There’s a cliché that actors are “emotional” and “crazy”, but I think they are very tough because they face judgement all the time. How have you steeled yourself over the years? Different hardships that are unexpected can sort of assist you moving forward. With this job, it’s peculiar because you’re not born with the faculties to know how to handle the things that come your way. I found that shifting your perspective is really important. I don’t internalise things and I don’t personalise things and I don’t engage. I spend a lot of time focusing on the work, not the consequences of the work or people’s perceptions of it.
Have you always been like that? Well, no. But I learned pretty early on. I was devastated about a break-up, and it was plastered all over the tabloids. None of it true, all of it humiliating. I was at a supermarket with my brother and he saw some of those magazines and, unbeknownst to me, he bought them. He opened one while I’m driving down Sunset Boulevard, and I looked over and his shoulders were shaking. I was trying to figure out what was going on. I was like, ‘Is he crying?’ He was in tears; he was laughing so hard he could barely breathe. Then he started to read it.
Just like that? Yes, he’s the bigger performer of the two of us, for sure. He’s reading my quotes from this supposed interview I had done. Things I supposedly said about this personal relationship that I have never talked about and never will. And he was reading them in a voice that he imagined this fictional person to be. Then we were both laughing. Whoever wrote the piece had done so late at night while watching television and eating, you know? And I get it! When you go to New York or wherever and you’ve got to pay the bills and someone tells you, ‘You’re going to write about this. It doesn’t have to be true! Just make sure it’s not actionable.’
When that first happened to you, how did you handle it? Well, it’s interesting because I’ve watched some of my friends who have gone through it, and it’s a metamorphosis. You wouldn’t choose it, and you have to resign yourself to certain things that aren’t natural, and to the fact that you will not necessarily determine how you will be remembered in the world.
You took a few years off before Judy. Do you feel rebooted in some way? Well...it was nice to have authentic exchanges with people for a while. When you’re not on the radar, people don’t clock who you are; you’re just a person at the coffee shop ordering a coffee. You have conversations that aren’t about work. And when someone is having a bad day, it doesn’t change. They just have a bad day with you, and it’s a funny thing to appreciate, but I do. [Laughs] It’s nice. It’s real and not edited. We meet as human beings.
Did you know how you wanted to spend that time? Ah, no. I just knew there were certain things I needed to prioritise and—if I kept going—there would be no way I could do it.
What did you prioritise? Slowing down and working on building a life for myself. Trying to not have a relationship when I’m leaving town every two weeks. You know, getting to know somebody. Falling in love. [I wanted] to learn new things, so I worked in a different capacity in this business. Tried to create some things, produce some things, studied a little bit. I studied public policy, international law. And I travelled a lot. I went to Liberia. I spent a lot of time with my family on the East Coast [of the US].
What does ambition mean to you? And it could be for anything. I’m curious. I’m not eager for acquisition. I don’t have a fantasy about arriving somewhere. I challenge myself to grow with the experiences I take on. I want to do better.
Skip back a few years to 2001, when you were doing the first Bridget Jones’s film. You were obviously very established in your career by then. That era of the film industry has been so key to the subsequent Time’s Up and #MeToo conversation.
What’s it like to have the perspective of seeing it all unfold?
It’s interesting because there are things I never recognised as being questionable. I just understood how to navigate them. And I don’t live in it. I don’t exist in it. I step in to do my job, and I’ve been really blessed with the people I work with. I mean, the list [I have worked with are] just the greatest guys! It’s nice when we can talk to women and they’re like, “Actually, I’m lucky not to have a story.” Yeah, in terms of physical aggression. I mean, in [financial] equity or whatever, there might have been. It would be naïve to think it didn’t exist somewhere along the journey.
What’s your ideal day when you’re home in LA? No alarm. About 16 cups of tea [Laughs]. Sitting outside in the morning with the two dogs.
What are you most and least secure about? What am I most secure about? The quality of my friendships. I’m least secure about my decisions regarding geography. I don’t know if I have found the place where I’m supposed to be. I feel peaceful, but that may just be a condition of my personality or my upbringing, since my parents had wanderlust and now I do too. I don’t know.
Do you have anything planned work-wise for the next year?I’m talking about a couple of things, but nothing is set in stone. I just started this production company [The Big Picture Co.], and we’re doing some projects, so I’m moving that along.
How do you see yourself: as a boss or manager? Well, I have learned that no-one’s going to invite you. Honestly, if you believe in what you’re doing and if it’s quality material, then why wouldn’t you be aggressive in who you pursue to partner with on a particular thing? Great material doesn’t just show up. You have to develop it and make it happen.
What makes you feel like a kid? Oh, being 50! I feel energised and full of wonder and excitement about what’s ahead. And, of course, driving down the Pacific Coast Highway [in California], with the windows down and the music loud. There’s that! [Laughs]
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