Storytelling is no doubt integral to the art of acting, but for Rosamund Pike, narration feels like something the Oscar nominee truly lives and breathes. Catching up with Pike on the eve of the BFI London Film Festival, where she was presenting a special award, the former Bond girl said: “The thing that struck me about the stories in tonight’s award was how personal they felt. It’s a personal expression and people in control of their own narratives. It makes you think why film is so vital.”
Pike certainly feels like a woman in control of her own story. Revolution last interviewed the British actress in 2016, a year after her Oscar nod for playing Amy Dunne in the psychological thriller Gone Girl, (2014), and fresh from lending her voice to the sci-fi animation series Thunderbirds and playing a rape-victim-turned-vigilante in the revenge story, Return to Sender (2015). Since then, Pike’s roles have included the wife of a Nazi leader (The Man with the Iron Heart, 2017), a lone settler-survivor in a harrowing American Western (Hostiles, 2017), a CIA agent in Beirut co-starring opposite Jon Hamm (The Negotiator, 2018) and a gun-wielding German revolutionary (Entebbe, 2018).
As we meet, Pike is about to become the first IWC brand ambassador to be a special judge for the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award, presented annually at the BFI. A £50,000 award to support an upcoming British filmmaker and now in its third year, the bursary is a “gift of time” for recipients to develop their ideas both financially and artistically. This year’s main judging panel included the directors Paul Greengrass and Edgar Wright, BFI CEO Amanda Nevill and IWC boss Christoph Grainger-Herr, with the prize going to the Turner-nominated artist Richard Billingham. His film, Ray and Liz, is a memoir based on Billingham’s parents, and Pike said that she was drawn to its honest look at his upbringing as she “felt there was a reckoning with hard truths that the British film industry has never shied away from”.
Pike, whose early days with IWC were with the now-Breitling boss Georges Kern, has recently worked alongside Grainger-Herr – a man she calls “thoughtful and committed”. Last year, they were co-judges on another panel at the Tribeca Film Festival. “He is a deep thinker and very emotionally responsive,” said Pike. “I’ll be very interested to see where he takes the brand.”
From Her Own Correspondent
Pike was at the BFI to promote her latest film, A Private War, a biopic about the war correspondent Marie Colvin. Pike said she wanted to do the film for “many, many reasons” before returning to that idea of owning one’s narrative. Pike has a cerebral, measured way about her where, when replying she often looks somewhat far away, fixed on, say, a spot on the floor or the wall behind you.
“Colvin lost her life in Syria and look at Syria now,” Pike begins. “There is a huge struggle for narrative. Who owns the narrative? What is the narrative that will come out after the war? Is this going to be in the future? Is this going to be seen as genocide? There is a struggle now and voices of resistance are being silenced – literally.”
She looks back at me briefly. “A passion comes in when you’re researching a film,” she adds, almost apologetically. “It’s galvanised me to feel passionate because I think you feel passion when you’re connected. I don’t expect everyone to be or feel connected – you can never expect people to feel it unless they genuinely do. But I was also drawn to a wonderful woman, whose career cost her huge amounts on a personal level – and how your home life can be a catastrophe, really.”
As a mother of two young boys – Solo, 6, and Atom, 4 – how does she manage her time with an increasingly demanding shooting schedule? Pike returns to Marie Colvin, and in particular a scene where Colvin is trapped in Homs, the Syrian city completely under siege, as she tries to speak to her editor on Skype. The connection goes down and someone offers to try and fix it before Colvin screams: “We don’t have time!”
“I thought; ‘That’s a line I say all the time: I don’t have time.’ Yet the stakes are so vastly different,” Pike said. “This is a woman who literally does not have time because her life could end at any minute. We all say we don’t have time to finish our cup of coffee before the taxi is here, or whatever. People’s relationships with time and the stakes are so different. It’s a huge philosophical discussion really, what limited time means to different people… it’s impossible to equate. I feel that, as a busy person, my lack of time doesn’t really come into it, in situations where time is seriously limited.”
Back to that spot on the wall. Pike, in minimal makeup, is wearing a woven black dress that looks like an Alaïa and has an IWC Portugieser chronograph on her wrist. Pike has said she prefers the engineering and strength of masculine watches, and when she spoke to Revolution in 2016, she wore an IWC pilot’s watch, but lamented how she couldn’t pull off the Big Pilot. She tells me now that she regularly uses the Portugieser chronograph’s stopwatch function. “To tell my children when it’s time to leave the park, for timing speeches, when I’m running,” she explains before musing on that Big Pilot again. “It’s too big for me, sadly. My partner wears it. I will embrace the feminine watches at the right moment, but my general leanings are to these. This is one of the most beautiful watches I know. It’s understated and elegant – and it looks good on a man, too.”
As a watchmaker, IWC has been consciously shying away from categorizing watches as strictly either men’s or women’s – and I ask Pike if this kind of gender neutrality is something she is seeing in the film world, too. The daughter of opera singers, Pike refers to a current trend for “blind” orchestral auditions, where the deciding panels sit without looking at the players so they’re not influenced by gender. Pike says she’s been doing the same when watching films or reading books, such as A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara. “I didn’t actually know if Hanya was a man or woman’s name and I was enjoying the book so much… It wasn’t until I was halfway through that I discovered her identity. But it was such an amazing feeling not knowing someone’s gender while you’re so immersed in a world and so taken by someone’s mind – and literally not knowing if it’s a woman’s or man’s mind that you’re being taken with.”
Pike wraps up by admitting that recent work commitments have so far kept her from visiting the IWC manufacture. But an upcoming TV series, The Banker’s Wife, may change that as she plans to spend more time doing research in Switzerland. Pike not only stars in the show but is producing it, too, adding a feather to her cap and opening an exciting, new chapter in her spellbinding story.