The 30th Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) continued its tradition of honoring the year’s standout performers by presenting one of this year’s Virtuosos awards to Rosamund Pike for her work in Gone Girl. Expertly directed by David Fincher and brilliantly laid out by author/screenwriter Gillian Flynn, the haunting and chilling thriller is about a man (Ben Affleck) whose wife (Pike) disappears, turning him into the focus of an intense media circus and making him look less than innocent.
While there, Rosamund Pike talked about how hard Gone Girl was to get out of her system, why the secrets of the story were worth keeping, what was most helpful in her understanding of the character, why a character like Amy is a dream for an actor, the most challenges scenes, and what movies of 2014 she would recommend. Here are the highlights of what she had to say during the Q&A.
ROSAMUND PIKE: You play a part like this and people always ask you when you got the character out of your system. We finished the movie, and then, it wasn’t until the New York premiere that we could finally talk about it, and I was like, “I’ve basically been playing Amy for the last six months. I’ve been lying and hiding things and not telling the truth.” Suddenly, you’re like, “Okay, she’s gone, and now people know what it’s about.” David Fincher’s marketing strategy on this film was brilliant because people didn’t know. Obviously, the book found a huge readership, but many, many more people saw the film than read the book. Those people who didn’t know what was coming had an extraordinary experience in the cinema because it’s an extraordinary story. So, it was worth keeping those secrets.
The character of Amy is so complex. What was most helpful, in your understanding of her? Was it the script, was it the book, was it talking to Gillian Flynn, or was it inside you?
PIKE: I always think that the people who have the hardest time in the spotlight are the people who have unearned fame, like the girlfriends of people who are famous or people who become figures of attention, not through their own merit. And that’s what Amy has because she’s the subject of these books. She’s not only the subject, but it’s like she’s been given a fictional twin who’s better than her, more accomplished than her, more popular than her, and more loved than her, by her own parents. That’s a recipe for narcissism, right there, because you’re entitled and you feel inadequate. Then, that makes a very insecure adult, who simultaneously has very high expectations of themselves and others. That, for me, was my in into the character.
You really studied the book, didn’t you?
PIKE: Yeah, but I don’t think that’s so unusual for actors to do that. There are bits that you want to remember. You can go back to something and have it ignite something in your brain. Gillian is such a fantastic writer that there are bits that you want to relish. There’s this wonderful bit where, towards the end of the movie, he says, “My wife is a murdering, lying sociopath, who is also really fun.” And I thought, “That’s who she is! That’s what I want to play!”
PIKE: There’s no actress who wouldn’t dream of a character like that. As an actor, you think, “I’m never going to be good enough. I can see how far I want to reach with this and the potential, but I’m never going to reach it.” But the other side of that, is you go home and think, “I can do anything I want. This is so extreme. It’s a version of being a woman that isn’t contained in any way.” She’s extreme. Yes, it’s a film about a murderess, but it’s very empowering, in some ways. It’s great to stretch every muscle and get to make good on every insane thought you’ve ever had.
What’s the one scene that kept you up at night, knowing that you’d have to do it?
PIKE: I always get worried about anything physical, like the action sequences. Neil Patrick Harris and I had to do a violent scene. If you’re going to do something like that, you have to do it with a certain degree of accuracy. I had no idea how much force you needed to slice someone’s throat. I actually went to a butcher and asked them if they wouldn’t mind me just using a box cutter on a pig carcass, just to understand what it would be like. They let me do it, so anyone buying meat that day would have seen me behind the counter, with serious intent, finding out the mechanics of doing that. That was purely for research purposes.
But then, the very start of the movie was very difficult because I started with the scenes where Amy is on the run and she has to suddenly create another character, as she’s hiding inside her own skin. I had to gain all this weight for that part of the movie, and I was very ill. I’d gotten a terrible virus, right before the first day. And then, I was playing somebody who’s being somebody else, but I hadn’t played the true person, at that stage of the movie. I found that unbelievably difficult. Those scenes later became really fun because I was playing two people within the same scene.
Is it a coincidence that, after playing this murderess, you became pregnant and brought a life into this world?
PIKE: I finished playing Amy and thought, “I have to create a human being, after that person.” I think it really did. I didn’t know where to go from there, professionally. I brought a lot of unpleasantness into the world, playing Amy. She’s not a relaxing person to play. There’s nothing authentic about her. I suppose there is when she’s vitriolic and true. In her dealings with other people, she’s relentlessly never herself. So, I think I needed to be relentlessly authentic and myself for awhile, and bring an innocent human being into the world.
PIKE: I would love to be under-estimated as a dancer, and then really fucking show ‘em.
What is one movie that came out in 2014 that you loved and would recommend?
PIKE: I would say Whiplash. I had just brought my baby back from the hospital, and it was one of those nights. I watched it, and I was just so riveted and moved. Tears were streaming down my face, watching that film. It’s a reincarnation of artistic expression and the violence that goes under the surface of that expression. But then, Birdman was like that, too. [Alejandro González] Iñárritu’s direction in Birdman is truly mind-boggling when you think about how he accomplished that, and how he had that in his head and executed it with that grace. It’s a pretty stunning thing.