Any Human Heart Press Release
The Duchess of Windsor
Since her world famous portrayal of Dana Scully in The X Files television series (and two films), for which she won an Emmy, Golden Globe, and two SAG Awards, Gillian's film credits have included The Mighty, Playing By Heart, The House of Mirth (for which she won the Best Actress Award at the British Independent Film Awards and The Village Voice Film Critic's Poll for 'Best Performance'), Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, The Last King of Scotland, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and Boogie Woogie.
In the BBC mini-series adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic Bleak House, Gillian starred as Lady Dedlock and the critically acclaimed performance earned her a nomination for Best Actress at the BAFTAs in 2006 and at the Emmy's. She also provided the voice of Queen Vorkana in the animated comedy short Robbie the Reindeer in Close Encounters of the Herd Kind for BBC One and the voice of Helene Hanff in the BBC Radio 4's adaptation of 84 Charing Cross Rd.
Upcoming projects include Michael Barker's Moby Dick alongside Ethan Hawke and William Hurt, The Crimson Petal and The White for the BBC and Johnny English 2 with Rowan Atkinson and Dominic West.
How would you describe your interpretation of the Duchess?
If you are interpreting a fictional character, then you can fill in the blank a bit more. But, with a factual character like the Duchess, there are certain guidelines that it makes sense to adhere to. I studied her to the best of my ability by watching, reading and listening to news and stories about her. I ended up with an accumulation of all that and then had conversations with hair, make-up and wardrobe. We came up with an image and something that worked for my portrayal of the character. The amalgamation of the research and of everybody's input is what I ended up with on the day.
Did you have any pre-conceived opinions about her in real life?
None of my opinions were based on any type of knowing, understanding or actually having that much exposure to her. I'd never seen any footage of her until production had given me a DVD with a documentary about Edward, that I saw firsthand their movements and details of them interacting in their lives.
I didn't know anything about their German affiliations or how they ended up living their lives together. I'd heard so much about what an unattractive person she was but when I looked at the photographs and studied her movements, I didn't really get a sense of that. I guess you never do until you step into the private lives of people. She comes across as being incredibly charming, kind and sociable. She was obviously very stylistically in tune in terms of what she wore, when and how she wore things. She was very well put together and could wear clothes very well. So I realised that there was a package that is the public her and I found it very appealing. At the same time, the conundrums of the situation they placed themselves in and how they chose to conduct their lives was the antithesis of what people expected of them. The shock of it made them even more enticing and people couldn't quite understand what they were thinking. It's fascinating how people are so attracted to them as a couple and how drawn to them they are.
What do you dislike about the Duchess in AHH?
There are a couple of scenes where she shows herself to be quite nasty and vindictive and I don't particularly like that human characteristic at all. It's still interesting to play as an actor, not unpleasant. It's certainly something that I hope isn't part of my own character!
How did you find playing alongside Tom Hollander as the Duke?
Tom has been a friend for a long time and it was the first time that we've worked together which was most enjoyable. Not least of which was his sense of humour, which is always fun to be around. He had quite a lot of knowledge about the Duke and Duchess because he played George V, Edward's father. It was great fun to work with him and Matthew (Macfadyen). The only downside was not having the opportunity to work with Jim (Broadbent). We didn't cross paths for one second, which was a shame.
What were your most enjoyable experiences on set?
The whole thing was enjoyable, from the moment I met with costume to come up with the outfits. They were very specific, about the outfits she was going to be wearing right down to the wig fitting and figuring out the hair and make-up. The outfits were all originals and I don't think I've ever played in that time period before.
My first day of work was on the golf course and it was a small and simple scene, which is always ideal. I have a tendency to get laboured with the divorce, breakup or death scene on my first day!
What was it like filming in Barcelona?
It was wonderful; Barcelona is a beautiful city. I've been there twice before and it's so much bigger than I'd even realised. I had a couple of days after filming where I took the time to do a bit more exploring and go to different areas than I've been to before, which was great. It's always nice to film in other countries so you can get a taste of them and also filming somewhere warm is always nice too!
So, what is next for you?
There are a couple of things coming up soon that I'm quite excited about. One is doing a cameo on The Crimson Petal and The White. It's the character I'm looking forward to, Mrs. Castaway who runs a brothel at the end of the 17th Century. I also just signed on to Johnny English 2 and I'm playing the head of M17. It's tickling me silly right now that I'm getting to play with Rowan Atkinson.