There’s this idea I think a lot of observers have that once an actor earns a huge, career-defining role like you did with Gone Girl, you become the talk of the town and suddenly the scripts and offers just start rolling in. Is that how it played out for you in 2014 and 2015?
I’ve always been my own worst enemy, I go into hiding right when other people would be jumping on the podium and taking everything being thrown—
Well, you had a child, didn’t you?
Yeah, and it was a conscious decision. I knew I’d made Amy and that a monster would be unleashed on the world. I thought, “I’ve got to make a human being.” I also needed to come back to myself, rather than think so career-mindedly and take another great big role. I’m really playing the long game, as I want to be around in my 80s doing this job. People probably think I’m in a rush, but I don’t think that I am. I’ve continued to do the things that interest me. I’m not so canny as to what the outside perception is. Maybe it looks to the outside world that I haven’t capitalized on the success of Gone Girl, but in my mind, I have. I’ve gotten everything I wanted to do. I’m working with directors who are thoughtful and profound. And, obviously, I’d work with David Fincher again like a shot if he asked me.
I think people are impatient and don’t realize how long it takes for these things to metabolize.
I just want to keep challenging myself. Another thing is that there are many male actors who are happy to play a supporting role to another man but aren’t so inclined to play a supporting role to a female. With everything that’s going on in this climate regarding solidarity and people being more outspoken about sexual harassment, I feel that the next stage of that has to be male actors putting themselves on the line to support women. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and how our business needs a new face. Women have done it for years, happily supporting male leads. And obviously other men have too, but there’s got to be a sea change. Well-established men should, could help to get female stories made. That’s the other thing, apart from women deciding to tell those stories and get them out there.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, for audiences, men have to start valuing women’s stories.
I think there’s proof that the appetite for them is there. Many films with women do well at the box office, so that’s clearly happening.
I think even in the marketing, there’s a perception that women will go to men’s films, but men won’t go to women’s or that men are a more universal avatar. For a long time, that’s been conventional wisdom, and finally that’s being flipped on its head a little bit.
I think there isn’t enough data, really. A lot of suppositions but not enough really specific data we need around traffic into theaters. That’s one of the things that was so great about Gone Girl. It was a film that hit both men and women. They wanted to be a part of the conversation, and they had to see it in theaters. That was a thrill unlike any other, and I definitely want to find that thrill again. If you make something that hits and is a conversation that people want to be a part of, it’s the best feeling in the world.
Your two major roles post-Gone Girl, at least the ones that have been released in the U.S., are both women who draw their strength from their maternal instincts. Was that at all conscious?
I think it’s a byproduct of being drawn to women who display courage, and I realized courage is something I’m inexorably drawn to. It’s why I’m playing Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times war correspondent right now, because it’s probably the quality I ultimately admire most in people. Then, if another Amy Dunne came around, I would jump at the chance. It couldn’t be another Amy but someone as confounding and complex and thrilling without any admirable qualities. That is fun too. But if I’m going to play people with admirable qualities, then courage is the one I’m looking for. It’s more the courage than the maternal that I’ve been drawn to. And the maternal is a byproduct.
You don’t think Amy Dunne has any redeeming qualities?
I think she’s a sociopath. And I loved the fact that she caused a lot of debate, and some people said this is a great film about women’s empowerment, loved her, identified with her. Ultimately, she’s a sociopathic narcissist. There are a lot of people like that out there who can also be incredibly exciting to be around. Narcissists can be some of the most fun people to hang around with if you don’t get too close. There’s a line [in the script], “My wife is a lying, scheming sociopath who’s also incredibly fun to be around.” And it was just sort of delicious to wield that power. It’s unusual for it to be the woman.
I just watched the film again the other night. You kind of want to sympathize with Nick, but then every time you do, he says things like, “I am so sick of women picking on me,” or making himself out to be the victim.
That’s why it’s so good. He’s also a narcissist, and the point is that she gets him when she says, “The only time you ever really liked yourself was when you were trying to be someone I would like.” Which is such a brilliant line, it’s so clever. Because that’s the game they’re playing. It’s the narcissism epidemic. It’s the way everyone is looking to see how they’re perceived by the outside world. It’s not enough to be just a couple. You have to be the happiest couple, the golden couple, the most fun couple, the sexiest couple, whatever it is. I don’t even know, Amy was slightly before the Instagram obsession, so I don’t know what she would have been now.
It’d be Amy Dunne the mother on Instagram.
A mommy blogger!
That’s pretty good! You should write that.