Well, she better get used to media days. Lots of media days. It’s almost mandatory now that journalists describe the Australian actress’s turn in Jane Campion’s acclaimed Fanny Brawne/John Keats biopic as having “Oscar buzz.” Whether that pans out or not is irrelevant – the buzz is more important than the bald guy. Oscars come and go, but you can’t buy buzz. Furthermore, her work actually warrants all the statue chat.
As the maligned and socially imprisoned Brawne, Cornish gives one of those ferocious performances that audiences love to cheer. Her Brawne is a strong, witty and determined proto-feminist, a steel buttercup who only looks like a delicate confection made from milk, butter, and spider-web icing.
If she has the energy, Abbie Cornish really ought to give herself a good pat on the back.
Actresses have told me that working with a female director is different than working with a male director. You’ve worked with a handful of women, and just finished working with a female director. So, does it make a difference?
Uhh … in some ways yeah, but the difference is not so striking that I could just compartmentalize all the male directors and all the female directors that I’ve worked with into their own boxes. I mean, I definitely know working with Cate Shortland on Somersault , my first film, was amazing. We talked to each other a lot in rehearsals, really full on, and we did a lot of hashing out of the script and scenes and characters – so when we went to shoot, we hardly spoke! We just did it.
Was it the same with Jane Campion ?
No, Jane likes to keep a constant dialogue. And things change and shift when you’re on set, and in the clothes. But, I just, I don’t know … I think with female directors there’s more emotional sensitivity attached to the process of making the film and talking with actors. But the investment in the project and the story is similar. I worked with Shekhar Kapur in Elizabeth: The Golden Age , and he’s incredible. He’s a very sensitive guy, very aware, and very switched on – kind of a little bit similar to Jane, in just how connected they are. They are both extremely visual, very smart directors with a lot of wisdom behind them.
Bright Star is set circa 1819. Did you have to learn to carry yourself and speak in a way that matched the era?
I did, but it surprisingly came quite naturally. You know, I think when you’re in those clothes that already makes you go like this [sits bolt upright, as if in a binding dress]. It definitely changes things. And I read as much as I could, as much as I could find, and I did a lot of work on the dialect as well, I had this really great dialect coach, and we did intensive work. All that definitely helps, but at the end of the day, once I found her voice, that was the best – I could just switch in and out of her [Brawne], and she seemed complete then, because I couldn’t do Fanny Brawne with my Australian accent! Ha! It doesn’t work at all!
This is a film about poetry – how it is created and how it affects people. And while audiences seem to love it, nobody reads poetry any more .
I’ve always been interested in poetry. I remember in school I used to love when we would do poetry. We would talk about what the poet was trying to say, the rhythms, the structure of the poem, and finding the tempo. I used to love it, like, front row.
Excuse the flattery, but you are very beautiful in this film (and in person). What’s it like to be filmed as if you’re an objet d’art?
It’s funny that you say that, I haven’t really thought that at all … I don’t know, I mean … yeah, I dunno. I’ve never felt that, didn’t feel that.
I’m assuming you’ve seen the film?
Ha! Yeah, I have seen it, but I guess I just see that as all Jane’s work. She’s filmed everything so well. Also, that’s not how I look at things, do I look good or not – I was just so into the film. When I saw it in Cannes, I really was watching the movie, I wasn’t watching myself.
Films about artists rarely get it right, because they never show the actual working lives of artists. In this film, your character is a clothing designer, and we see her making everything by hand. Did you have a sewing coach?
I did have to learn how to sew, but it was fun, because I like sewing anyway, and I already knew how to sew, um, a little bit. Ha! But learning the proper way, how to hem things, different stitches, how to embroider. The only thing was, it was really time consuming. I had this one piece of embroidery I was working on, it was just freestyle flowers and vines, but it just took me forever and ever! I’d sit at home and kind of get into it for about 45 minutes, and then I’d be like, “Okay, I’m done with that!”
Are you tired of being told how much you resemble the young Nicole Kidman?
It happens to me a lot! Especially when I do interviews.
Well, sorry. But it’s not like we’re all saying ‘You remind us of Jack Klugman.’
Ha! I don’t know what the comparisons are – physical, or because we’ve both worked with Jane? But I don’t really mind. I don’t mind at all. It’s flattering, and, ultimately, it’s only someone else’s opinion.
Source: Globe & Mail