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Olivia Williams

Olivia Williams - "Hanna" Movie - Metro.co.uk Interview

Wednesday 31 August 2011, by Webmaster

Olivia Williams: Kevin Costner taught me a lot about film-making

Hanna star Olivia Williams talks to Metro about her love for bears, reading Shakespeare with Joss Whedon and working with acting legend Kevin Costner.

Isn’t Hanna – a film about a teenager going on a violent rampage – a bit inopportune in light of the recent rioting?

One feels she’s on the side of good rather than evil. She’s not nicking tellies and trainers. I don’t want to be trite about the social problems that make people take advantage of a smashed window to nick tellies. I’m a bit of a pinko lefty. I was around ten when Margaret Thatcher said: ‘There’s no such thing as society.’ Well done, Mags, this is the natural conclusion of your brilliant policy. Now there isn’t a society, she’s too doolally to know what she’s done.

You and Jason Flemyng make an unusual couple in the film, don’t you?

I think we make a very nice couple. We were a couple before when we were fresh young things out of drama school in an episode of a rather bad TV show called Beck.

Was it nice to catch up?

Jason Flemyng is one of the nicest people in the world, so it was lovely. I think it’s a very well-observed relationship of the kind of people who get together at Glastonbury and get pregnant by mistake.

This was a bit of a reunion for you, then?

Yes. I’ve been an actor for 22 years but it’s only recently I’ve shown up on set and known people I’ve worked with before. I get to be a bit of an old luvvie. I can say: ‘Do you remember when Freddie walked on in act two with his hat on back to front? How we laughed…’

Who have you learned the most from working with?

Kevin Costner directed the first film I was in and taught me the whole practical side of film-making. More recently, Roman Polanski taught me what the actor’s function is in a film. It was interesting because it turns out to be quite a small contribution. The directors of Cheek By Jowl theatre company – Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod – taught me about pure acting. I was in The Changeling, which became a thorough exercise in how to unlock a scene, how to see past what’s going on to the underlying drama.

You’re an expert on the spectacled bears of Bolivia – what’s your favourite bit of bear trivia?

I was present when it was proven that spectacled bears are not nocturnal. I was with my friend, Suzy, at the top of a mountain at night with a radio receiver waiting for signals of movement from a bear that was clearly asleep. Before then, people didn’t know if they were nocturnal or not. This bear and his mate, who we’d also radio collared, didn’t move all night, which suggested they were asleep and hence not nocturnal.

How did you get involved with the bears?

My friend, Suzy, studied the bears for her PhD. She asked all her friends if they wanted to visit and I was the least likely to since I was swanning around Hollywood at the time. I’m quite bloody-minded, so I thought: ‘I’ll show you,’ and I went. I made it 16,000ft up the mountain and stayed up there for three weeks. It was an amazing experience.

You were in cult writer/director Joss Whedon’s TV show Dollhouse. Were you perplexed by the twist at the end?

I didn’t understand what was going on most of the time. I had no idea but I loved his writing. Joss is a great one for studying you and uses bits of your personality in his characterisation so, as the series goes on, you become more like yourself. I started the series as an overdressed super bitch and ended it as a north London hippie.

Was that a nice experience?

It was amazing. He used to get everyone together to read Shakespeare plays in his garden on Sunday afternoons. I have this theory Gertrude from Hamlet has a drinking problem so I played her drunk, aided by Joss’s Californian chardonnay. The next week my character developed an alcohol problem on the show.

Hanna is out now on DVD.