Abbie Cornish, in her own words

 
 

For reasons that have been lovingly discussed already, I’ve been looking forward to Elizabeth:
The Golden Age.
But for me, Cate Blanchett wasn’t the
only attraction; I’ve also been anxious to see Australian actress

Abbie Cornish in action as she takes on her highest profile project
yet. Some of you may know her from one film that she showed up
in —
or more accurately, disappeared in — the lesbian-themed The
Monkey’s Mask
.

The last time I was in Australia, I caught
part of Somersault, the coming-of-age film that won Cornish acting
awards and international notice. I sort of remember Cornish playing
a sixteen-year-old girl on a sexual journey (and that it was not a fun
one), but what I most recall is being struck by Cornish’s beauty and
vulnerability on screen. These are qualities she brings to
Elizabeth
, in which she plays Bess Throckmorton, Elizabeth’s favorite
lady-in-waiting.

Can I just say that I see lesbian subtext
everywhere? Forget Sir What’s-His-Name; I know what it really
means when women play with each other’s hair on-screen.

Reviews of Elizabeth have been
mixed, but Cornish has been mentioned favorably both pre- and post-release. Predictably, Cornish is being compared at home and abroad
to those other famous Australian actresses: Cate herself,
Nicole
and Naomi.

Such comparisons are no doubt intended
as flattery, but the poor girl has to be sick of Americans
people asking her if she’s setting out to be the next Nicole just because
she originates from the same country. (Also, Mr. Scott of The New York Times, before
you speculate about Australia’s genetic heritage — which has, I do agree, produced stunningly lovely
women —

you might keep in mind that Naomi Watts was born in England.
She might have an Australian grandmother, but she also dissed
Australia
after joining
the next
Harry Potter cast
.)

In her interviews, Cornish comes across
as very much her own person. She glosses over rumors about her
personal life (resulting from the filming of Stop Loss with

Ryan Phillippe), answering only the questions she finds worthy of
her time. As for her role as Bess, she states that the costumes were the (painful) key to
understanding the woman:

    “The first week on set of wearing
    the corset I felt very restricted and I couldn’t breathe properly, I
    didn’t have my full lung capacity and I actually felt a little bit miserable
    and I started to wonder, ‘Wow, this woman has one of the most prestigious
    jobs in the court and she has beautiful clothes, beautiful jewelry and
    yet she can’t breathe properly. There’s a lack of freedom’. And that
    got me thinking: ‘How does she feel?’ There’s an exterior and then there’s
    an interior which is quite constraining.”

On the tangled
relationships
involving
the Queen, Bess and Sir Walter Raleigh, she speculates:

    “[Bess] is told to send messages
    back and forth basically, so she becomes the physical representation
    of the Queen’s message or Raleigh’s messages. [They] get close through
    being forced to spend time together in a sense, and I think what happens
    is when the kiss that happens just outside of Bess’ chapel where she’s
    praying at [ ... ] there’s a sense of what’s happening, that "this
    is wrong, but this is probably the most alive I’ve ever felt."

    [ ... ] I think after that first kiss, her mind starts going crazy,
    and I think she falls in love and she decides to choose love over work
    really.”

If you’ve ever wondered what it would
be like to work with Cate Blanchett, Cornish makes it sound like Blanchett
has the Queen’s own royal eye on the set, if in a nice way:

    “[Cate is] very focused in what
    she does, and I felt in working with her that she had this tremendous
    amount of work to do in relation to her own character and her own performance.
    She was always aware of everyone else around her and particularly for
    me, and I felt there was a watchful eye over my character, over scenes
    and the dialogue, and it was nice to have that there. So there was a
    very comfortable feeling from me towards Cate, both professionally and
    personally.”

Cornish also composes music and apparently has performed in clubs in Sydney and Melbourne. (If
you’ve seen her, do share in the comments!) She finds similarity
between the creating film and music:

    “Whenever I am acting, it’s everything,
    you know. If I’m researching a role, I’m completely consumed in that
    and, between action and cut, I live in this suspended time. It’s a really
    amazing experience and the only other thing I get it from is music.”

In addition to next year’s Stop Loss, which is directed by Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry),
Cornish is set to star in New Zealand director Jane Campion‘s upcoming Keats biopic, Bright Star.
She’ll be playing Fanny Brawne, the woman Keats loved but could never
marry.

 
 

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