Rebecca Hall on Creating a Character: “A lot of it is instinctive”
“Sometimes I can spend months doing things to make sure that my instincts work correctly, but ultimately it’s still instinctive.” – Rebecca Hall
Actress Rebecca Hall certainly enjoys variety in her career. Her range of roles is eclectic; each one different to the last, often in medium, genre and characterization. Her most recent role has been in The Gift, the psychological thriller which co-stars Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton.
Hall plays the part of Robyn, wife of Bateman’s Simon, a young married couple who are reunited with an old school friend of Simon’s when they move to Chicago. Gordo (Edgerton) becomes ever more creepy and chilling in his attempts to gain their friendship, and the film quickly becomes dark, edgy and jumpy.
While most of us are familiar with Hall from her film making, the actress started out treading the boards, though she says she doesn’t see it that way.
“I never think of it as getting my start. I always want to carry on stage acting. Right now, films seem to be taking up a lot of my time. If the parts weren’t so good right now, I think I’d probably be doing a lot more theater. But suddenly I’m excited by what’s coming my way, so I don’t really want to stop film acting right now. And I love film acting—I’m not snobby about it. I don’t think that theater acting’s a more noble profession. I think they’re both very important. I love both. And in my dream world, I’d get to do both forever.”
Hall notes that she knew she wanted to act from a very early age, and it went far beyond the usual childhood games of imaginative storytelling.
“I think loads of people see acting, when they’re kids, as these magical stories that just happen within the context of the film or the play or the cartoon or whatever they’re seeing. They don’t imagine that there are actually people that go and do that for a living. But I did, actually, from very young, because I was always in my house watching actors or musicians work. But I think ultimately it’s the same as any case—it’s a vocational job. Often it’s just an extension of that feeling everyone has when you’re a kid, playing make-believe. There are some in the playground that just really take it very, very seriously, and you know they’re going to carry on doing it forever.”
On approaching a character, Hall says her work is instinctive, and that some characters are easier to get into than others. With Robyn, Hall says she didn’t need a process for getting into the role, since she could inhabit the character from the start, rather than needing time to immerse herself.
“Sometimes you can incubate a character and that can take me a month just sitting on it imagining it, doing everything from sketching it to taking long walks, but sometimes you can see the character immediately. Robyn was just one of those, really. A lot of it is instinctive. Sometimes I can spend months doing things to make sure that my instincts work correctly, but ultimately it’s still instinctive.”