Rebecca Hall has worked with directors like Woody Allen and Stephen Frears. But she’s quick to admit she’s not ready to walk in their footsteps.
“I think acting can be very frustrating, and there’s no experience that doesn’t make you a better actor,” she told Interview. “So people may choose to explore their other talents. But I don’t think there’s any pressure [to direct my own films.]”
However, her lack of interest in directing leaves her with the problem of fighting for the roles she wants. She confesses she had to “campaign just to read for” her new film, Frear’s Lay the Favorite. “He didn’t want to read anyone who was not American for the part. But I told him that I was—I am—half American, I have an American passport.”
Hall originally thought “I was completely wrong for the part,” but persisted anyway. “I don’t know where I got the balls to do that, to be honest,” the actress said. “I’m usually very deferential and British and polite about these things, but something just kind of went off in me and I thought, ‘I’ve got to play that part, it’s too nuts and looks like too much fun and I understand it, I don’t know why I should understand it, I don’t know why I am better for it than anyone else,’ but I just knew I had to do it. It was a curious thing.”
Hall, like any other actor, admits to be being nervous before auditions. “I get all those sorts of fears, but that’s different,” she said. “That’s sort of anxiety.”
And like any other actor again, Hall has some audition horror stories. “Lay the Favorite with Stephen Frears—it ended up as the best, but it started off as the worst,” she said. “I sat in the room and he just told me before I’d even started the scene: ‘You’re everything that I am not looking for for this role and I will never cast you. You know that you’re wrong for it and I know that you’re wrong for it, so go on, let’s get it over with.’ Which might have to be the worst thing that anybody’s ever said to me. But it turned out to be the best, because I probably respond to wanting to prove someone wrong.
“But I also had a terrible audition experience when I was a lot younger, with a strange director who didn’t say anything for a really, really long time, and had an enormous bowl of boiled sweets—like thick gobstoppers, in a bowl, next to him—and there was an awful deadening silence for about 10 minutes or something excruciating where he just sort of looked at me. Then he offered me one of these sweets and I, out of politeness, accepted it and the moment I put it in my mouth he started asking me questions and it’s very difficult to negotiate and eat a sweet—trying to form articulate sentences at the same time—and it was awful.”