The difference between love and madness is only a fine line. That's what you learn when you watch the Terence Davies-directed drama The Deep Blue Sea (out in limited theaters this Friday). Set in 1950s-era, war-torn England, the film follows the self-effacing Hester Collyer (Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz), who leaves the comfort of a stable marriage with a judge (Simon Russell Beale) and a life in high society for a passionate yet unpredictable relationship with a Royal Air Force pilot (Thor's Tom Hiddleston).
Complex recently participated in a roundtable discussion with the film's radiant English leading lady to gather her thoughts on working with the film's enigmatic director, the drama's theme of self-destruction in the name of love, and her familial ties to 1950s England.
As told to Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
On choosing to star in The Deep Blue Sea:
I'd never read the play, but Terence Davies had written a very beautiful adaptation. It was all told from Hester's point-of-view, so it was a very subjective story and I like that kind of storytelling. Terence Davies is a bit of cult director, and it was a great story, great character, and great director. It was kind of a no-brainer.
Terence is not really heard of anyone in color films. He wouldn't really know who anyone is in color movies. He [sought me out] and he said to his producer, "She's this girl who's in this film." In America, [that film] was called Swept From The Sea.
On playing the film's lovelorn protagonist, Hester Collyer:
I think what interested me about [Hester] was that she really, kind of completely humiliated herself. She has no pride. She doesn't hold it together. Nowadays, you get over it and your girlfriend takes you out for a drink and says, "Come on, move on—there's plenty more fish in the sea."
What I found interesting about her was she just fell so completely, devastatingly, utterly in love with someone who really didn't even love her back. She just couldn't control it, and I thought that was really interesting to see someone lose it. She just throws herself at his feet and kind of makes a complete fool out of herself in many ways.
It's definitely a story about a sexual awakening. I think she's never felt love or passion or erotic love; I mean, Terence Davies calls it erotic love. She's never felt it before, so it's a completely new feeling. She's lived her life as a bourgeoisie, married wife of a judge, and she's never had these feelings, so it's kind of an awakening [that] her life is torn to pieces by.
On the film's themes of love and madness:
I think for everyone who sees the film, their line will come down at a different place. Some people have said to me, "Well she's just mad." I personally don't think so; I think she's just in love. But in a way, love is a kind of psychotic state. I don't think she's mad at all. I think it's a bid for freedom, and I think it's a really bold, brave things she does and I personally respect her. But there are people who'll see the movie and go, "Well she's just nuts." That's a fair enough interpretation.
On the filming the sex scene:
It was new for Terence. He had never shot a scene like that before. I spent most of the time trying to make him feel alright about it.
On working with director Terence Davies:
He's very different. He's very unusual. He's probably as passionate as Hester and led by his emotions and his heart. He's more like her than I am. He gets really carried away both in happiness and sadness and anger. He's a very emotional person. He likes things to be incredibly controlled in terms of where the camera is; you're the center of the frame. It's the opposite of contemporary, hand-held reportage style films that we're used to seeing now. He's got real rigor as a filmmaker, but he's also really passionate.
On working with actors Simon Russell Beale and Tom Hiddleston:
I'd always imagined that husband role being very unpleasant, and that's not how Simon played it. He played it with incredible sweetness and empathy. He made it really hard to leave him. I just thought he was going to be kind of a pig: unfeeling, nasty, sort of a control freak. But he wasn't at all. He's a sweetheart and really lovely to work with. His performance everyday surprised me.
Tom is just wonderful. He's got a period face. He was wonderful in Thor, as well. [Laughs.] He's just very alive and sexy and passionate. He's very bright, really smart and really easygoing. We had a really easy rapport. We just clicked.
On the film being set in the 1950s:
I feel like it's more interesting to tell it in the '50s because it was a time of greater repression, so it makes it more taboo. But I still think it's a really relevant story now. I think if a woman left a comfortable marriage for a younger man and completely humiliated herself in that way, people would still be talking. I don't think it's as dated as one might think.
On her connection to 1950s England:
My mom is going to be 80 this year. She grew up in England, and so did my dad. She'll still sing wartime songs from the '50s, like the singing in the pub scenes. Apparently, that's what people did on Saturday night before there were TVs with sports in bars and before jukeboxes.
[My mom] still talks about rations. There's a part of her that still feels like things are rationed even though they're not. She lives very frugally as a result of it. There's a line about that: "You can't ration everything." I think for people who lived through the war, it's very hard for them to really shake it off. She tells stories about doodlebugs, bombs that were sent over from Germany, making noise. When they stopped making noise, they'd fall there, so you were listening out, hoping to still hear the noise.
On choosing which projects to work on:
You just have to read a script and think, I'd really like to play this character. It doesn't really matter if it's a big movie or a small movie. You still have to say the lines and make it sound true. I just need to be intrigued or pulled in. It's hard for me to put it into words. It's like reading a book: Some books grab you and some books don't. It's the same with a character. Some things you just really connect with. It could be a really silly book or a dark tragedy.
As told to Tara Aquino (@t_akino)