She's wooed Brad Pitt and Jim Carrey in "The Devil's Own" and "The Truman Show" respectively - now British actress Natascha McElhone cosies up to George Clooney in Steven Soderbergh's startling science fiction romance, "Solaris".
What did you do to persuade Steven Soderbergh that you should be his leading lady?
I said I'd do anything! And that worked... I just went the normal routes really. George was shooting "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" in Canada, and he very kindly got his assistant to call me when I arrived, and told me to come down to the set.
And of course I was like, "No, no, no, he's making a movie." But I went down and I met him and he said, "I thought you should come down because it's always awful meeting someone for the first time and playing a scene with them." So he took the edge off the whole thing by talking the night before, which I thought was unbelievably generous and insightful of him. So the next day was very relaxed and great, and they just chatted to me and we did a couple of scenes, and then George left and Steven made me say things to camera that were unrepeatable.
Soderbergh and Clooney have a close relationship. What was it like working with them?
It was great and actually really inclusive. I guess the presumption would be that because they work together and they have a production company, that it would be that team and everyone else, but it's not like that at all. I never felt like the outsider.
And also they really bounce off of one another. They just complement one another's stories. There's a very relaxing environment that Steven manages to create on a film set, however nervous he says he was in hindsight. And George contributes to that, because he never takes anything seriously. He's always fooling around and making everyone laugh and putting everyone before himself, which is quite unactorly and certainly very unstarry. What can I say? I can only get mushy and embarrassing and that's very un-English, so we'll just leave it at that.
"Solaris" deals with pretty big issues. Do you believe in God and an afterlife?
I'm not religious. I was as a child and, like lots of people I suppose, rapidly became very disillusioned with the whole thing. I also feel that organised religion has caused far more problems than it has solved. And in terms of "Solaris" I didn't really think about the religious aspect an awful lot. There's one scene at a dinner party and it's discussed, but it wasn't an overwhelming theme for me.