BWW INTERVIEWS: Actress Joely Richardson Talks ANONYMOUS, B'way & Lady Vanessa


English actress Joely Richardson comes from a veritable theatrical family dynasty, including her parents, actress Vanessa Redgrave and director Tony Richardson, and her grandfather, stage and film actor Sir Michael Redgrave. Yet, her own extraordinary acting career allows her to rest proudly on her laurels. On stage, Richardson has appeared in the West End's "Lady Windermere's Fan", "Macbeth" and "Miss Julie" and just last spring, she graced the Off-Broadway stage in MCC's production of "Side Effects". Her film and TV credits include "The Patriot", "The Tudors," "The Last Mimzy" and "Nip/Tuck". And coming this spring, she will be starring in the highly anticipated film, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo".

BWW had a chance to sit down with Ms. Richardson and discuss her role in the movie ANONYMOUS, now in theaters, as well as her love of Broadway, her upcoming theater plans and her relationship with her mother, Vanessa Redgrave.

"I think for so many years, maybe trying to find my own identity, I fought against the family thing," says Ms. Richardson of her esteemed family background. "Because people don't understand when I first started, I was rejected again and again and again. I had no money. I was not a trust fund baby - creative people don't have money. I was not brought up with a silver spoon in my mouth. My mother gave away all her money. So I think I fought it for many years."

"But actually its hard now, because we have lost so many members of our family," the actress continues. "I'm actually really proud that I was brought up in this family where it was more like gypsies - like, ‘we're storytellers let's sit around the campfire and find the best way to tell the story about these people'. I see the job as really being a storyteller or gypsy and I actually feel quite proud that I am part of this family."

Playing the role of Queen Elizabeth I in the film ANONYMOUS was a dream come true for the actress, particularly because it afforded her the opportunity to work with her mother, Vanessa Redgrave. "I would have signed on the line to play Elizabeth I in any movie - that it was Roland (director Roland Emmerich) and this amazing cast and my mom, that was just extra extra extra," beams the actress.

In the film, Elizabeth I finds herself faced with the unspeakable decision to give up her child out of wedlock in order to continue ruling over England. "I do think that our story shows that moment. It made her as a monarch and it broke her as a woman. That was the moment when she chose her reign over her heart, which she famously did. Her and her sister Mary were the antithesis of each other. Mary was known for leading with her heart and being impetuous while the young Elizabeth was a young, passionate, fiery woman. But ultimately she wanted to hold on to her reign."

Richardson has studied and acted the works of Shakespeare throughout her entire career and considers "The Tempest" and "Twelfth Night" among her favorite plays. Yet of all Shakespeare's great works, she always had a special feeling toward "Midsummer Night's Dream". "I think it's my favorite just because it's the first one I ever did and I played it several times," explains Richardson. "I do think it's quite brilliant. Anyone who's been in love, the idea that someone sprinkles some weird potion in your eyes and you see everything differently. And then they take the potion away and you're like, ‘what was I thinking?' I love it for that."

Despite her busy schedule, Richardson makes a point of seeing as much theater as she can possibly fit in. "I'm an avid theater-goer. I go all the time. I saw "Master Class" with Tyne Daly and I just thought she was tremendous. I was like, ‘those great dames of the theater - all power to them' - it's just marvelous. I could go on and on and on - the guts, the stamina, the sheer talent, all those different languages! I saw "A Normal Heart" and I had to just walk around the block a few times. I was just gutted, absolutely gutted. I thought all the performances were masterful. And obviously I've seen "Jerusalem" with [ANONYMOUS co-star] Mark Rylance - blew me away!"

As far as her own plans to return to the theater, Richardson finds her plate rather full. "I think I might be doing "Side Effects" in London soon but first I'm actually doing "The Lady From the Sea" next." Coincidentally, the actress' mother played the very same role in the 1976 Circle in the Square Theater production. Jokes Richardson, "Well I was saying to a friend, I must have a death wish because she played it famously and my sister did too!"

So what is it like having the world-renown Lady Vanessa Redgrave as a mother? "My mother is actually, well I know what her image is. I know how she's perceived. As a mother she is like Miss Sweetheart. She would never say anything. She's totally supportive and kind. And she's not bossy at all." Adds Richardson with a laugh, "I'm the bossy one - she's the nice one!"


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Caryn Robbins Caryn Robbins is a Senior Editor and daily contributor to BroadwayWorld, and manages the TV, Film and Music spin-off sites. Her original musical comedy DEAR PROSPECTIVE STUDENT (follow @DearStudent) has been staged in two NYC theater festivals and was performed as an Equity Staged Reading in New York City in 2015. This June, DEAR PROSPECTIVE STUDENT won 'Best Ensemble Show' in Chicago's Premier Premieres Festival. Follow Caryn on Twitter @CarynRobbins
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