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Julia Ormond on One of Her First Big Roles and Working With Robert Duvall

Julia Ormond was an actress on the London stage when she auditioned for the HBO movie “Stalin.”

She generated enough buzz to land a mention in Army Archerd’s column in Variety — and win the fight for the role she wanted opposite Robert Duvall.

How did you get cast?

People always ask this question and I balk a bit at the answer, because they wanted me for a different role. And I so wanted to play Nadia that I turned down (the first role). I was mortified and depressed, and then they came back and said, ‘We want you to do Nadia.’ And it continued from there to be an amazing experience for me.

What do you remember about the experience?

I got to wear Diane Keaton’s boots from “Red.” It’s funny — people think as actors, you get a lot from footwear; you get the walk of the person. For me, it felt like something was rubbing off from something she’d touched. I hope that’s not super creepy! It felt like a good omen.

What do you learn from working with Robert Duvall?

First of all, he’s a world-class actor. Secondly, he was in makeup for a lot of time, and as it always is, the schedule is hard. But he was very insistent that just because he’s in makeup, he’s not left out of rehearsal. I think that’s definitely something that I’ve carried forward for myself. And then it was just great to have someone in the leading role who was so into the details of the research. It was great to have someone in the leading role who was so into the details of the research. He was very insistent that just because he’s in makeup, he’s not left out of rehearsal. I think that’s definitely something that I’ve carried forward for myself. He’s a world-class actor.

What did you learn from working with the director, Ivan Passer?

Ivan had this beautiful way about him where he would always say the take was great. And then he would step out from behind the camera, go to the actors, and he would whisper what he wanted, so they weren’t exposed or challenged in front of everyone. And he just got amazing performances out of everyone. You felt like the director really had your back instead
of yelling at you.

If you could go back, would you do anything differently?

I don’t think so. It was an extraordinary experience for me. There’s no such thing as perfection in the journey. I still look back on it as one of the favorite roles that I’ve ever had the chance to play. There’s some irony in it coming so early in my career. So that even the mistakes that I made, the flaws that are there — I don’t think I’d change that.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned about show business?

Don’t take the good stuff, the complimentary stuff as seriously, or any more seriously than the negative stuff. That’s what keeps me grounded.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known then?

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