Thursday 14 December 2017

English Rose strikes for life

If Rosamund Pike is unlucky in love it's only because the men don't measure up, says Julia Molony after meeting the graceful actress

AMBITIOUS: I'm more than just posh totty, says the former Bond girl
AMBITIOUS: I'm more than just posh totty, says the former Bond girl

Julia Molony

IT'S the day after the Made In Dagenham premiere and I'm due to interview Rosamund Pike, who is part of the all-star ensemble cast.

As I'm on my way to meet her, photos of her at the after party pop up onto the web. She's pictured dancing barefoot with the actor Dominic Cooper. Her hair is unraveled, her skin luminescent, there's a look of silliness and abandon that shows a side of her I've not seen elsewhere. She's often cast as somewhat remote -- slightly alienated by all that composure and beauty.

Pike bridles under any sort of definition or label. "I've been the victim of labelling really all my life. I hate to label anybody, or myself." Most especially, it's the idea people have of her as posh which bothers her most. Certainly, she's not the slightest bit aloof today, squashing in on the small sofa beside me and treating the interview like a good old chat rather than a facedown with the press.

"For some reason class has always come to plague any kind of discussion of me," she says, "and I don't understand why that is. Because people have always got it wrong. People have always put me in a different social bracket from where I actually am.

"I think when people see successful people, they want to link it with privilege, so that they can almost sort of complain that they've been lucky. Not an ounce of my success has been got by anything other than hard work and graft. Totally, honestly. I never had a helping hand from anyone."

The issue follows her everywhere, and here we are talking about it again. Using her Made in Dagenham co-star as an example, she says: "Bob Hoskins is probably not going to play the Prince of Wales. Does he mind that? Will he be asked if he minds that? I don't know. Is that what they ask him in interviews?"

She's still being warm but it's clear she'd rather discuss herself in other terms, or even just talk about something else instead. "I'd never dare to say what class anyone is from," she says, "I know that accent isn't the marker of anything."

Pike is an only child, born in London, and the daughter of two classical musicians. Growing up without siblings, she believes, played an important part in her decision to act. Not only because, as she says "you are always having to role-play on your own", but also because she was "with interesting creative adults, listening and observing".

In Made In Dagenham, she's still cast as the posh one, but she points out that it's a film about dissolving class barriers, not reinforcing them. The film tells the story of the Dagenham machinist strikes (see reviews, this page). It's an entertaining film about female solidarity and accidental feminism. Does Rosamund consider herself a feminist?

"No. I wouldn't. I tend to just try and live. I think there are no absolutes. To have to stick to a set of principles is very difficult. I believe women should have equal pay, but I never feel it's an insult if a man holds open a door for me. I love it. I love to be treated like a woman. I love to have my bags carried, and I'd love to be able to run Goldman Sachs. I don't feel the two are mutually exclusive. And I certainly don't feel threatened by being seen or being treated as feminine."

Her character, Lisa, is a Cambridge educated woman who has surrendered her ambition and indeed much of her character in order to fit the mould of wife and mother.

"What she lacks is self confidence," she says. "That is something I feel close to, because of women lacking confidence in themselves. I felt that when I was at Oxford, when women -- especially girls who had been at girls' schools and were top of their class -- when they got to Oxford they found these boys who'd been at boys' schools very, very overpowering. They lacked confidence to speak.

"And it's always the case when I go on a hen weekend or something... the best thing is that all these girls, suddenly at breakfast the next morning, suddenly you find them so much more interesting than if there were men in the room. Because they all speak.

"It's a confidence thing that comes over them when men are around. I do it too. I'm as much at fault as anyone else on that score. Sometimes you feel ashamed to be intelligent. Sometimes you feel you need to hide that, because you are aware that it's intimidating."

Intimidating to men?

"Yeah. And sometimes you want to dumb it down a bit."

You can see how Rosamund might be a daunting prospect to all but the most self-assured of fellas. There's her startling beauty, for one thing, her Oxford education and her precise and expressive way with words. In 2008 her engagement to Pride and Prejudice director Joe Wright was called off suddenly, after the event planning was very much in hand. It must all have been rather humiliating for her. For a while afterwards, she was referred to a bit in terms of being unlucky in love -- a little unfair on the basis of one bad experience. But one can imagine that men who could match her might be rather short on the ground.

Still there's plenty to keep her occupied besides. About acting, she says, "I'm just starting to have real fun with it. I feel like I'm getting nice feedback. That makes you feel safe really. And free. It's sort of freeing. It's nice to feel that just like the people who go to Sally [Hawkins] because they think she's going to add a certain thing to a film, or Bob or Miranda Richardson. I feel that people are starting to do that with me now."

She has other ambitions besides. "I want to try and write screenplays because I want to write more parts for women." And then, of course, there's life to get on with too. She hasn't bought any property yet, so that's on the cards. As well as trying to "sort my life out, and open my post, and answer my emails and maybe think about getting an assistant because I'm always behind. And do my washing and go and visit my grandmother. That kind of thing. Pretty normal, really."

'Made in Dagenham' is now showing nationwide

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