Rachel Weisz started modeling at the age of 14 when she was still a student. She moved on to acting fairly quickly, with small roles on the BBC and elsewhere. Her big break came starring opposite Keanu Reeves in 1996’s Chain Reaction. Though the film was not a success, it put her on the map of bankable stars. After several more years in smaller films, she hit the jackpot as the female lead in the first two Mummy pictures. From there, she shuttled back and forth between large-scale films like Constantine and more personal efforts like The Constant Gardener. (That last film won her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.) Her latest film, Oz the Great and Powerful, definitely falls on the big-budget end of the spectrum. In it, she plays one of Oz’s three great witches… a role she says was one of her most enjoyable. She spoke briefly about it during the press day for the film in Los Angeles. A transcript of her comments follows.
Question: What was the best part about being a witch?
Rachel Weisz: Flying! It’s really hard to beat flying as a skill. That’s number one. Number two: lightning bolts for me. You just get to zap someone who makes you angry. And third? The minions. My Winkie guards were very fond of me. On the last day, I was done with my scenes and had to dash, and they had more shooting. They all said in unison, “Bye, Evanora!” I was their leader.
Q: Could you talk very briefly about your experiences with the first film, the Judy Garland film, and how much you had to either draw on that or discard those memories to do the work you did here?
RW: It was the first film I remember seeing; it’s my earliest film memory. I remember my Mom taking me to the cinema, at about age five. I remember being really traumatized by the wicked witches. They were very, very scary. But the thing I loved the most was Judy Garland’s voice. I love how she sings. She gives me goose bumps. They’re powerful feelings and they don’t fade with time.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about your costume? How did that change how you were approaching your characters?
RW: It’s funny because Sam is so up for exploration. He’s making this great big budget movie, and I can’t even imagine the level of pressure that he was under, but he was always up for an exploration. All the time. My character looks a bit like a bird of prey and slightly militaristic… via Las Vegas I suppose. The costume was basically there from the start. But because I was getting into my character, Sam kept saying, “Well, you know, play around.” So the costume designer and I spent couple of weeks in a room and I cooked up this costume, which I brought to the first screen test, where basically I looked like the Duchess of Windsor. It’s this little green dress and a little crown and it was this height of my character who just desperately wanted to be queen. And Sam looked at it and just said, “It’s just not right. You need to go back to the original thing.” But because he let me go play, it helped with my process. It was me finding my desire to be a queen.