VANESSA RED­GRAVE

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

Liv­ing leg­end joins daugh­ter Joely Richard­son in tack­ling Shake­speare.

VANESSA Red­grave was born into act­ing. In­deed, her ar­rival was an­nounced on a Lon­don stage by Lau­rence Olivier.

The dy­nasty con­tin­ued into an­other gen­er­a­tion with Red­grave’s daugh­ters, Natasha and Joely Richard­son.

Yet, at 74, Red­grave is adamant she sees noth­ing of her­self in her youngest daugh­ter Joely.

‘‘ Why would I?’’ she says bluntly, as all in the room freeze in fear that one of the grand old dames of Bri­tish act­ing is about to squash an­other poor jour­nal­ist like a bug.

‘‘ No, I don’t know why, but I don’t. I grant that it’s a good, fair ques­tion’’ – au­di­ble sigh of re­lief – ‘‘ But no. I see Joely as Joely and I learn more about her.’’

Joely begs to dif­fer . . . or at least gives the ques­tion a lit­tle more weight.

‘‘ I see in my daugh­ter bits of my­self, I see bits of my­self in Vanessa.’’

She turns to her mum: ‘‘ I think you do see bits of your­self in me . . .’’ Red­grave: ‘‘ No I don’t.’’ Joely: ‘‘ No, you’ve talked be­fore about how there are def­i­nite sim­i­lar­i­ties.’’

Red­grave: ‘‘ Thank God I don’t see my­self in you!’’

Joely: ‘‘ Stop it, stop it! We’re sim­i­lar and dif­fer­ent at the same time.’’

There’s a pause be­fore Red­grave con­cedes: ‘‘ We love gar­den­ing.’’

It may not sound it, but mother and daugh­ter are closer than ever.

Some of that close­ness can be at­trib­uted to the loss of Natasha, who died af­ter a ski­ing ac­ci­dent in 2009. Shar­ing the re­gal role in di­rec­tor Roland Em­merich’s new Shake­speare thriller is a per­fect fit for mother and daugh­ter Vanessa Red­grave and Joely

Richard­son, writes Neala John­son

‘‘ The whole fam­ily [ has been brought closer to­gether] be­cause ev­ery­one is deeply car­ing of each other given that we all took such a ter­ri­ble knock,’’ says 46- yearold Joely.

Some [ close­ness] can also be at­trib­uted to work­ing to­gether – the pair play the younger and older ver­sion of Queen El­iz­a­beth I ( Red­grave pic­tured above) in Roland Em­merich’s Shake­speare thriller

Anony­mous. But mostly it is the love of the fam­ily trade, act­ing, that has brought the ladies to com­mon ground. ‘‘ I ac­tu­ally talked about act­ing more with my fa­ther,’’ says Joely, of grow­ing up with dad Tony Richard­son, an Os­car- win­ning di­rec­tor.

‘‘ But, bizarrely, not be­cause of play­ing El­iz­a­beth, but the last two years it seems so much of our con­ver­sa­tion now is about act­ing.’’

With both women do­ing plays in New York re­cently – and Red­grave some­times drop­ping in to do guest spots on Joely’s tele­vi­sion show Nip/ Tuck – their spare time to­gether was of­ten spent nat­ter­ing about or go­ing to the the­atre.

Red­grave calls it shar­ing their ‘‘ to­tal pro­fes­sional ob­ses­sion’’.

‘‘ That’s bril­liantly put, pro­fes­sional ob­ses­sion,’’ agrees Joely.

‘‘ We have lately all be­come very ob­ses­sive about the arts. It’s pro­voked many de­bates.’’

Did any of that de­bate re­volve around how the pair would ap­proach play­ing the same char­ac­ter at dif­fer­ent ages in Anony­mous?

Red­grave’s re­sponse is clas­sic nonon­sense: ‘‘ What you see on the screen is what I tried to do.’’

Joely’s re­sponse is clas­sic wa­tersmooth­ing: ‘‘ I’m go­ing to an­swer a bit for Vanessa,’’ she says.

‘‘ When I saw Vanessa’s per­for­mance, I thought there were mo­ments where El­iz­a­beth has an el­e­ment of a soul of the age.

‘‘ Some­one who’s seen every­thing, ex­pe­ri­enced ev­ery joy, ex­pe­ri­enced ev­ery tragedy, is phe­nom­e­nally in­tel­li­gent, well­read, speaks many dif­fer­ent lan­guages, and it’s ob­vi­ously taken its toll by the end of the film. That’s what I as­sumed you were try­ing to play.’’ Red­grave: ‘‘ You’ve said it beau­ti­fully.’’ Red­grave has won ev­ery award and been pro­claimed ‘‘ the great­est liv­ing ac­tress’’ by no less than Ten­nessee Wil­liams. Joely calls her mother ‘‘ the top of the top of the top’’. But such praise falls on un­will­ing ears.

‘‘ I think it’s stupid,’’ Red­grave sniffs. ‘‘ I don’t think it’s stupid when Joely says it be­cause she’s say­ing it from the heart . . . but all these terms are rel­a­tive. Sorry to say some­thing like that, it must have sounded very rude.’’

She at­tempts to ex­plain her dis­mis­sive at­ti­tude. ‘‘ I can sit and watch a great ath­lete and I think ‘ Wow, great’. If you watch Fed­erer, he’s like a Greek god. If you watch Rafa, he’s a dif­fer­ent kind of a god. It’s a ques­tion of oc­ca­sion; it’s a ques­tion of pas­sion; it’s noth­ing to do with great­ness.’’

Of course, grow­ing up in Red­grave’s shadow meant Joely and Natasha would never be able to es­cape their mother’s in­cred­i­ble rep­u­ta­tion.

‘‘ But we didn’t have to be actresses,’’ Joely says. ‘‘ Mum begged me and my sis­ter not to be. She said, ‘ Please be any­thing but’. And my fa­ther said, ‘ Act!’,’’ she laughs.

‘‘ So this is hon­estly how I see it: When I first started, I had the ar­ro­gance of youth.

‘‘. . . it’s a ques­tion of pas­sion; it’s noth­ing to do with great­ness’’

Any 20- year- old thinks, ‘ Oh no, I’m go­ing to do it my way’. That’s why I didn’t do the­atre for so long be­cause I had a re­ac­tion against the old style of act­ing.

‘‘ Then af­ter you walk through that there are mo­ments like, ‘ Oh my God my mother’s prob­a­bly the most fa­mous ac­tress in a very small group of actresses, the top of the top of the top! Why did you de­cide to be an ac­tress be­cause you’re al­ways go­ing to be less than?’

‘‘ It’s like some­one who’s won three Olympic golds – un­less you win four or five Olympic golds, you’re al­ways gonna be thought of as less. But then you dis­card all of it, which is the stage I am at these last few years. I do what I do be­cause I love it. The only thing that mat­ters is if you love it.’’

Joely will next be seen in a sup­port­ing role in David Fincher’s The Girl with the

Dragon Tat­too. Red­grave will keep the Shake­speare theme go­ing with a part in Ralph Fiennes’ adap­ta­tion of Co­ri­olanus.

Red­grave is un­doubt­edly a tow­er­ing fig­ure. But at the end of the day, to Joely she’s just mum.

‘‘ Mum’s a big sender of pho­tos,’’ Joely says. ‘‘ If you’re in a ho­tel in the mid­dle of nowhere by your­self and you turn on your Black­berry and get a lovely photo of what­ever she’s up to, that’s a joy­ous mo­ment in your day.’’

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