A Conversation With Lynn Redgrave @ The RHFIFF, 5/17/09
at High Falls International Film Festival
May 17th, 2009 at 11am
Little Theatre, Rochester, New YorkFeaturing:
Lynn Redgrave, Actress
Catherine Wyler, Artistic Director, High Falls Film Festival
Davina Belling, Producer, Member of High Falls Film Festival Advisory Council.
L to R: Catherine Wyler, Davina Belling, and Lynn Redgrave.
The previous evening, Lynn Redgrave received the Susan B. Anthony "Failure Is Impossible" award. Earlier that afternoon, Redgrave was shown Susan B. Anthony's house. She was honored to have an award named after the suffragist because she had become an American Citizen in 1997 to vote. Later, she was disappointed to find out that in the first election she voted in, only 2% all eligible voters voted that day.
The conversation began with a showing of a montage that included Tom Jones, The Girl With Green Eyes, Georgy Girl, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex..., Gods and Monsters, Kinsey, and The Countess, which featured her recently deceased niece, Natasha Richardson. Following the montage, Catherine Wyler introduced surprise guest Davina Belling, and had a tea setup brought out, mentioning this video:
Lynn Redgrave is part of a fourth generation of a theatrical family. Despite this, Redgrave had her sights set on becoming an equestrian as a child. At one point, she'd even been offered an apprenticeship. She changed her mind after having seen her parents perform in a production of Twelfth Night directed by Sir Laurence Olivier.
As Wyler noted, Redgrave began her career as a comedienne, something Redgrave chalks up to her place in the family: "Me and other third children find that the only way to have a niche in the family is to make people laugh. Making people laugh was something that could hide my shyness."
Redgrave joined the National Theatre Company during their inaugural season in 1963, under the direction of Sir Laurence Olivier. (She shared with the audience that everyone called Olivier "Sir".) Redgrave has continued to participate in Shakespearean productions throughout her career. Sometimes, she teaches, too. "I love to teach, and I teach quite often," she told the audience. However, "I usually skip the Shakespeare because people always act in [at least] one Shakespeare."
In 1991, Redgrave got an offer to come to Washington to do a program called "An Evening With Lynn Redgrave". Instead, Lynn wrote and performed in a one woman show titled Shakespeare For My Father, and later toured with it. She credits Shakespeare For My Father with jump-starting her career: after seeing her in Shakespeare For My Father in Houston, director Scott Hicks cast Redgrave in Shine, her first movie role in six years.
"When you put out energy yourself, energy comes back at you."
Redgrave has since written more plays about her famous family, most recently, Rachel and Juliet, about her mother Rachel's relationship with her favorite role, Shakespeare's Juliet.
Diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2003, Redgrave and her youngest daughter, Annabel Clark, began a personal project documenting Redgrave's treatment. At the time, Annabel was a senior at Parsons and was hoping to do a seperate project for her finals, but Clark was so overwhelmed by her mother's illness that she decided to make their personal project her final project. After being in the Student Showcase the final semester, the photos were published in The New York Times and later as a book titled Journal: A Mother and Daughter's Recovery From Breast Cancer. The photographs launched Clark's career, and recently, she has done work for Redbook.
Lynn Redgrave is often times overwhelmed by the expectations she puts on herself when she's performing. But having survived Breast Cancer and the recent sudden death of her niece, Natasha Richardson, she reminds herself that there's a good possibility she might not be here right now, doing what she loves the most: performing.
Lynn Redgrave at Java's, May 16, 2009.
Q: How do you prepare for a role?
Redgrave: I've been asked about acting, wouldn't you believe it? Usually, when you've got to insert yourself into the character, look inside the character, and ask, "Why are you here? What are you here for? How are you here?" Once, I found myself standing at the side of the stage in a play in New York. Opening night in New York, standing on the edge of the curtain, it's like saying, "I'm going to go skydiving for the first time." There's a sense of danger, which I love. As time goes by and I get older, I expect more from myself, and I do mind tricks, which is quite stressful, in order to go out and feel that at least I did the best I could. I get out there, and I think, "Why did I do that? This is the thing I love to do so much, which is to work and appear in great plays. Why do I put myself through mindtricks? I've had cancer. I could be NOT there. Why do I put myself through this mind trip? I could've died from cancer. I could be NOT working right now." Everyday, you have to have some proper protection, I guess. But I can't NOT get up every day. I find freedom within the role.
Jack Garner: In an interview that I read a few weeks ago, you said something very reassuring to The Washington Post (following the death of Natasha), about what your father did the day your grandmother died.
Redgrave:The day I finished the show (Rachel & Juliet) was right after Natasha had died. People were expecting me to cancel, and I think that a lot of times, being part of a theater family, that's what we do--the show must go on. When my father's mother passed away, he was sobbing, absolutely sobbing, and that night he went out and gave one of his greatest performances. I felt if I had decided to cancel, that would be, in a way, a disgrace to her. I went out there because that's what you do.
My sister, as you probably heard, was supposed to put on a performance of The Year of Magical Thinking, but had to postpone, of course, because of the play's subject matter. Eventually, she did perform it, and I think that's a testament to our family.
Redgrave: Yes we did!
Erin/TFPN: You were talking about Georgy Girl and how you feel that people appreciate the message more now than they did at the time. Can you elaborate on that?
Redgrave: Actually, I don't remember saying that. But for some of you who weren't alive at the time, I think it's one of the sixties films that have survived--it has a really good story. A woman who feels completely out of place in society and in life. Charlotte Rampling played an incredible bitch who abandons her child. [Rampling] was nothing like that in real life. My character is willing to marry a man she doesn't love and take on a child. Every once in awhile, they'll show a movie from that period, and it'll be like, "That's interesting, but it doesn't stand up to today." Somehow, I think the movie has a very modern story.
Special Thanks to Ruth Cowing for identifying Davina Belling for TFPN.