As with most actors, it’s an uncertain time for Hollywood actress Rebecca Hall who has a number of releases in the pipeline this year. Luckily her most immediate release is a streaming show, at a time when it’s arguably never been better to have a streaming release. She stars in Amazon Prime Video’s new sci-fi anthology series Tales From The Loop. Based on the acclaimed paintings of Simon Stålenhag, the show follows stories of the strange and unexplainable occurrences in a small town above “The Loop”, a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe.
Still to come from the year for the actress is horror film The Night House and monster mash-up event film Godzilla Vs Kong opposite Alexander Skarsgard and Millie Bobby Brown. The actress, who’s most known for films like Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona, The Prestige, Frost Nixon and Iron Man 3 is also currently remotely editing her directorial debut Passing, from home. An adaptation of Nella Larsen’s novel, the film stars Ruth Negga, Tessa Thompson and Alexander Skarsgård, the drama explores people from one racial group seeking acceptance from another.
Over the phone, the British-American actress spoke to me about her new show, attempting to complete a film during lockdown and how she sees the pandemic impacting cinema going forward.
These are obviously very scary, uncertain times, but is it a sort of silver lining to have a big streaming show like Tales From The Loop release at a time when everyone’s at home watching a lot more?
I guess so. I mean, I’m happy that something is filling holes in that respect, but I don’t know that I’d call it a silver lining (laughs). I’d rather all this wasn’t happening.
Your character on the show, Loretta, is someone who struggles to express her feelings. You said in an interview ‘If she could write code for how she is feeling at any given time she would probably be more comfortable.’ Was it challenging to play someone like that?
It often is, but I find it more rewarding and fun to play those characters that have a certain duality. I think it’s more fun to act what you’re feeling on the inside when you’re not given the words to act it, so it’s a greater challenge.
But also with Loretta, it was quite more straightforward in a way. I think when you play characters that are complicated in this way, or as some might say ‘unlikeable’ even though I don’t quite agree with that, the work that I have to do is to try and find a way to make them sympathetic on some level. But with Loretta, all of that work was done for me because it’s quite clear after watching episode 1 that there’s this one seismic even in her life that has made her precisely how she is. That gave me an enormous amount of freedom to go really far with this because the rationale is there, I don’t have to work to make her super likeable, I can just play her as she is.
Tales From The Loop is a very human, character-driven story. But with a tentpole event film like Godzilla Vs Kong, is it harder to and make a mark and have your presence felt?
Yeah, well it depends on your part really. So often with those films, there are so many people involved in making them that the script can disappear down a plug hole after five days of being on set, and you’re sort of left spinning going ‘wait, where am I? Who am I?’. But sometimes you get lucky and you get a good role and it sort of stays that way. Those films are made how they’re made for many reasons and sometimes you get to work with great directors who have great stories, and often they’re really entertaining and fun and they have a huge audience and I always want to be a part of those films, even though there’s a risk that you might get lost.
Is it strange that you don’t know when you’ll be on set again or when you’re upcoming films will release?
Yeah, it’s honestly very peculiar. I’m working on a film right now that I wrote and directed and I’m editing it remotely, and we’re working towards these deadlines to finish the movie and I have no idea when I’m going to get into a soundstage to mix it or anything like that. So, it’s very different. But I suppose a perspective shift like that is can also be a good thing to take stock of what’s important to you in your career and all that kind of thing rather than living in a state of constant anxiety.
So often with those films, there are so many people involved in making them that the script can disappear down a plug hole after five days of being on set, and you’re sort of left spinning going ‘wait, where am I? Who am I?’. But sometimes you get lucky and you get a good role and it sort of stays that way.
It must be pretty difficult to remotely coordinate the completion of a film?
It’s really hard and really frustrating. But I’m lucky that we were quite far along in the process, we were only a week away from locking picture, so what we’re doing now is just the finer editing and producer’s notes and that kind of thing. So, we’re sort of managing and I think the film’s in pretty good shape. I feel lucky to have done as much in the room with the editor as I got to do before all this. Now she just has to deal with my very pedantic emails every half an hour (laughs).
It’s being said that one of the impacts of the Coronavirus might be that the only thing that will eventually draw people back into theatres will be the big event films, and smaller films will struggle even more. Is that something that worries you at all?
No, it’s not you know. I think that is partly true, but I also think that it works on two ends of the spectrum. I think people are drawn into the cinema to see big event movies but I think they’re also drawn to see smaller films that are cinematically bold and visually interesting and I think that the pull of that will always be present. That’s why small cinemas stay open and Criterion Channel does so well on the internet. There’s still a desire to celebrate film. And I certainly wouldn’t ever want to give up my cinema-going experience for those movies because I’ve had some of the most significant viewing experiences of my life going to see great movies in the cinema. I think, if anything, we’ll come out of this probably wanting to hang out in large rooms full of people again.
Do you have any recommendations you think people should watch right now?
I think everything that’s streaming on the Criterion Channel is well worth watching. If you feel like you’ve got a gap in your cinema history, they’re programming is just incredible. We also started watching this show called Unorthodox. The central performance in it is just phenomenal and I’m compelled to watch it because she’s so good.