Joely Richardson is The Last Mimzy, by Tim Nasson
Beverly Hills – Joely Kim Richardson (born 9 January 1965 in London) is an English actress, who was born into a theatrical family. She is the daughter of screen legend Vanessa Redgrave and late director Tony Richardson, the granddaughter of Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, Lady Redgrave, sister of actress Natasha Richardson, and sister-in-law of actor Liam Neeson, and niece of Lynn Redgrave and Corin Redgrave. Joely Richardson appeared as an extra at the age of three in the 1968 version of The Charge of the Light Brigade directed by her father.
After an early leading role in Peter Greenaway’s cult success Drowning by Numbers, her first major role in front of a mass audience was as Joanna Farley in a 1989 television episode of Poirot, the Agatha Christie-based detective series. She later appeared as a fictional Finnish princess, Anna, in the 1991 comedy King Ralph. A year later, she appeared in Shining Through alongside her future brother-in-law Liam Neeson, where both played Nazis. In 1993, she appeared as Lady Chatterley in a television drama of the same title.
In 1996 she played the fashion designer Anita in the popular Disney film 101 Dalmatians opposite Glenn Close as Cruella de Vil. In 1998, in the popular television drama The Echo, she played sultry Amanda Powell. The next year, she played in the sci-fi/horror movie Event Horizon as Lieutenant Starck, executive officer of the research and rescue ship Lewis & Clark, sent to rescue crew of the long-thought-lost experimental ship Event Horizon.
One year later, she played opposite Mel Gibson in the successful film The Patriot, which was loosely based on the American Revolution. Later that year she was modelling a necklace, when director Charles Shyer noticed her resemblance to doomed 18th-century royal Marie Antoinette. Thus, she secured the role of that queen in the 2001 film The Affair of the Necklace.
Also in 2000, she played the lead in Ben Elton’s movie adaptation of his own book, Inconceivable (renamed Maybe Baby), opposite “House’s” Hugh Laurie.
In 2003, she took on the major role of playing Julia McNamara in the controversial television drama Nip/Tuck, based on the lives of two dysfunctional plastic surgeons in Miami. Her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, has appeared in several episodes playing her character’s mother.
Divorced from film producer Tim Bevan, she has a daughter, Daisy, who was born in 1992. The former couple was married from 1992 until 2001.
Joely Richardson sat with Wild About Movies to discuss her latest theatrical movie, a family film, “The Last Mimzy.”
WAM: When you were growing up, did you have a special toy like Mimzy that you carried around with you all the time?
Joely Richardson: I didn’t. I had my Barbie phase and I do remember I had a little polar bear that was very soft and cuddly that I think my dad had given me from L.A. so I had him. But the funny thing was, and this is actually a really sad comment on myself, but I was never a big cuddly toy person and occasionally if I looked through magazines and you’d see pictures of people’s houses and grown-ups had cuddly toys on their beds, I would always think, ‘Oh that’s so nap. I’m never going to become like that.’ And then over the years, I have gotten a cuddly toy collection in my adult life and I am very fond of them. I have a white rabbit that we actually got in Malibu because we were staying with some friends who had this rabbit that my daughter fell in love with and we called him Harvey, of course, and also because of the whole Alice in Wonderland connotations of the white rabbit and anyway, this rabbit Harvey became a bit of a fixture for us because we were traveling round so much and it’s nice to travel around with your toys.
And then I have one that a very young actor in the film I did before this one gave me as an end present, and so I got very fond of that one, and then I’ve got another one who’s called Nuango who’s Japanese that my daughter gave me when I went to do Mimzy because she knew we had hotel rooms and I was by myself and she said ‘Mom I want you to have my Mimzy to take care of you,’ and so I got another. I’m getting a bit of a collection now and I am fond of them. At Christmas time I have a lot of nieces, nephews and godchildren so at my house I have toys for kids of different ages so there’s always something for them to do when they come and stay. I bought the CD that Meryl Streep narrated about The Velveteen Rabbit and we listened to that. And there is an element in that – it could be a painting, a dress – if there is anything which is an inanimate object that you are fond of, it gives it some force. I’m not saying it’s alive, but you do have some connection with it. But Mimzy, because it was work connected, it was Emma’s toy, Rhiannon’s.
WAM: Did you get a Mimzy?
Joely Richardson: I didn’t get a Mimzy, but I’m good, I’m good (laugh). I’m too big now. I’m cutting down.
WAM: What about the metaphysical side of this film? The film is more about time travel than space aliens or anything like that. Do you believe in a higher intelligence? What is your take on it?
Joely Richardson: I love everything metaphysical. I do but I haven’t formulated my ideas on it. I think it’s a great topic of discussion and I love the concept of the metaphysical. I do think that we do have this – they say women and children that created the sixth sense and we can be very in tune with…sorry I’m not saying men aren’t but you know…they say women are more emotional and sensitive – that’s what they say. I’ve met many sensitive men (laugh) who have a brilliant 6th sense but you know, then there are loopholes in that. People say you manifest what you give out and my big argument is yes, except those people who went on holiday and the tsunami – sorry I’m getting a bit heavy for a minute – hit them. They did not manifest the tsunami. They went on holiday to have a good time.
So I think there are many – the concept of it intrigues me and I think on a delicate level it exists, but life is — I think it goes back to the concept of God and it’s very hard-hitting as we know. I have problems marrying all the different ideas in my head and that’s why I love it as a topic of conversation because it’s so endless and none of us have the answers. But there is definitely an energy that I believe in and as you said, in the film the concept of time travel — that is phenomenal and we’re all fascinated by it. Obviously, I have no experience of that and what I have noticed as you get older is there is a feeling of sometimes when you carry the past with you in the present and loved ones are still with you even though they’ve been gone for a long time and that’s sometimes how I personally get my head around time travel, that past, present and future are in some ways intertwined.
WAM: Your grandfather made the movie “The Night My Number Came Up” that dealt with that.
Joely Richardson: I’ve never seen it.
WAM: It’s about an RAF pilot who keeps reliving a fatal plane disaster.
Joely Richardson: Hmmm. I would like to see that. I’ll have to look for it. I think there is such a thing as time bending which they talk about and I think we have all experienced that. Sometimes when an hour can incredibly expand and other times it diminishes and I think that’s an easier concept to get your head around.
WAM: In the film, your son hands you this magical gadget, but in your hands it turns into an ordinary piece of slate. Do you personally still have that sense of wonder to see it as the child sees it?
Joely Richardson: Gosh, I’d like to say that I would, but I don’t know. I think that’s the great side of the job is that you get to play with great creativity and you get to imagine and live in a fantasy world. But as an adult, there’s so much responsibility especially as a parent and all that. You have to stay on the right side of it, so often I feel you can’t indulge. You have to stay on those tracks, do you know what I mean. But when I play with kids, I like to think that I can enter that child world.
WAM: I understand you’re going to be back on Nip/Tuck in the 5th season. Is that going to be another attempt at reconciliation?
Joely Richardson: Would that be the 7th? I don’t know. It’s all under discussion now because Ryan Murphy hadn’t done his contract and nobody else’s could be decided until his was sorted and his was sorted out about 10 days ago so everyone is just talking about it now. If it all works out, I cannot imagine that there wouldn’t be another go at reconciliation (laugh). I think Dylan and I would probably like another go because, speaking personally, you work together that long, you become very fond of each other. Last season when we had to say good-bye to each other, it was very horrible for both of us. But it’s not a happy show. It’s not a show about happy people or happy endings, so we’re never going to have a nice, easy relationship.
WAM: Well, last year’s storyline was also determined by some of your personal needs and having to take a break. Do you think it might have gone differently if you hadn’t had that?
Joely Richardson: Very possibly. Very possibly there might have been a different twist.
WAM: What do you think about the idea of moving the setting to L.A.?
Joely Richardson: I think it’s really good because first of all, we were never really in Miami, were we? I’m probably not supposed to say that, but I think maybe to the viewer it was because they do those exterior shots. But I think it’s perfect; I think it’s just what it needs now. It needs a different location; it needs new energy so I think that’s fantastic. It’s going to be a lot more fun because of the new setting and it being in L.A.
WAM: With your working knowledge of cosmetic procedures now, what are your thoughts on it for yourself, or in general?
Joely Richardson: You know, what is weird is that I’ve been doing the show now for 4 years and they really haven’t changed since I started on the show which is that I’m very mixed about it, very on the fence. When people say ‘No, I would never on point of principle have cosmetic surgery and I’d never diet,’ I’m thinking ‘How do you know? How do you know how you would feel in 20 years time?’
When everything is going your way, but in an ideal world, would we all live au natural in our hemp sack and never dye our hair and not eat animals and everything would be organic, yes, in an ideal world, that would be great and there would be no place for it. But we don’t live in an ideal world, do you know what I mean? And with the extreme technology and the extreme brilliant revelations in the medical world and the medical side of it, obviously, it’s like thank god for plastic surgery. And then there’s another side which we see where it’s all gone wrong and you’re like ‘this is horrible, this is frightening.’ My take on it is, it’s a mad world right now and I think we’ve all got a bit lost here. It’s just very much a part and parcel of that.
WAM: Do you ever look for things to do with your sister, your mom, or your aunt? I would love to see you working with them.
Joely Richardson: We never sort of looked for things.
WAM: How come you weren’t in that film with Ralph Fiennes, The White Countess?
Joely Richardson: But there wasn’t a part in there for me. My mom has a long standing relationship with James Ivory and I think that’s why because it was about a family. But our attitude has only been if it were absolutely right and it would serve the story. And everyone has been too busy doing their own thing to look for it except for when I finally did work with my mom. It was because the feeling that you had to pass the stage where it wasn’t nepotism because everyone hates that, me included. But then you get to thinking ‘well, we’ve never worked together and who knows what’s round the corner and it would be really sad never to have worked together.’
Then it was specifically right and then it was good. On a selfish level if something came up that I could say work with my sister or my aunt, I would love it, but it’s a funny one because it’s a bit like a married couple. If they’re married in real life, we don’t really want to see them playing husband and wife on the screen, because it’s a bit like ooooo. If it’s real, it’s not palatable for us in some way. Don’t you think? It’s like the great love stories that worked, like one of the famous ones like Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, where people said they didn’t even get on and yet their chemistry is great. You have to do whatever chemistry works best. Also growing up with my sister we did loads of childhood plays privately. I’ve worked with her.
WAM: Can you talk about working with the kids? Did you give them advice or just let them do their own thing? How did it work?
Joely Richardson: I think the one thing I’ve learned is that in the same way there is a golden rule with actors, unless someone asks, you never, ever give advice. It’s sort of an unspoken rule, but if people break, it really stands out. And working with children I sort of feel the same way. If they were to say to me ‘Oh I’m scared or nervous,’ then absolutely I would try to calm them down or hold their hand. I’ve done lots of projects with children and every time it’s different.
These two, Rhiannon had a coach, a woman who was there all the time working with her and they were very much in their own bubble. They didn’t want input. Sometimes that’s hard because you feel as an actor in a scene, you could connect more easily and they could connect more easily to you if it was a one-on-one direct relationship. So if I go ‘How are you?’, she will naturally say ‘Oh, I’m OK, or I’m not OK.’ And it’s lovely to work like that because then there’s that interaction of energy. If I say ‘How are you?’ and then there’s a beat and someone feeds the line, but you have to respect what works best for the production. I thought Rhiannon was just spectacular. On set, watching her and on the monitor, she’s just completely mesmeric. She’s just got that magic thing and seeing the film yesterday, I was like Oh my God! The room would stand still. And Chris was very different. I was saying this earlier and I haven’t seen him since May when we finished so he might be different to how he was then because children change so quickly. But he was quite a professional. He knew all his lines and he was a really hard worker. And he was quite old for his age, do you know what I mean?
WAM: He still is.
Joely Richardson: But I loved working with them because it’s a delicate, fragile entity working with a child so you were really there for them. It’s not like you and another actor and you can play it out. You’re more a feeder and it’s very exciting to feed and see the results.