Olivia Willliams on Rushmore, Twelve Years Later

The A.V. Club recently sat down with Olivia Williams for their great “Random Roles” feature, and one of the films they talked about was, of course, Rushmore.

An except is below, with more after the cut. Read the full article here.

Rushmore (1998)—“Rosemary Cross”

AVC: Wes Anderson was still somewhat of an unknown filmmaker then. What was it like working with him?

OW: I was still in my “do what you’re told” phase, which I’m still pretty well in. It’s served me pretty well. As an actor, you’re just taking temperature. I am anyway, all the time, and responding appropriately. Have you seen Bill Murray’s subsequent film, Lost In Translation? That was what it was like. I was again cast very last-minute and met Wes, this quite physically and socially awkward man who didn’t really talk to me much, a precocious and intelligent young boy. And Bill Murray. And we were sort of left in this bizarre hotel together and taken to strange locations around Houston. That was quite an isolating experience. Again, a lot of fun, but I didn’t really know what was going on. [Laughs.] Bill was incredibly charming and funny and nice, but we were all in a strange vacuum.

AVC: Rushmore had a major impact on audiences. Did you feel like you were in something special?

OW: I am the worst judge of how a movie is going to do. I always have great and ambitious hopes, but none of them see the light of day. I loved Rushmore. I loved the script. I mean, that is what drew me to it, just the actual piece of literature the script is. But I never thought in a million years that anyone would see it or respond to it. It was an absolute joy that it was so loved and continues to be. The same with The Sixth Sense. I thought, “No one’s going to watch this. Bruce Willis hasn’t got a gun. There’s no shagging. Lovely story, sweet and profound about loss and death, but no one’s going to watch this.” [Laughs.] And I’m on record as having said “I’ve done this amazing movie that no one is going to see.” And then it stayed in the top 10 American films for about six months. So don’t ask me. I’m the most disastrous PR and marketing predictor.

AVC: There’s a great scene in Rushmore when you confront Max on what following through with his schoolboy crush would mean. Could you talk about how you played that scene?

OW: It was quite physically tough on Jason [Schwartzman, who played Max]. There’s a point when he falls back through chairs and a pile of boxes. It’s funny, when people want things to be very truthful and you’re dealing with an inexperienced actor. I’m of the school that believes things like that have to be very carefully choreographed. You need people there to say, “It’s going to happen like this.” And I remember feeling, “This isn’t the answer you want, but it’s the truth.” It was important that the scene remained disciplined and didn’t get out of control. But the other thing, which is the joy of my job, which keeps me sane, is when you get to be angry, you can be much angrier than you’re ever allowed to be in your own life. She’s a bitch in that scene, and I think I quite wanted to be a bitch that day, and I could, and people would say “Cut,” and that I did very well.

AVC: That scene in particular is reminiscent of Dollhouse, where your character also plays it pretty close to the vest, with moments of passionate emotional release. Have you noticed that kind of pattern with the characters you play?

OW: It’s the payoff, you know? It’s why you mustn’t show your subtext at any other time. It’s the fun bit. It’s the fun and games. The thing I get most angry about is when you audition for roles and they give you that scene. And you want to say, “No. This scene only works and can only be done if you have served your time holding your cards close to your chest. If you want me to cry and spray the room with snot and get angry, you’re just going to think that’s an ugly mess.” It’s only effective if you have hidden your subtext up until that point. That’s my philosophy on the matter.

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