Monday 23 July 2018

Newly single Victoria on keeping her cool in tougher side of LA

Long career: Victoria has survived testing times in Hollywood to become a success.
Long career: Victoria has survived testing times in Hollywood to become a success.
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Irish actress Victoria Smurfit is jetting in to party at this year's Irish Film and Television Awards as a newly single woman. The leading starlet has parted from her boyfriend, filmmaker Alistair Ramsden.

But the 43-year-old says the pair have stayed good friends: "I am not with Al any more. We haven't been together since the start of the summer. It came to a natural conclusion. But he doesn't live far away, so he's still a great pal. There was no drama whatsoever. I could write a book on how to stay friends with your exes. I am brilliant at it," she says.

Her secret to remaining friends after a break-up is to "remember why you were friends to begin with."

One of the few female Irish actresses to carve out a long career in Hollywood, she describes how auditions through the years have brought with them some testing times.

As she celebrated her IFTA nomination for best supporting actress in film for The Lears, and the nomination for short film for The Secret Market, for which she is the lead actress and producer, she spoke for the first time about her experience. It was in her 20s, when she tried out for a role in a major Hollywood movie, that the star was cut off cold for refusing to sleep with the movie's producer.

"There was one huge film I auditioned for in my 20s and I was asked to come along for a second audition. That went fantastic and the producer told me that the production team are all going out for dinner and that I should come along.

Victoria with Alistair Ramsden
Victoria with Alistair Ramsden

"So we were all out drinking and I kept pouring my glass into a potted plant because I knew I had to be 'on my game', and as the night wore on everyone decided to leave to go dancing. The producer said 'you are coming with me to my hotel room' and I just played the innocent and said 'I don't know what you mean'. I said 'ah no, come on, we have got to go dancing' and he said 'no you're coming with me'. He was very straight and very strong about it. So I legged it back to my hotel.

"So at that stage I was down to the final two and for the third and final audition I was flown to Los Angeles and put up in a hotel and it was all very wonderful. I went through wardrobe and make-up and did the screen test with a big star and I turned around to the producer and said 'hi' and he just said [in a cold tone] 'I am done with you.'

"I just knew in that moment 'I am not getting this job'. Now maybe I didn't get it because I wasn't good enough but it will always stay in mind how I made a conscious decision not to be sucked into that dirty world.

"I say that as a woman who knew I wasn't going to go hungry. I was very lucky, I come from a successful family and acting didn't depend on the bread and butter for my mouth.

"But I have come across that a good bit and I have been very fortunate that I haven't been taken down that path."

More recently, when not filming, the star has been learning taekwondo. Having earned a green belt in the ancient art, she is catching up with her daughter Ridley (10) and son Flynn (nine), who are on course to have their black belts by the summer. Her eldest daughter, Evie (13), is also a trained boxer.

Now "breaking boards" with her bare hands, Victoria says: "When you hit 40 it's nice to learn something new and it's good for the confidence. In the acting business - where I can't say 'I feel like working, someone give me a job' because that's now how it works, you are always meeting people and hoping - it is good to have something that you can achieve on your own time that is really good for my head."

Most recently, Victoria has earned a lead role in Marcella, which airs on ITV and Netflix next month, and says it is always extra special to be given a nod on home turf. "There something really lovely about getting recognised by your own," she says. "The Irish are more honest with you.

"In LA, every meeting you have is 'the most amazing meeting you'll ever have' and I remember being quite confused by that. I wondered why they want to give you a world on a stick. Then someone explained it to me. They said 'you'll never have a bad meeting in LA - just in case you become the next big thing'."

The 15th anniversary of the IFTA Film and Drama Awards takes place on February 15 in the Round Room of the Mansion House in Dublin and is on RTE 1.

Sunday Independent

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