Run, it was really a tiny crew. We were all hanging out together and much more in each other's pockets. On 2012, when I'd finished a scene I'd go back to my trailer and just collapse."
The new $200m extravaganza from director Roland Emmerich uses spectacular computer-generated special effects to depict a global cataclysm that brings the world to an end. Cities crumble and millions die in a series of eye-popping natural disasters while a few survivors struggle to stay alive.
Thandie plays the US President's daughter who begins a relationship with a geologist, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, while they are fighting for survival.
"Some of the cast are in the thick of the action, like John Cusack and Amanda Peet who are fighting for their lives," says Thandie.
"But because I play the president's daughter I'm kept very safe throughout the movie.
"The only really big action scenes I was involved in were two water sequences - one where I'm in a corridor and this huge tidal wave comes bursting down towards us. It was amazing but I forgot to act because gallons of water were rushing down from floor to ceiling towards me. The director had to shout "cut" and all the water went down. I don't even know where it drained to. Then 10 minutes later we did it again and the water comes rushing round the corner, blasting down the set."
As we chat, Thandie looks cool and relaxed in her white minidress in a beachfront suite at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Cancun, Mexico, where many of the 2012 cast had been flown for a party and promotional interviews.
Married for 10 years to English writer-director Oliver Parker, they have two children - nine-year-old Ripley, named after Sigourney Weaver's character in Alien, and Nico, four, named after the Velvet Underground singer.
Despite her success in films - including Mission Impossible: 2, The Pursuit Of Happyness and W - Thandie maintains she never had any special ambitions to be an actress.
Her parents, a Zambian nurse mother and a laboratory technician father, lived in the African country, but Thandie was born during a trip back to England. The family then returned to Zambia, but moved to Penzance in Cornwall when she was three years old.
"There were very few black people in the town and we were almost a novelty," Thandie recalls. "I always saw being black as a mysterious element I could use to enrich my personality. Then I went into the arts where difference is celebrated so I've never really experienced racial hassle."
In between her film commitments, the actress has returned to Africa on several occasions and she taught at Oprah Winfrey's school in South Africa for 10 days in July. But for now she has high hopes that filmgoers will appreciate the ingenuity that has gone into making 2012.
"It's just extraordinary to be able to create an illusion that takes you on a journey like this," Thandie smiles. "To have been able to push the boundaries like this is a real achievement."
2012 is out today.