Emmys: Why 'House of Cards' Star Robin Wright Is Considering a Career Change

Robin Wright Directing - H 2015
David Giesbrecht

Robin Wright Directing - H 2015

The actress tells THR that what she really wants to do is direct.

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

If Robin Wright had her way, you wouldn't be seeing her onscreen anymore. What the 49-year-old actress — star of such classics as The Princess Bride and Forrest Gump — really wants to do is direct. So far she's lensed three episodes of the Netflix drama House of Cards, on which she has starred for the past three years opposite Kevin Spacey as icy Claire Underwood, the senator's wife turned first lady. But her time behind the camera, she tells THR, has been enough to have her contemplating a permanent career change.

When did you first get the bug to direct?

I'd been thinking about it for the last 15 years. When you're on the set as an actor, you imagine yourself being in the director's shoes — all actors do that. A lot of times you bite your tongue because you know when something just isn't going to work.

But the thing that really got you motivated was hearing that Kevin Spacey was going to direct an episode?

Yeah, I perked up my ears when I heard that. I was like, "Hey, wait a minute. I want to do one, too!" Surprisingly, [showrunner Beau Willimon] was very welcoming to the idea. There really wasn't any resistance.

Did you make any mistakes during that first episode you directed, in season two?

Jesus, there were so many things I missed in the first go-around. I didn't get enough coverage. I thought I could get away with holding on a wide shot and not going into a medium or close-up. "Let's just shoot this in a oner. We don't need to go in." But I blew it because there were certain scenes that needed more texture.

With a TV series, though, there's only so much elbow room for a director. There's usually an established atmosphere and tone …

Absolutely. We had to follow the formula. Not only the visual tone but an emotional tone that David Fincher had already set for House of Cards. There were certain things — like certain lenses and colors — that we never use on the show.

What colors aren't allowed on House of Cards?

There's no red, at least not in the first couple of seasons. I remember wanting to use a red dress on one of the gals and that was just a no-go. "We don't use red." I think there was some sort of psychological reason behind it, but I don't know.

You've worked with some great directors — Robert Zemeckis, M. Night Shyamalan, Barry Levinson, Rob Reiner. Did you pick up any directing tips from working with them?

I was most responsive to Anthony Minghella's style. He didn't give me adjectives to play. You can't just say to an actor, "More energy!" What does that mean? You need to give an actor a story, an example, a sensory thing. "You've got a hot spire up your ass as you're walking into this room." That's a relatable action. That gives you energy because you're hurrying in there. But Anthony would do it with such beautiful stories that had nothing to do with the movie we were making [2006's Breaking and Entering]. He would bring up a substitution that emu­lated exactly what he wanted me to convey. It was poetry.

Do you want to direct a feature film at some point?

Oh yeah, absolutely. I'm developing things to do hopefully soon.

What would be your dream project?

Well, the problem is, my dream projects have all already been made. I wish I had directed Annie Hall. Or Blue Valentine. I just loved those movies. Those are the sort of films I'd want to direct.

You've said you'd give up acting to direct. Really? You don't want to perform anymore?

I hope to be a better director than I am an actor. I want to hone that skill, and I just feel more excited about it now that I've done it. There's so far for me to go. I don't feel that way about acting.

You don't see yourself as a great actress?

God, no. I would have preferred it if I was given more hard-core characters to play. Mostly I get cast as the pained, soulful, understanding wife whose husband is unfaithful or her child is dying of cancer. "Oh, get Robin because she plays quiet well. We can read what's going on in her face without her speaking."