Vogue CS in English

„Everyone who dedicates their life to fighting for peace and justice deserves great admiration,“ says Rosamund Pike in the exclusive cover interview

Learning free diving for a seconds-long scene, spending hours in an autopsy room, learning a new language, moving to a foreign country for two years. Rosamund Pike is more than a delicate English beauty with bewitching eyes and a diverse portfolio of roles. In an exclusive interview for Vogue Czechoslovakia, the Golden Globe winner speaks about female power, war heroines, overcoming oneself, and why she loves living in Prague.
Foto: Laura Sciacovelli
She began by filming television shows at 19, later she entered the movie scene with a bang – as a bond girl in Die Another Day, where she fenced under Madonna’s guidance and outsmarted not only Brosnan’s 007, but the whole British Secret Service. For this film debut this 21year old Englishwoman with porcelain skin and athletic figure received Empire Awards prize, wide recognition by film directors and new offers came in flying. We saw her as a loving wife of dissolute Earl of Rochester (Johnny Depp in The Libertine), the oldest Benett sister in Pride & Prejudice, a researcher in action thriller Doom. In 2015 the world fell in love with her as a sociopath in Gone Girl, a role that warranted a whole range of awards including Empire Award, London Film Critics Circle‘s best actress award, a nomination for an Oscar, a Golden Globe, BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Four years later she found herself on the Golden Globe nominee list again, this time for a role in a biographical war drama A Private War, in which she portrayed one of the most respected war correspondents of her time. Earlier this year her name was to be heard a third time at the Golden Globes, this time announced as a winner for the role of Marla Grayson in a black comedy thriller I Care a Lot, where she showed a new side of her performance. It was a perfect antihero, that stops at nothing, with a reprehensible moral profile, while simultaneously captivatingly enjoyable to watch. The story of a guardian who takes advantage of seniors presented from the point of view of the culprit rather than the victims got considerable traction and brought about a discussion about the whole system. I Care a Lot is also a story about how otherwise positive female attributes can be abused solely for money and personal gain. An exact opposite of her previous role yielded her a prestigious prize she accepted virtually from Prague where she lives with her husband and two sons for over two years now. A new premiere is coming up for her – a TV series called The Wheel of Time, for which she moved and stayed in the Czech capital.
„Cindyyy! Finally meeting in person!“ An elegant blonde in a beige Max Mara coat, with a perfect bob cut and wide smile, gets out of a black car. Before I can react, she continues her monologue energetically. „What a nice bouquet. Just a couple of days ago, the girls from our film crew went to a floral design workshop and I couldn’t, because I caught cold.“ I knew she liked meadow flowers. She hands them over to the driver Ondřej Šváb ("Don't forget to mention how gracious, easy-going and pleasant he is!"), and he drives off. We are alone. No assistants in sight, no spokesperson, make-up artist, no bodyguard. It is nice outside, beautiful Indian summer. At first, she suggested a walk through Stromovka, but we ended up in a hotel bar, where we sit in a corner booth. I appreciate the change, the number of topics to come up in following hours was greater than I expected. Previously, during winter, shortly after her winning the Golden Globes we discussed film, Prague, the red dress in which she remotely accepted the prize from the hands of Ben Stiller, bread baking, flour, make-up and Czech language. „After two years, I found out that this is the place for great coffee. Could you believe it? After two years!“ she says and turns to order filtered coffee with warm milk. She looks frangible in her ivory-colored sweater and slim pants; the nickname English Rose seems to be fitting. But only at first glance.
Foto: Laura Sciacovelli

A nose for quality

Rosamund Pike can surprise you. Whether by script choice, little details, book selection, hobbies, or an image switch. While not as extreme as her colleagues, her fluid transformation from a blonde in a bright pant suit into make-up-less brunette, along with a wide assortment of roles, feels very natural and at first glance you wouldn’t even notice these striking differences. I prepared thoroughly for this interview, I knew for a fact, that the conversation can take us practically anywhere. My instinct was right. Within five minutes, we were well beyond the planned topics. „One thing that really scares me is losing the sense of smell from covid. Do you think I should change my scent for Moiraine? When I worked with Johnny Depp on the Libertine, he had a special perfume for the movie. He has a lot of interesting methods,“ she recollects on her actor colleague and reveals, that she too started picking perfumes to fit characters she portrays on the screen. When not in front of a camera, she wears a unique perfume from a friend Amanda Grossman, make-up artist and founder of E11even, who contrived it from expressive essential oils, geranium and smokey undertones. „People literally go crazy from the scent. Men follow me on the street to ask me where they can buy the perfume for their wives. “ Is it really just the scent? comes to mind. „At least, that’s what they say, “she laughs. To our talk, she wears a classic – Mitsouko by Guerlain. It fits her well. Just like herself it has in it something tender, very classical, while a little provocative without the slightest hint of pathetic sweetness.
The more we dive into this unexpected topic, seemingly unrelated to film, the more I have to think about why she hasn’t yet been approached to be a face for a perfume. She would be perfect. Excellent, natural skin, elegant mannerism, bright Hollywood smile, calming voice. No scandal following her. I can imagine her sitting in an atelier with Francis Kurkdjian going through vials of rare oils, experimenting, while she asks a lot about technical details. As if she were preparing for a role. Her meticulous preparation is notorious. For just one scene, she takes diving classes, or goes to an autopsy room. She’s telling me, how last summer she did the open sea scuba diving course in the Maldives, but the theory scared her. She came to grasp all the things that could happen under the sea surface. The joy of freedom turned to fear, she was waking up in the middle of the night, covered in sweat and grasping for air. „And I think of myself as being quite brave, a bit of an adventurer. “ For at least a bit of her career, she picked scripts recklessly. A Bond film, a parody of one, historical drama, English realism classic, sci-fi, war drama, psychological thriller, or a black comedy.

From Jane Austin to an autopsy room

Today, she views this disparate portfolio of earlier movies as an advantage. Everything she went through on-screen helped her in one way or another. Looking back, she considers event the bad movies to be an experience to go through, so she would be ready for the next, great role. „Everything has something to teach you, even when you might not understand what it is for right away. I remember feeling an offer to film an action movie with Dwayne Johnson was a good idea. “ A movie based on a popular video game taking her to Prague Barrandov for the first time, she also visited Charles University’s Faculty of Medicine for the role of a scientist. „Thinking back to it, I shouldn’t have taken the part, but for one I got to dissect a human body, “ she winks and smiling tells me how she learned to separate fat tissue, remove veins and nerves. „I always pictured them [TN: the nerves] not even visible, but in reality, they look like this, “ she points to details of her black Lady Dior purse. „I came to realize, how robust they are, and what ought to be happening to them when we experience pain or other strong impulses. I also learned that I have to study the script and other details about the subject matter carefully. This really helped me prepare for The Wheel of Time. I realized, that especially in this case, I must be absolutely devoted to it and give it everything. The Wheel of Time has a huge fan base, they track every detail. We’re literally under a microscope. In the case of Doom, I didn’t even understand the game. I had no clue, what drives people to it, I couldn’t unravel its secrets. But on the other hand, it prepared me for the current project in a way. “ For the leading role in epic fantasy, she learned all the rules of an imaginary world, details not only about her character, but about all the other ones too. Quite an impressive feat if you remember that the series consists of fourteen books with around three thousand characters appearing within the story.

Every experience has its purpose

Meanwhile, Rosamund Pike wasn’t accepted to any acting school she applied to. Instead, she graduated from Oxford University Wadham College with a degree in English literature with outstanding grades. By the way, there she hung out a lot with Chelsea Clinton, a former US president’s daughter. From her stories, diligence is a virtue that follows her through life – she leaves nothing to chance and surely lives by the rule, that fortune favors the prepared. She looks at the world and her own place in the tough film industry with sobriety, while not losing even a bit of her passion for acting and everything related to it. Whether she speaks about books or her movies, her voice and gestures are vibrant with energy.
Her eyes lit up when a courier with a massive envelope arrives. I pull out prints of pictures taken two weeks ago in Parisian Museum Rodin for Vogue Czechoslovakia. She goes through every single picture, commentating on every detail, every pose, every expression. „It reminded me of filming a movie a bit, I was acting while being myself at the same time,“ she keeps browsing through sizeable sheets of paper, pointing out details of makeup, commenting on statues, background, and haute couture clothing by Maria Grazia Chiuri, creative director of Dior. For this two-dimensional story, she transformed into Bertha von Suttner, Czech-Austrian noblewoman, writer, publicist, and pacifist, who had a major influence on Albert Nobel and became the main inspiration for awarding the famous prize. A Prague native, on the 10th of December 1905 she became the first woman in the World to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
The combination of Bertha and Rosamund isn’t as random as it would seem. Apart from Prague, literature, and love for Rodin, both relate in their knowledge of foreign languages. Apart from English, Rosamund speaks fluent German, is learning Mandarin Chinese, which her sons speak from birth, and is trying to learn Czech. Countess von Suttner isn’t the first Nobelist the actress has portrayed. „Nobel Prizes are so interesting, right? Last week a Tanzanian writer [Abdulrazak Gurnah, ed.] received one, I’ve never heard of him before. When you star to follow the prizes, you learn a lot and discover lives of people, you had no idea about. Everyone who dedicates their life to fighting for peace and justice deserves great admiration. Where does it even come from in people? What do you think?“ She asks and answers right away to herself with the story of Ruth Williams, an ordinary girl from southeast London. She met Botswanan king Seretse Khama on accident. They changed not only lives of one another, but also the course of history of one nation and the history of the whole World. Rosamund got to play her in The United Kingdom, a movie whose main theme was racism after World War II.

Real fiction

From Botswana, she returned to Prague a second time, to transform from an African country’s first lady into the wife of Reich-Protector Reinhard Heydrich. War themes, as well as the fates of real women, stick with her since then. In the biographical drama A Private War she played the role of war correspondent. „Biographical movies pose a bit of a risk. The older I get, the more I put myself out there, and complicate my life. After the experience of A Private War, I’m keeping it in check. The role of Marie Colvin left a mark on me and deeply affected the months following the filming itself. The trauma she went through reflected on my body. My head knew I was just acting, but the body did not, it lived through the whole thing.“ Nearly a year after finishing the movie, Rosamund fell ill with burnout syndrome. „It wasn’t from me contributing to it in my own life. To this day I’m certain it was because of the movie and how close I got to the character,“ she describes her intense experience. In both her mind and body, the boundaries between a role and reality became blurred. „I think I didn’t respect the process enough. I didn’t understand, that I can’t force my body to live through the horror, the fear, adrenalin, trauma, depression, consequences of alcoholism, everything Marie went through. My body started to act differently. It helped me as an actress. I was grateful for it reacting that way. I was telling myself how fantastic this is. What I didn’t know is, that I’ll have to pay for all that. For all the emotions my body went through on the molecular level.“ She started to watch her body’s reactions more closely, working with them, but right of the bat she admits, that she likes pushing herself and finding her boundaries, how far she can reach and return safely. „As an actress, I’m this kind of a medium, especially with regard to real characters. I have to find their own emotions in me, and that goes for my whole body. I’m learning how to work with this immense power coming through my body without having to pay again. In this regard, Moiraine is way safer.“
Besides playing the main character, who is a member of an influential sisterhood, filming the cult series The Wheel of Time brought Rosamund one more role. She took up production. She draws upon more than twenty years worth of experience in front of the camera in different ways, than just appearing on the screen, for one she has a more powerful voice for herself and her surroundings. „The presence of an actor in the production team can help everyone substantially. From editing the trailer to better conditions for others. I can win better spots and condition for them. Especially for the actresses in The Wheel of Time. I did all I could in order for them to have correct salaries. As a producer, I have this strength and power.“
She made her mark as an executive producer on two more series besides The Wheel of Time this year, those being Edith! and a mysterious sci-fi The Three-Body Problem. But it certainly doesn’t end there for her. Even between her busy schedule of filming and family, she seeks out further inspiration and themes to make into a movie, regardless of them having a role for her. Last year around this time she flew to Minsk to meet Svetlana Alexievich, the first Belorussian to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her name might not ring any bells at first, but if I mention the Chernobyl HBO series, you’ll know. One of the works the series about the 80s nuclear catastrophe, that affected the health and lives of millions of people in Europe, was based on was Alexeievich’s Chernobyl Prayer.
„I was captivated by her The Unwomanly Face of War, telling authentic stories of women at the times of Second World War. I had no idea what was going on. She was telling me about snipers, tank drivers, about women who fought side by side with men in the front lines. Not in the rear, but along with them! At those times, every family had to send the oldest offspring to war. If they didn’t have a boy to send, a girl was drafted instead. The thrilling thing is, that they were seventeen, eighteen, nineteen. Full of ideals, patriotism, ready to fight for the Motherland. I know, that speaking about Russian history is a touchy subject in Czechia. I understand,“ she raises her hand in an apologetic gesture and continues to tell a story, which with her help can draw even bigger attention of the mainstream audience. „I found their fates absolutely bewitching. I have no idea, if anyone today would muster such strength and resolve. I hope we’ll never find out. What was even more interesting was what happened after the war, when they returned to their home cities and villages. Everyone praised them as war heroines, but it came with shame. Their own mothers hid them. They told them, that they would never marry, if they would talk about their experiences. Svetlana sought out these women and took interviews with them. Many times she was the first person to hear about their war ordeals.“ Rosamund, who was cheery and exhilarated up to this point, changes in front of me. First tears gleam in her eyes, her voice weakens, her shoulders sink. „These women, their stories… they get to you. They gave birth on the front lines. They hid their children from the enemy in any way they could, even underwater if they had to. I know that there’s not a character for me in the book, but I want to make it into a movie to share with others regardless. I’m discussing it with Svetlana, so a good script could be put together, and the whole thing could happen.“

Prague adventure

After this emotionally tense moment, we sit for a while in silence. I turn the conversation back to The Wheel of Time, a television series, whose first series will be premiered by Amazon Prime on the 19th of November. The first two-minute trailer the studio released was played by 11 million people on YouTube, and 15 thousands of them commented under it. Judging from the initial impressions, the TV adaptation seems to gather quite a response. A sizeable portion of the series was created in Prague studios, the crew, for the sake of authenticity, also travelled to south Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. Even in this regard, Prague came to be the ideal destination. „I know of no one in the crew, who wouldn’t love it here.“ She also praises the quality of production and local craftsmen, who played an important role in the making of the TV saga. Be it leather and metal costumes or wooden structures. After watching the first episode, I was charmed both by the beginning of an epic narrative and by the execution, and Rosamund surprised me once again. I saw all of her movies, but I wouldn’t expect her to play Moiraine Damodred. The black hooded garments and dark hair make her look imposing, and she doesn’t even have to show her magical abilities. When talking about magic, which only women wield in The Wheel of Time, the lead actress regains her positive energy and vigor. She makes gestures, laughs, and with undisguised enthusiasm describes individual details, without spoiling the plot of the much anticipated series. „It is a part just for me. Robert Jordan [the author of the first eleven volumes, ed.] talks about how you have to control the power, to train, otherwise, it will burn you. At the same time, he talks about a thrilling sensation flowing through you. Running through your veins. Almost like a drug.“
She stays in Prague still. She’s shooting a second season, and when she doesn’t have to be on set or with family, she spends her time in the audio studio. During the strictest lockdown, she managed to take part in a dance movie. She provided the voice of the woman played by the dancer Meredith Webb. The protagonists never met in person; everything was done via Zoom. Spoiler to a black and white movie Evidence of it All was posted on actress’s Instagram @mspike a day before our meeting. The story draws from seven deadly sins and is told through a single person, elements of their childhood and their birthplace, to which they return in adulthood. „It isn’t explicitly about sins, it’s more about their presence in every one of us.“ She collaborated with choreographer and director Drew Jacoby before already on a biographical movie Radioactive, where Rosamund played the role of Marie Curie and Drew the role of a dancer Loie Fuller, a pioneer of contemporary dance. „I find Drew to be very inspiring. As an actress I observe everyone around me, drawing creative spark and ideas from them, you’re always cooking with gas.“
While she drinks from a painted cup with golden arrows on it, she talks about her complicated relationship with dance, everyday life in the Czech metropolis, and happiness from finding time to play cello in the heart of Europe after all these years. „I like the freedom you have here. Everything seems simpler here, especially raising kids. Things work here, you can arrange anything, everything needed for a comfortable life is within reach. I don’t have to plan long ahead like in England, I can be a very spontaneous parent in Prague, which suits me very much.“ She’s willing to fulfill her oldest son’s wish to stay in Prague indefinitely, but on one condition. That you learn Czech, I ask. „Yes,“ she covers her face. She adds, with an apologetic expression, that she’s capable to communicate fairly good when shopping. She then floods me with names of various baking ingredients spoken with a cute accent. With my argument, that most foreigners in Prague don’t know the language either, she firmly disagrees. „I couldn’t live here without knowing the language. I set this as a condition to my family. Moreover, Czech is such a beautiful language, it sounds nice.“ That’s just Rosamund, ready to take on another unexpected challenge of her own making.
Who knows? Maybe it will be her, who will, thanks to the knowledge of Czech, present not only Czech history, but mainly the present. Immediately, a book of a Czech writer comes to my mind, with a perfect role for Ms. Pike.
The December 2021 issue of Vogue Czechoslovakia is on newsstands on Thursday 11 November. You can order your copy online.