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Kristin Scott Thomas: “You forget how much it hurts”


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Kristin Scott Thomas
Short Profile

Name: Kristin Ann Scott Thomas
DOB: 24 May 1960
Place of birth: Redruth, Cornwall, England
Occupation: Actor

Ms. Scott Thomas, is generosity perhaps the most important quality an actor can have?

I think you’ve got to be brave, you've got to be courageous… You’ve got to think outside the box. In a lot of scripts that are written, there's a very obvious way in and there's a less obvious way in. And I think what I like is when people have a new way of finding the music of a piece, that's always really exciting to me.

The producer Robert Fox once said you had the gift of generosity on stage and that made the audience go wild for you.

That's one of the best things anyone's ever said about me, I can't quite get over it. Yes. I do think generosity as a performer is very important, but it's also a very, very thin line between being generous and being ingratiating, to want the audience to like you too much. I think that's dangerous — that's really, really dangerous. It’s giving them too easy a ride.

“It doesn't mean that you're likable, it just means you're giving all you've got.”

Is that just a consequence of experience, or do some actors have an instinct for it?

I think actors have an instinct for it. And I think that generosity that Robert was talking about, is something that you can spot straight away when you see somebody on stage. In fact, Ben Wishaw for example, he's extremely subtle, but there's an incredible soul to whatever he does you know. Other people that I've seen are completely different — Eve Best, for example. It doesn't mean that you're likable, it just means you're giving all you've got I guess.

After so many years giving it all you’ve got, you must be exhausted.

(Laughs) You’re right.

Is that why a few years ago, you said you can’t cope with another movie?  

I’ve been quite frustrated with making films! It's difficult for me to describe why, exactly. I think of it as my day job — I mean that's what I do, it's my job. And it became a bit too much of a job. It became a bit too much of: “Alright, I’ve got to do a film this film this year! Which film? This one? That one?" I love the passion, I love the excitement, I love the thrill but… I was just fed up you know? Just fed up, just burnt out, basically. But I do enjoy it. I just have to be in the right place at the right time, working with the right people.

Is working well with your cast mates the real secret to the success of a film?

You don’t necessarily have to like them, but you have to have some kind of connection. It doesn't necessarily go that the people who you like and have great fun with are the ones you work best with. And the opposite isn't true either. There are who you just click with work wise. It happened with Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour — he just sort of works, I don't know why, it just did. There have been other times that I've worked with people and it’s been hard work trying to get to the place that we need to get to. And I can't tell you why that is either. But when it does work, what's great is the way you become so free and so trusting. You just believe it. And you believe it the same way as you do when you're nine years old in the playground and you're robbing the bank.

When you watch your past films, can you tell if you were having a bad day on set?

No, you forget it all about it! You forget very, very quickly — a bit like childbirth. You forget how much it hurts!

What about the good experiences? Do you remember those?

Of course, I still remember filming with Prince even though we were children basically, 23 and 24 when we made that film. It was amazing! It was incredible, it was my first film. He was incredibly patient and kind, because he'd been performing such a long time and it was his second film. He had all the power. He was incredibly loyal.

“‘This is my part. I can do this better than anyone else.’ That’s how you should feel when you read a part.”

It’s said that he even wrote his 2009 song “Better With Time” about you.

I was in touch with him through all his life. He would get in touch when he'd get to Paris. I'd get these strange emails or a strange voicemail saying, "Hi, it's me." And that was that. And then I'd go and see his show, see him backstage and then he'd disappear for three years, and suddenly I'd get an email out of nowhere! (Laughs) I never ever forget that he was the one that gave me my first job. He said, "You've got an amazing talent." And being American, that's what they do, isn't it? They beef you up. Me being English, we Brits, we're allergic to that. You just don't know what to do with it. I was kind of cringing when he did that, but he did it and he believed in me and he kept being a huge supporter. So I have nothing but thanks for that.

How was it for you after such a great first experience? Did the Hollywood film industry surprise you?

Well, I was working with Roman Polanski at the time, and then I made Bitter Moon with Hugh Grant. It was because of Bitter Moon that Four Weddings and a Funeral came about because Hugh read it and sort of said, “You should read that. There’s a really good part in it for you.” So I read it and thought, “This is a really good part for me. This is my part. I can do this better than anyone else.” That’s how you should feel when you read a part. You have to believe that you’d be better at it than anybody else.

Have you ever had to mold a character to better suit yourself or your performance?

When they first asked me to do Clementine in Darkest Hour, somehow I had an instinctive feeling that she was getting sold a bit short. She wasn't really getting what she deserved. I thought a woman who is married to Winston Churchill and who was so admired by people of her generation… There must be a lot to this woman that we're not really told about. So I had to fight to make her more interesting. Basically, I think if you can take out the character and the story doesn’t change, then what’s the point of being there or of acting in it? That’s my judgment on it.