Claire Danes ('Stage Beauty')
'Beauty With No Beast In Sight!'
Successfully steering the path from child to adult roles, Claire Danes has packed a lot into her 25 years. A small screen star in her teens thanks to 'My So-Called Life', her film roles include 'Little Women,' 'Romeo + Juliet', 'The Hours', 'Igby Goes Down', and - bizarrely - 'Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines'. In 'Stage Beauty' she plays a theatrical dresser who dreams of becoming a star in her own right.
So, what preparation did you do for your role as Maria? "I listened rather obsessively to some voice tapes and tried to immerse myself in the sound as much as possible. I worked with a dialect coach in New York, and Joan Washington here in London - who was a godsend. But the toughest part was getting rid of my self consciousness."
When Maria starts out as an actress she's pretty bad. Is bad acting difficult when you clearly know better? "It's pretty challenging because it ran counter to all of my instincts and all of my training. But I was trying to divorce the gesture from the emotion, to reveal the effort behind the work."
Is the chance to do a costume drama for an American screen actor a rare thrill? "I did 'Little Women', when I was a very little woman myself. But America's history is not as impressive as your own."
How was it wearing the costumes. Did they help you find the character you were playing? "Absolutely. Wearing a dress was not alien to me, but wearing this kind of dress was a bit unusual. They are pretty constricting so they influence your movement and behaviour. And I was really glad for them because I had no choice but to sit upright. I didn't have to remind myself to act 'period' because the corset was enabling me to do that pretty naturally."
Having played a theatre actor on screen do you have any plans to be one for real and work on the London stage? "I haven't done any formal theatre work but I would love to. I'm really curious about that experience now after having told this story and worked with these people who have been so shaped by that community and culture. Working here in London with a largely English cast, I suppose I was a little daunted by the prospect of having to play the first English actress. I felt a little unqualified and unworthy being 'a Yank'. But I trusted that Richard had hired me for a reason and that I was capable of answering the demands of the part. And everybody was very encouraging. I was relieved to discover their warmth."
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