PLAYING THE BLUES
Rebecca Hall tells Empire how she relived a true-life tragedy
FOR REBECCA HALL, there are some roles that are easy to leave behind, some that are hard, and there’s Christine Chubbuck. The central character in director Antonio Campos’
(Simon Killer) acclaimed new true-life drama Christine is a Florida news reporter who — it’s no spoiler to say — killed herself live on air in July 1974. Hard-working and driven, but lost in a fug of quiet despair, she’s a tragic figure who demanded all of the actor’s energy on set — and occasionally off it. “I’d wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking I could be doing better,” Hall recalls of the film’s 29-day shoot. “Christine’s voice would be in my head telling me to do better.”
It would be a harsh judgment. Her sympathetic, committed portrayal brings vividness to Chubbuck’s inner life and her battle with depression. With the illness, by its very nature, an internal struggle, the role brought unusual challenges. As Hall notes, Chubbuck was often forced to put on an act for the world. “It’s complicated to play the face that someone wants to project and to show the audience what they’re really feeling, too,” she tells Empire. “One of the first things I thought of was how good or bad an actor she was at various points.” When the mask slips, the WXLT-TV studio reverberates with
Network-like fury. Hall’s three meticulous months of prep even saw her consult Juilliard School’s Director Of Movement to help hone her character’s body language. “He did one thing that was really useful for me,” she remembers, “which was to give me a blank mask to put on. Taking my face out of the equation and looking in the mirror made me think about her in relation to my body in a way I hadn’t done before.” Sure enough, Christine conveys plenty even when saying nothing at all.
With that weird reverse serendipity Hollywood has, another film about Chubbuck — Robert Greene’s meta-doc Kate Plays Christine — arrived just as Christine hit the festival circuit. “For obvious reasons, I haven’t seen it,” says Hall. “I’d be slightly concerned to see it, when its premise seems to be that you can’t turn this story into a film!” She laughs at the irony. “I will see it eventually. I just can’t quite bring myself to yet.”
CHRISTINE IS IN CINEMAS AND ON DOWNLOAD FROM 27 JANUARY
Rebecca Hall as Christine Chubbuck.
Below: Chubbuck’s anger spills over in front of Tracy Letts’ Michael. Bottom: Peg (J. Smith-cameron), Christine’s mum, offers comfort.