Please don’t type­cast me.

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

EMILY Wat­son is not the sort of ac­tor a di­rec­tor turns to for light re­lief.

The mild-man­nered 44-year-old has spe­cialised in char­ac­ters who find them­selves in ex­treme sit­u­a­tions ever since her Os­car-nom­i­nated film de­but in Lars von Trier’s rugged ro­man­tic drama, Break­ing The Waves.

In her lat­est pro­ject, Or­anges and Sun­shine, Wat­son ( pic­tured, and above with co-star David Wen­ham) as­sumes the bur­den of play­ing Mar­garet Humphreys, the Not­ting­ham so­cial worker who stum­bled upon a scan­dal in­volv­ing the forced mi­gra­tion of Bri­tish chil­dren to Aus­tralia, where they were sub­jected to phys­i­cal, emo­tional and sex­ual abuse.

Also, she has just fin­ished shoot­ing Ap­pro­pri­ate Adult, a tele­movie about the York­shire ripper co-star­ring Do­minic West.

‘‘ I’m not go­ing af­ter those roles at all,’’ sighs Wat­son with what sounds re­mark­ably like res­ig­na­tion.

‘‘ I keep ask­ing my agent, ‘ Can we have a com­edy?’ It’s just the way it works out, I guess. Peo­ple think of me do­ing that kind of role and they ask for me. It’s never a bit of light en­ter­tain­ment for Emily Wat­son.’’

Even when she did man­age to score a role in an Adam San­dler movie ( Punch-Drunk Love ), it was the one in which the mul­ti­plex-friendly co­me­dian played com­pletely against type.

‘‘ Once you have done it once – and my first film was Break­ing the Waves and that’s about as ex­treme as it gets – peo­ple put you in that cat­e­gory. When they are look­ing for some­body to go to ex­tremes, I am on that list.’’

But while Wat­son bared her soul in von Trier’s boundary-test­ing love story be­tween a naive young woman from a re­mote Calvin­ist com­mu­nity in Scot­land and a Scan­di­na­vian oil rig worker who is paral­ysed in an ac­ci­dent, she finds her­self less and less will­ing to go to those lengths as she gets older.

Mother­hood, in par­tic­u­lar, has rad­i­cally al­tered her pri­or­i­ties.

‘‘ How many weeks? How much? Where is it shoot­ing? Those are my first ques­tions. And then, I think, ‘ OK, I’ll read it’,’’ she says.

Since Or­anges and Sun­shine in­volved Wat­son trav­el­ling to Ade­laide with her fam­ily, she viewed the pro­ject as an ex­cep­tional one – es­pe­cially given her ear­lier visit to Aus­tralia to shoot the Nick Cave-writ­ten west­ern The Propo­si­tion in Queens­land.

‘‘ That was a won­der­ful tri­umph of sur­vival as far as I was con­cerned. It was re­ally, re­ally bru­tal – es­pe­cially for a pale English girl like me,’’ she says.

Wat­son de­scribes Or­anges And Sun­shine as ‘‘ an in­cred­i­bly com­pelling, has-to-be-told story about these peo­ple who were ditched by their coun­try of birth at a ten­der age and sent to the most ap­palling life’’.

She be­lieves there’s some­thing spe­cial about her char­ac­ter, too.

‘‘ She had a par­tic­u­lar com­bi­na­tion of char­ac­ter­is­tics which meant she couldn’t say no. She found her­self faced with hun­dreds and hun­dreds of des­per­ate peo­ple beg­ging for her help and there was no­body else. What could she do?’’

Ac­cord­ing to Wat­son, so­cial work­ers gen­er­ally get a bad rap on screen – if they fea­ture at all.

‘‘ If you do see so­cial work­ers, they are usu­ally tak­ing kids away from their fam­i­lies. Or you don’t re­ally see their sto­ries of­ten at all.’’

Wat­son’s faith in di­rec­tor Jim Loach, son of vet­eran English film­maker Ken, was an­other rea­son she signed up for the role.

‘‘ Be­cause you are deal­ing with chil­dren be­ing sep­a­rated from their moth­ers and sex­ual abuse, it could eas­ily have be­come mawk­ish or pruri­ent. Jim has trod­den a very care­ful and un­der­stated path through that,’’ she says.

In keep­ing with that un­der­stated sen­si­bil­ity, Or­anges and Sun­shine chooses to present Humphreys as an or­di­nary woman who tri­umphs through ex­tra­or­di­nary dogged­ness and sto­icism.

‘‘ She’s not Erin Brock­ovich. She doesn’t get her day in court. There’s not a great, tub-thump­ing vic­tory and that’s part of the point of it, re­ally,’’ Wat­son says. ‘‘ How­ever great it was to be able to un­ravel this story, those peo­ple will never get their lives back.’’ OR­ANGES AND SUN­SHINE Now show­ing State and Vil­lage cin­e­mas

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