Gwyneth Paltrow

Sylvia

Interviewed by Phil Passera

“ I made a pact with myself that I'd rather have less money than be embarrassed ”

Since winning the Best Actress Oscar for Shakespeare In Love in 1999, Gwyneth Paltrow has made a series of dubious career choices. Duets, Bounce, Shallow Hal, and View From The Top, were all pilloried by the press and public alike. Luckily, Sylvia Plath biopic Sylvia - which also stars Daniel Craig as Ted Hughes - sees her return to form and, finally, a decent movie.

Sylvia Plath's daughter didn't want the movie to be made. Did this increase your responsibility, bearing in mind Plath's many devotees?

I had mixed feelings about it. As a person who's in the public eye and who's very protective of my own privacy, and as a daughter, I completely understood where she was coming from. But on the other hand, as an artist, I thought: here's this incredible woman, who you'd be surprised by how many people have no idea who she was, and have never read the poems. So I thought, if there's a way to get her out into the world more then it's doing a great service to her. So I was torn about it.

Your father died two weeks before you began shooting. Did that help you get into the character's emotional space?

It was very, very hard for me to get through the day. I was under a cloud most of the time. But it was an amazing experience, because I think I was so torn up with grief. In a way I felt this bravery and this lust to do the role as honestly as I could, and be as raw and open as possible. To let go of any image I had of myself playing the role, and be as true to it as I could.

After your Oscar win, you'd expect to get better roles, But it's taken you some time to get to Sylvia...

I think what happened to me was I was 26 and I won the Oscar, and I just thought, I'll do whatever - I'll try this, I'll try that. I just took all the pressure off myself. I didn't think, OK, now I have to maintain a standard of a certain kind of film. So I made some decisions that were just bad. Then I got to a point where I stopped for a year, and then I did a play in London [Proof], which revitalised the way that I approached my work. So I made a pact with myself that I'd rather have less money than be embarrassed.

You protect you privacy. Do you think it's less interesting to watch actresses that are so overexposed by the media?

Yes, I think when people talk too much about who they are, and give the world access to every single thing - what kind of face cream they use, what they cook for dinner, and what nicknames they have for their significant others - that's all you can think about when you see them. There's no mystery. I think it's a shame, because it's great when you see somebody with mystery act, because you think they're capable of anything.