And for an actress?
As an actress, it was a challenge because there wasn’t an easy scene. There wasn’t a day that I could say, ok, today I don’t have to give so much. This role is one in which one has to bare one’s soul. And for that, as an actor, you need a director you can trust. I found it in Susanne Bier. She is like a conductor, she has control over a large orchestra, filming with her is like a symphony in which every nuance is right.
It is rare for a director to do an entire series. Did you choose Susanne Bier?
Yes, I’ve wanted to work with her for ages, I consider her one of the most talented directors and I’ve followed her career for years. And I didn’t even know how good it was until I was in front of the camera. She allowed me to be quiet, which few directors allow because they don’t have enough faith in the story and the actors. But Susanne wanted the audience to read my mind. In addition, I admire their work ethic. She shoots for 12 hours, then prepares the next day of shooting and on the weekend she cuts. She says it’s typically Scandinavian. And on top of that, she is a wonderful person. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother and possesses that combination of stoic and warm-hearted. Nothing can disturb her.
How did you get Hugh Grant?
It wasn’t me, it was Susanne Bier. I didn’t even think he would accept the role because he turns down most of the offers. But Susanne has known him for a long time, and when I had my doubts, she said, “No, no, he does that. He doesn’t say ‘No’ to me.” And that’s how it was. She has a lot of power, this woman!
Much is written about your look on the show. How important was that to the story?
Susanne wanted to create a kind of fairytale look as a contrast to the story. That’s why New York is filmed so foggy and almost translucent. And on the other hand, my red hair, the green dress and the red coat, which everyone is talking about, stand out very strongly. The honor goes to Susanne’s costume designer Signe. She put together these almost hypnotic color combinations.
Hugh Grant describes you as a “funny, quirky Australian”. How would you describe him?
Haha, yeah, I’m funnier and quirkier now than I was when I was younger. You loosen up with age. I used to be shy. I’ve known Hugh for over 30 years. That was before “Four Weddings and a Death,” he wasn’t famous yet, but he was talked about. He was dating Liz Hurley at the time, and I was on stage in London in “Blue Room”. We all went out to eat together. My sister was there too, and he always says we both spoke in a language that neither of us understood. That was our Australian dialect! I’ve followed his work over the years. He’s a really good actor. Initially, his charm took off from his talent in the Richard Curtis films, but he kept getting better the more he played other roles.
How did you come to sing the theme song too?
That was also Susanne’s idea. We were in final production when the first lockdown started and luckily Keith did (Urban, her husband, note) a small studio in our house, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to record it. Susanne wanted my voice to become a kind of narrator through the song.
Speaking of singing: you will soon also be playing a role in “The Prom”, the musical by Ryan Murphy. Was that a nice change from the dramatic roles?
Oh god no Musicals are so difficult, I’ve forgotten how difficult since I shot Moulin Rouge. On the other hand, a psychologically demanding role is nothing. I’m not the youngest either, and have had a weak knee since “Moulin Rouge”, and the whole dance was terribly exhausting. But who says no to Ryan Murphy? And of course we need happy musicals in life. Just now.
You are more drawn to the dark, mysterious roles when in reality you are a very cheerful person. Why is that?
I’m not offered very many comedies, that’s the truth. And of course I’m also very picky because I grew up with European cinema, and European comedies are more sophisticated. That’s why I immediately said yes to “To Die For”, it was a black comedy that you rarely see in America.
Which European films have you influenced?
Definitely Fellini, when I was 14, 15 I devoured his films. And French, Spanish and Russian films, Kieslowski, Almodovar etc. Isabelle Huppert impressed me as an actress. In Australia, people go to the cinema and watch subtitled films.