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Rosamund Pike has a soft spot for an antihero. “I sort of relish living in the shadows of morals,” explains Pike over a Wednesday evening phone call from the Czech Republic, where she is currently filming Amazon’s series adaption of popular fantasy novel The Wheel of Time. It is only appropriate then that Pike be behind one of the most infamous movie antiheroes of the past decade. As Amy Dunne, the missing wife revealed to be a willful mastermind in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Pike’s performance inspired fear and awe in equal measure — as well as an Oscar nomination. Now, at TIFF, Pike is set to debut her latest amoral protagonist, Marla Grayson, in British director J Blakeson’s I Care A Lot.
Grayson — perpetually vaping with an enviable array of pant suits — is a professional legal guardian who uses loopholes in the American conservatorship system to defraud her elderly clients, but runs into trouble when one client has ties to a dangerous gangster. In the movie, which Pike describes as a “satire of the American Dream” akin to titles like Thank You For Smoking, Pike is surrounded by esteemed character actor talent, like Peter Dinklage (the gangster), Dianne Wiest (the elderly target) and Eiza Gonzalez (her accomplice and girlfriend).
Ahead of its Sept. 12 Toronto and Sept. 13 digital debut, Pike spoke to THR about creating a character that walks the line between “fun to watch” and “morally appalling,” and her love of “those gray areas.”
What first drew you to the script?
I was very keen to meet J. I think it was a script that some people found too challenging, to be honest. It makes people feel uncomfortable. I quite like the ambivalence for people’s morals. I think J and I both share the view that people are neither outright good or outright bad. Good people do bad things when pushed, and bad people can do good things. Those gray areas interest me. I looked at J’s first film, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, which is especially masterful exercise in tone. I thought this film is going to live or die by getting the tone right, and I trusted that he could get it. [J and I] had several meetings over quite a long time before he finally offered me the part. It was like a slow getting-to-know-you.
Is that type of slow casting process common for you?
It all depends. There is a too slow getting-to-know-you where you assume they’re offering it to other people first. It’s more like being strung along, while they go to option A and option B before they come to option F. But I just thought, I get Marla and I relish her ambition. I am not scared of her flawed voraciousness. I’m not scared of her deviance, her balls and her cruelty, at times. [I Care A Lot] is a satire of the American dream to me. America is built on the idea that you can be whoever you want to be, and it’s kind of set up for people who con the system. If you play fair and by the rules, you tend to get sucked in and drown.
Onscreen, Marla references gender dynamics quite a bit. How did that play into your performance?
We were always questioning: how far can we push her to the realm where some will certainly call her a bitch — not everyone — but how far can you push that while still making her fun to watch? You know she’s gotta be fun. So how far can you push how bad she is before she stops being fun to watch? That was always the line we were trying to walk. She is appalling, but she was so unashamedly herself. You kind of admire her because she’s damn clever. If she wasn’t clever, she might not be so fun to watch.
Do you think what is tolerable to audiences is different for male versus female antiheroes?
Well, it’s interesting, isn’t it? Marla, sexually, has one true love. Whereas probably a male antihero would be screwing around more, usually. It’s quite interesting that for all her bad behavior, she’s actually very loyal to the person she loves. She gets her into danger, of course, but gets her out of it too. And I think her fight later on in the movie is really heroic. It’s that fight in her that I loved. I was so drawn to the sort of rage that can drive you to be incredibly corrupt, but also the rage that can drive you to survive. It’s the kind of a will to live and it comes from a sort of fuck you attitude that isn’t actually scared of dying. You can not be scared of dying but still have a tremendous will to live.
In a movie that isn’t concerned about its character’s redemption, what do you hope audiences take away from the movie?
I hope people will go and look up this subject. I think it is going to have people reflecting on the whole system of legal guardianship. They’re going to question if they have any vulnerable people in their family who are at risk. Already with the coronavirus there are some cracks, particularly in the U.S. elder care system, that has been exposed. It’s going to make people feel uncomfortable because they are going to rethink how this sector of society is a very vulnerable group, who are easily preyed upon, or abused financially and emotionally. I hope people are going to appreciate the satire — and how these social issues are intertwined with the pursuit of the American dream.
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