‘Fear comes later’

Bri­tish ac­tress Rosamund Pike takes on the role, and the eye­patch, of coura­geous for­eign cor­re­spon­dent Marie Colvin

Esquire (UK) - - Culture - Edited by Mi­randa Collinge

Marie Colvin was the Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist known for her fear­less re­port­ing for The Sun­day Times from war zones across the world. And for the eye­patch she wore for the last 11 years of her life, af­ter a shrap­nel in­jury on as­sign­ment in Sri Lanka. She was killed in a rocket at­tack in Homs, Syria, in 2012. This month, Os­car-nom­i­nated doc­u­men­tary­maker Matthew Heine­man directs his first fea­ture film, A Pri­vate War, about Colvin’s re­mark­able life and ca­reer. Rosamund Pike, her­self a for­mer Os­car nom­i­nee, talks to Esquire about her stag­ger­ing per­for­mance as the gravel-voiced, chain-smok­ing re­porter, and the ef­fects Colvin’s hor­ri­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ences had on them both. ESQUIRE: How did you feel when tak­ing on this hugely com­plex role? ROSAMUND PIKE: At the be­gin­ning I felt that if I con­sid­ered it as a role, I’d prob­a­bly screw it up be­fore I’d be­gun, be­cause if I thought of it like a great act­ing op­por­tu­nity I’d never go to the places I needed to go or deal with it in the right way. A lot of the film’s tone comes from quite ex­ploratory, long takes that would just be me, Matthew, the DP [di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy], the sound guy and a fo­cus puller in a room to­gether ex­plor­ing the dark re­cesses of some­one’s mind. ESQ: What prepa­ra­tion did you do? RP: I spent a long time talk­ing to Colvin’s friends and I watched ev­ery piece of footage avail­able of her. I stud­ied the way she moved, the way she walked, the way she sat and the way she smoked. I’m not a smoker but I prob­a­bly got through 600 cig­a­rettes be­fore we started film­ing be­cause that was one of the big­gest parts — you have to be­come com­pletely in­grained in the char­ac­ter. I had a teacher to come and talk to me about Mid­dle East pol­i­tics and all the sub­tleties of Phoeni­cian dis­putes. I also went with a land­mine char­ity to Le­banon, which was a chance for me to un­der­stand the im­pact of con­flict and meet peo­ple re­cently trau­ma­tised by the ef­fects of war. It put me in touch with a fear that then I could kind of tune up to a level that would be ap­pro­pri­ate for what Marie would be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing, which was 50 times more intense.

ESQ: Did the fa­mous eye­patch add any act­ing chal­lenges, given you have your face part-ob­scured?

RP: The eye patch, as Marie knew, was a great as­set as well. I think she knew that it be­came her trade­mark; when she went to Homs, fi­nally, she was ad­vised not to wear it be­cause by that time it had made her so recog­nis­able. I be­came very used to it, quite com­fort­able, but I had to work out what it meant when I stud­ied her phys­i­cal­ity. She could really pierce you with that one eye. ESQ: The film leads with Colvin’s quote: “You’re never go­ing to get to where you’re go­ing if you ac­knowl­edge fear. I think fear comes later.” Do you agree?

‘If your words can pen­e­trate and prick peo­ple’s bub­bles then you’re onto a good thing’

RP: Marie was some­one who was prob­a­bly quite aware of her own im­age, as peo­ple are, and when you’re on dry land and in pub­lic, you have to ut­ter a state­ment like that — it means edi­tors have con­fi­dence in you. But for me, the really heroic thing about Marie is that she felt ex­tremely fright­ened at times and went there any­way. Maybe the word is not “ac­knowl­edge”, it’s “obey”. ESQ: Colvin had a firm view of her duty as a jour­nal­ist: “[How] stupid would I feel writ­ing a col­umn about the din­ner party I went to last night?” she’d said. Do you agree with her about what jour­nal­ism is or should be?

RP: What I def­i­nitely agree with is that if your words can pen­e­trate and prick peo­ple’s lit­tle bub­bles then you’re onto a good thing. But, you know, there’s a place for all of it. The so­ci­ety jour­nal­ist has al­ways been there, right? Peo­ple shar­ing in­ti­ma­cies, ob­ser­va­tions on what makes us hu­man, I think it’s all valid; it’s how on earth you edit the jun­gle of ma­te­rial. How do you de­cide what you con­sume? Do we have the pa­tience and the fo­cus and the brain space to read pieces like Marie’s? When you sit down and you read her pieces one af­ter the other, I mean my God, it’s the most worth­while sev­eral hours you’ll spend be­cause sud­denly your eyes are opened, your brain is opened, your heart is opened.

A Pri­vate War is out at the end of the year

Rosamund Pike as the front­line re­porter Marie Colvin in A Pri­vate War

Sun­day Times war cor­re­spon­dent Marie Colvin on as­sign­ment in the Chechen moun­tains, 1999

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