No makeup. No expression. When she first appears onscreen as Juliette in “I’ve Loved You So Long,” Kristin Scott Thomas is stripped bare of everything but her wardrobe.
It’s a sign of a unique role for the polished star of such movies as “The English Patient” and “Gosford Park” — and that was the film’s appeal to her.
“It was a different kind of screenplay, story and character from the things that I am so often asked to do, which I find very refreshing,” Scott Thomas says. “I want to do something different.
“I just liked the idea of the experimental side to it: a first-time director (Philippe Claudel, who also scripted), with me acting in this type of role, i.e. not a patrician, not a success, not witty — not what I’m generally asked to do.”
In preparing for her role as a woman paroled from jail and reintegrating with her sister’s family after more than a decade behind bars, Scott Thomas also broke convention.
“My first reaction was, ‘I’ve got to go meet people in prison,’ ” Scott Thomas recalls. “Then I thought about it, and the film isn’t actually about prison life, but the stain that it left.”
Scott Thomas, appearing now on Broadway in “The Seagull,” did view docus and read testimonials about prison life for women, and also talked to those involved with prisoner rehabilitation, but she remained compelled to focus on the outsider’s adjustment into everyday life.
“The fear of abandonment, the isolation, were things that I was interested in portraying,” she says.
Scott Thomas adds that the shoot was at once intense (because of the heavy subject matter) but comfortable (thanks to an expert and familiar crew). Spending most of the production in the small town of Nancy made the experience even more memorable.
Through it all, Scott Thomas worked with Claudel to maintain her raw interpretation of Juliette.
“When we were on set, we used to work on the dialogue,” Scott Thomas says. “I cut quite a lot of it. I felt this character should be less expressive verbally. The isolation, anger and the kind of disappointment and acceptance of what she had done brought up this huge wall, and she couldn’t just talk through it.”
Favorite film this year
“I haven’t really seen any. I’ve been working too much.”
“Learn your lines. In film, you have this tendency to sort of muddy text up. In some cases, it’s really necessary when things are written too sharply, and then in other cases it’s really well-defined and it’s important to learn it properly.”
“I think I’m inspired mostly by other artists that aren’t actors, like writers or singers or artists, for being so brave.”