Rachel Weisz has revealed why her part in Marvel's latest blockbuster Black Widow was the 'perfect' first role after giving birth and why it's 'about time' Marvel had a female director.
51-year-old Weisz was originally thrust into the spotlight playing feisty and brilliant librarian Evelyn, in the hugely popular The Mummy franchise alongside Brendan Fraser, before going on to star in an array of films.
From the critically-acclaimed The Constant Gardener, to more light-hearted rom-coms roles like Definitely, Maybe and The Shape of Things in the early noughties — so far, so standard Hollywood career.
It's only mainly in recent years, that Weisz — who is married to 53-year-old James Bond actor Daniel Craig — has gone down a decidedly more indie route. From her magnificently villainous 2017 performance in the adaption of Rebecca author Daphne du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel, to dystopian black comedy The Lobster, alongside Colin Farrell, and of course, her passion project, Disobedience which Weisz purchased the rights to an entire decade before it went into production.
Adapted from Naomi Alderman's novel of the same name, Weisz plays disgraced Orthodox Jewish woman Ronit, who returns to her North London community after a family tragedy, only to start a secret love affair with her childhood friend. The film won rave reviews and was named best indie film at the British Independent Film Awards.
So what made Weisz — who gave birth to her first child with Craig at the age of 48 (she already shares 15-year-old son Henry with ex Darren Arofonsky) — decide to do an about turn and join the vast, decidedly un-indie machine that is the Marvel Universe, for her role in Black Widow?
'Well, first of all, they asked me!' she laughs, telling Red in an exclusive interview ahead of the film's release that it was 'very exciting to be asked and to get to work with Cate [Shortland, the director] and Scarlett [Johansson].'
Black Widow is Marvel’s latest and long-awaited film from the franchise, starring Scarlett Johansson as lead character Natasha Romanoff, Florence Pugh as Yelena Bolova, David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov and of course Weisz as Melina Shostakov.
Finally given her own solo outing, fans have had an excruciating wait to see the Black Widow grapple with her past, as well as her uncertain future as an Avenger, after the the initial release date got pushed back time and time again due to the pandemic.
Shortland, the film's director, is a relative unknown as far as Hollywood blockbusters go, but she's clearly been making waves amongst those who count, for it was Johansson who brought her on board and subsequently sealed the deal for Weisz.
'I've wanted to work with Cate for a long time,' she says, describing filming on set with her a 'very fun experience.'
'I’d seen her movies Lore and Somersault back in the early noughties, and it was just a film that really had a big impact on me as a young girl.'
Film fans have praised Marvel's latest venture for bringing some much-needed heart to the action-packed franchise, with much ado being been made about the fact that Shortland is the studio's first solo female director. Weisz isn't here to comment on that however, in fact, she think it's a conversation that's well past its due date.
'I know it's like a big deal to have a woman be first time directing,' she says, '[but] I don't know how to really speak to it... It’s about bloody time!'
Sighing that she finds it hard to 'do the gender thing,' all she does know, is that 'Cate is brilliant.' Whether that's 'because she's a woman? [I don't know]...'
Describing Shortland's on-set persona, Weisz effuses that she's 'very focused, very kind, she doesn't shout and she listens to everyone.' In fact it's this 'intimate' feeling that surprised the Disobedience star the most about joining the Marvel family.
'It feels like a sort of a family-run business,' she explains. 'I know it's not, but it's very intimate and they're really interested in actors contributing, improvising and making the making their parts their own... So that was quite an unusual experience. It had a very "un-corporate" feeling.'
Families are clearly a running theme both on and off screen, with our first introduction to Weisz's character Melina being in the midst of a deep undercover operation, playing house in suburban Ohio with her fake family ('she really fell in love with Alexei and [her] pretend children').
Despite all being part of an act, this sense of family has translated far beyond the set and into real-life, forming behind-the-scenes friendships between the cast members.
'It was really very fun,' she says of filming alongside Harbour, Pugh and Johansson, describing the trio as 'really wonderful actors.' And despite the difficulties of having to learn a Russian accent ('always a bit of a challenge'), Weisz loved her time on set, particularly the time filming in London, where Weisz is originally from.
'It was lovely,' she says, reminiscing about her 2019 summer spent in the capital. No doubt a welcome chance to introduce the newest addition to the family to relatives back home, having given birth to a little girl a mere nine months before filming for Black Widow began.
'She was very little,' she says, explaining that her supporting role in the blockbuster was 'a really good role' for a new mum, as it didn't require too much pressure.
'It wasn't a big role. It wasn't like, Scarlet [Johansson], you know? It wasn't like the lead,' she says, admitting that it was 'the perfect way to go back to work.'
Another bonus for Weisz? Getting to work with farm animals on set during her character's time as a pig-farmer.
'Working with the pigs was a delight,' she says, no hint of sarcasm at play. '[I'd work with them again] at the drop of a hat.'
Black Widow is in cinemas July 7, on Disney+ with Premier Access July 9. Disney+ subscription and additional fee required for Premier Access. Catch the trailer below.
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