Olivia Williams

The Heart of Me

Interviewed by Anwar Brett

Cambridge graduate Olivia Williams first came to international prominence when she was cast by Kevin Costner in "The Postman". Subsequent roles have come in a variety of films, including "The Sixth Sense", "Rushmore", and "Born Romantic". After "The Heart of Me" she will be seen playing Dougray Scott's wife in English Civil War drama "To Kill a King".

Didn't you know your co-stars in "The Heart of Me" already?

It's true, and that made it a dream job for me. I'd been in "Dead Babies" with Paul Bettany, and had a cameo in "A Knight's Tale" that was cut. And I knew Helena Bonham Carter from school. We weren't friends at that time, but we had that familiarity and understanding in our background, so it felt comfortable playing sisters here. And having a really good friend playing my husband meant that we could dispense with all that stuff about treading respectfully around other peoples' boundaries, which often takes up so much time when you're filming.

So that old chestnut about dramas being quite jolly to work on where comedies are deadly serious is true then?

I think it is. I learned that at the RSC where, night after night, I had to have a broken heart. It was during one of those absurdly long runs, and I was there at five o'clock starting to think depressing thoughts, listening to depressing music, and imagining awful things happening to my family in the play. Night after night I would try and squeeze out a tear from this dry well, and I made myself very depressed for a long time. In the end someone gave me a copy of one of Bill Bryson's books, and I would sit by the side of the stage giggling away before going on. I knew the role very well by this time, and the emotion just fell out of my body because I was so very relaxed.

Were there any reservations on your part that "The Heart of Me" risked falling into that familiar pattern of British movies that seem rather emotionally constipated?

All I would say to you is read the novel. Our screenwriter, Lucinda Coxon, warmed up these characters to boiling point compared to the chilly, remote, icy responses of the original characters. But, in any case, I believe people did think and behave like that.

The "How does that make you feel?" generation forgets that this is post-therapy speak. Nowadays people give you a running commentary all the time, but as an actor subtext is so much more interesting to play.