Blonde Ambition: Rosamund Pike On Money, Power And Her Astounding New Role

The actress's new role in I Care A Lot is receiving rave reviews...

Rosamund Pike

by Guy Pewsey |

Hollywood has something of an obsession with female likeability. Some of the most successful, bankable actresses in the industry – Julia Roberts, or Sandra Bullock for example – have never played unapologetic, bona fide villains. In modern blockbusters, contemporary femme fatales often have a change of heart just in time to switch allegiance and help the hero win the day. And even iconic evildoers Maleficent and Cruella Devil have been reimagined and reappraised as misunderstood as part of Disney’s ongoing quest to reimagine their back catalogue. And so, when an actress makes something of a habit of defying this convention, choosing authentically and unapologetically cruel or fierce women, you can’t help but take notice.

Rosamund Pike is one of these actresses. Yes, she plays ‘nice’ very well. She was perfect as Jane – charming, warm and pretty – in 2005’s Pride & Prejudice. Her performance as the slightly dippy Helen in An Education was a delightful comedic turn. And as another Helen – in 2012’s Jack Reacher – she strove unwaveringly for justice whatever the cost with the help of Tom Cruise’s leading man. But unlike many of her peers, she shines brightest when she’s bad. Her first film, straight out of drama school, cast her as Die Another Day’s sword-wielding, double-crossing Bond villainess Miranda Frost. And in Gone Girl, for which she received the most widespread acclaim of her career so far, she astounded as the calculated Amy Dunne, a woman driven to a Machiavellian deceit by her cheating husband and the dull cage of a life in which he has trapped her. In her new film, Rosamund’s openness to take on cruelty is taken further. In black comedy I Care A Lot, she is Marla Grayson, destroying lives with undeniable style. It’s a fascinating film elevated by Rosamund’s truly astounding depiction.

‘I thought “this is this is just the most interesting thing I've read for ages”’ Rosamund tells me over Zoom. ‘I mean, this is a remarkable character. I was completely riveted by Marla, and I couldn't believe the ingenuity of her plan.’

Marla is… well, it’s complicated. Using a connection to an unethical doctor, she is able to present the private medical information of elderly individuals to a trusting judge. Confident, assertive and well-rehearsed, she easily convinces the court system that these men and women are in desperate need of state care. With that approved, she shows up at their houses, moves them to care homes, seizes and sells their assets and lives well – very well – off the lucrative proceeds. It’s all completely legal.

‘She's seeing an inefficiency in the system’, Rosamund explains. ‘And she's taking advantage of it. It's like a crime story, where the criminal isn't breaking the law. The first thing I did, as soon as I finished reading the script, was opening Google. And of course I found monstrous stories. Terrible stories of heartache from relatives - quite often because they've taken their off the ball, right? - whose loved ones have got into the clutches of someone, and it’s almost impossible to extract them. This person suddenly has all the control, and is billing themselves at $600 an hour, slowly stripping their assets.’ The research had to stop as soon as Rosamund had signed on the dotted line, though. ‘I couldn't speak about these people,’ she says. ‘I had to do the opposite: to depersonalise the victims, to see everything as a problem and a route to success.’

Rosamund Pike
©Prime Video

Inevitably, Marla's swindles catch up with her. She picks the wrong target. A woman (Jennifer Peterson, played with vigour by two-time Oscar-winner Dianne Wiest) seemingly with no family connections or complications, turns out to have some dangerous associates. They want Jennifer back, whatever the cost. Marla’s very way of life is threatened. But she doesn’t back down. She doesn’t run away. Her severe blonde bob remains perfect, her colour blocked suits uncreased. Why not? ‘Marla is one of the very few women on film who is unashamedly desirous of wealth,’ Rosamund says. ‘She wants to be really fucking rich. I think she sees that with a certain type of wealth comes freedom. And I think the whole American system backs that view up.’

It was vital for Rosamund that Marla does not become a traditionally relatable character, that we don’t locate a piece of trauma that suddenly explains why she does what she does, why she has chosen a life built on the pain of others. There are no flashbacks to a moment of childhood misery. No emotional breakdown where she confesses that, deep down, she longs to be good. ‘I think there's a story where she's been screwed over,’ Rosamund ponders. ‘But I'm never asking an audience to care about or pay much heed to that. And she's not never going to be in that position again.’

Rosamund’s performance has, quite rightly, earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical Or Comedy. But the ceremony will be different to previous years, when she was nominated for Gone Girl and A Private War, the Marie Colvin biopic. Details are still hazy, but there will not be a busy, A-List filled red carpet into a packed auditorium.

‘None of us know what to expect this year’, she says. ‘Of the shape or form the evening will take. In an ideal world, I would have taken our director with me to celebrate. They are fun: it's a wonderful thing to do, to meet the other actors and mark the current cinematic year. But you know, it's not essential business, is it?’ Unfortunately not. Most likely, Rosamund and her fellow Brits will be dressing up to the nines and dialling in from home at 4am.

Will Rosamund be victorious? It’s a competitive category. But one thing’s for sure: if Marla Grayson had anything to do with it, she’d be a dead cert.

I Care A Lot is available now on Prime Video

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