Why ac­tress Rosamund Pike fought so hard for the ‘Pri­vate War’ role

The Morning Call (Sunday) - - GROUP TRIPS - By Emily Zem­ler

While prepping to shoot the Civil War-era “Hos­tiles,” Rosamund Pike heard that award-win­ning doc­u­men­tary film­maker Matthew Heine­man was tak­ing on a biopic of Amer­i­can war cor­re­spon­dent Marie Colvin. The pro­ject, based on the Van­ity Fair ar­ti­cle “Marie Colvin’s Pri­vate War,” struck Pike im­me­di­ately. “All I was think­ing was, ‘How can I meet Matt Heine­man?’” the ac­tress says. “And it was another eight months un­til I met him.”

The pair fi­nally con­nected at a screen­ing of Heine­man’s doc­u­men­tary “City of Ghosts” in Los An­ge­les and dis­cussed the po­ten­tial film over break­fast the next day. Pike was adamant that she should por­tray Colvin, who died while re­port­ing from Syria in 2012.

“Peo­ple say, ‘Oh, did you fight for this role?’ and I sup­pose I did,” the English ac­tress re­counts in a suite at the Corinthia Ho­tel in Lon­don. “But I didn’t fight with any­body else. I have no idea if any­body else wanted it or any­body else met on it. I just fought in terms of the fact that I had pas­sion and con­vic­tion and I wanted him to hear it.”

“A Pri­vate War” stars Pike as Colvin and Jamie Dor­nan as pho­tog­ra­pher Paul Con­roy. It is told both through Colvin’s ex­pe­ri­ences in the field — in war zones in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan — and back home in Lon­don, where she worked for the Sun­day Times. It’s Heine­man’s first fea­ture film, and in many ways he treated it like a doc­u­men­tary. It was that as­pect that ini­tially drew Pike in, as well as her im­me­di­ate love for Colvin.

“When Matt came on I thought, ‘Oh gosh, this is go­ing to pen­e­trate into the soul of this per­son,’” Pike re­mem­bers. “Be­cause that’s what he does with his docs. He makes us sur­prised. He lingers on peo­ple. He’s never afraid of an un­com­fort­able si­lence. And he’ll let you see. I thought, ‘Well, of course, he’d rather be mak­ing a doc­u­men­tary about Marie.’ He would have adored her.” She pauses. “I sup­pose, in some ways, my per­for­mance is an apol­ogy for not be­ing her. It’s an apol­ogy for it not be­ing a doc­u­men­tary.”

“I think Ros kind of cast her­self,” Heine­man says. “I re­ally wanted some­one who was go­ing to get their hands dirty, who was go­ing to dig into this role and re­search it in the same way that I wanted to dig in and re­search it. I feel like she went af­ter this role as if — I al­most felt like it was Marie go­ing af­ter an ar­ti­cle.”

Pike dove into the re­search head­first, read­ing ev­ery­thing she could by and about Colvin, and watch­ing and re­watch­ing hours of footage. She didn’t have ac­cess to Colvin’s diaries but spoke with many of her friends and fam­ily mem­bers. She com­mit­ted early on to los­ing all van­ity, tak­ing on a gruff Amer­i­can ac­cent, don­ning three dif­fer­ent wigs and Colvin’s sig­na­ture eye patch, which the re­porter wore af­ter be­ing in­jured dur­ing the Sri Lankan civil war. “It’s a process of be­com­ing,” Pike says. “I took her into my body. There was a way I stood. I think if I start do­ing her voice, ev­ery­thing comes to­gether now.”

Pike feels a kin­ship with Colvin, some­one who saw the dark­ness and still re­mem­bered the light.

“I’ve un­der­stood war in a pro­foundly dif­fer­ent way than I’ve ever un­der­stood it be­fore,” the ac­tress says. “Mod­ern war­fare is a very, very scary place to be. There are images I’ve now seen I will never, ever for­get. That I will never be able to un-see. That’s a tiny frac­tion of what Marie would have been ex­posed to. But Marie was amaz­ing. She was such a ro­man­tic, she was such an op­ti­mist. She saw all that and she re­mained such an op­ti­mist, in such a lovely way.”

JOEL C. RYAN/IN­VI­SION

Rosamund Pike is war cor­re­spon­dent Marie Colvin in ‘Pri­vate War.’

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