OK, this does happen from time to time. Ginger and Rosa is a film that has neatly sliced opinion in half here at Grolsch Film Works. While our critic Ashley Clark thought it took itself way too seriously, I found it understated and incredibly moving, not least because of newcomer Alice Englert’s breathtaking performance as Rosa, in which she manages, with relative aplomb, to upstage Elle Fanning’s Ginger.
17-year-old Englert, daughter of New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion, is one of the most exciting up-and-coming actresses on the scene. Seriously, she’s nothing short of outstanding in the role of Rosa, a girl who has an affair with her best mate’s dad (don’t judge!). If she’s not on your radar, you need to get yourself a new radar, or get someone to fix that thing. JUST SORT IT OUT.
GFW: So, what are the similarities between you and Rosa, if any?
Alice Englert: Well, I think that I’ve had things in common with every character that I’ve played. To understand Rosa I had to find similarities, I had to be able to understand her and where she was coming from and how she could justify the affair to herself.
Your character seems very deep and pensive. What about you?
Oh yeah, I’m very intense [laughs]. Oh God no, what’s my personality? I don’t know – I’m not objective at all. Um, I’d say I can be a bit morbid sometimes. I think of myself as a bit like English weather: when I’m sunny I’m really great, but most of the time, you know… you get used to it.
So was there anything you could draw on from your own life?
Yes, I’m sure. It’s such a funny question to answer yes to when you’re playing someone who’s having an affair with their best friend’s father, but, um, her desire, the feeling of wanting to be wanted as a woman. There are personal things that I used for Rosa but I related more to her emotions and her ideas than specifically to, you know…
What was Sally Potter like to work with as a director?
I had seen Orlando [Potter’s 1992 film] and was in love with it. She was wonderfully nuanced and had great attention to detail, which is something that I really admire in directors, because when it comes down to it it’s the things you don’t notice that build up inside you as an audience. It could be an expression on a face, it could be the way a collar is turned down, anything. It just creates the fabric.
Did she give you homework, films to watch?
She sent me a lot of music and references of what the characters would’ve been exposed to. She had us take dancing lessons, which was great! One of my favourite things in rehearsals was the dancing lessons because the film was really about the rhythm of these characters. So yeah, there was definitely homework.
What do you think about the Cold War era in general, the music, the culture, did you have an interest in it before?
Very much so. I think that the Cold War era that Sally chose for the film is one that’s not always looked at in period 60s films – you know, it’s always the 60s with the big black make-up, or the 50s with the aprons. This is in that Quadrophenia time of history when people could feel the sexual revolution coming. That older generation, the parents, didn’t quite know where they were anymore.
What was the best thing about working with Elle?
Her enthusiasm. She is a wonderful girl, so open and generous. There was a moment when we were on the beach and Elle just ran out there, and I’m a terrible runner so I just sort of lagged behind [laughs], and then the camera was chasing after the both of us. It was wonderful.
Do you have interests outside of acting?
Yeah! I love reading, I love writing, I love music. I’ve been working with the music on two of my other films – I sing and I write songs. There’s just a little bit of stuff like that which has been great to be a part of. I also like walking… I grew up in New Zealand where there are a lot of lakes, and I like having muddy feet, kind of.
What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
What was it? Oh, I saw Cloud Atlas – I really enjoyed it. One of my good friends is in it, Ben Whishaw, and I think he’s completely amazing.
He’s always amazing, right?
He’s fu***** incredible. He’s one of my favourite actors actually. He’s just brilliant in that film.
Do you have a favourite actress?
I’m actually really impressed with Emma Thompson’s career; I just worked with her [on Beautiful Creatures].
What about younger, up-and-coming actresses?
Hmm, I can’t remember…
I was expecting you to say Elle!
I should, yeah, can I say Elle? I think Elle and Dakota [Fanning] are both very talented sisters, I’ve always thought they do really interesting stuff and, who else? Shit, I don’t watch any new films! Whoops, well you should know some other actresses, give me some suggestions!
I really like Mia Wasikowska.
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I would say I have a lot of love for us Australian girls, I’m really proud of us.
Yeah, represent! [laughs] I’m never as proud to be an Australian as when I’m not in Australia. No, actually I can’t say that.
Ginger and Rosa opens in the UK on October 19. It heads to Canada later this year.
Written by Oliver Lunn for Grolsch Film Works.