Riseborough and Shine; as an IRA Terrorist in Shadow Dancer, Andrea Riseborough Has Become a Force Hollywoodcan't Ignore -- She's Now the Go-To Actress for Madonna and Tom Cruise, Says Richard GodwinBEST ACTRESS

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 6, 2013 | Go to article overview

Riseborough and Shine; as an IRA Terrorist in Shadow Dancer, Andrea Riseborough Has Become a Force Hollywoodcan't Ignore -- She's Now the Go-To Actress for Madonna and Tom Cruise, Says Richard GodwinBEST ACTRESS


Byline: Richard Godwin

ANDREA RISEBOROUGH, the winner of the Evening Standard Best Actress prize for her role in James Marsh's Shadow Dancer, is not someone who shies away from intensity. "Acting doesn't feel great," says the 31-year-old from North Tyneside.

"If I'm doing an emotionally taxing scene and I'm thinking, 'This is going terribly well', then I know I'm doing my worst work."

So when she describes the experience of playing Colette McVeigh, a failed IRA terrorist who is made to inform on her own family, as a "two-hour panic attack", it's an indication that this is Riseborough doing her best work.

"As a film, it's almost inescapable," she says. "You can't really help but take on the burden of Colette's struggle, and the struggle of everyone in the situation.

It's not an easy film to live with." Not easy, perhaps, but deeply compelling and hard to forget. Drawn from the novel by the ITN journalist Tom Bradby, Shadow Dancer is a taut thriller set in Belfast, 1993, at a time when peace in Northern Ireland still felt like a distant hope. Marsh, who directed the documentaries Man on Wire and Project Nim, brings fresh eyes to a story muddied through the years by resentments and recriminations.

As Riseborough says, "the great success with the film is that he allows the audience into that world," and it is true that Marsh delivers a powerful reminder of when terrorism meant Irish car bombs rather than Islamic suicide attacks. But since she is in pretty much every shot, Riseborough is our entry point into that world.

We first see the character of Colette as a child in a council house, absorbed in making a necklace. When her father asks her to go out and buy his cigarettes for him, she sends her little brother instead -- but he is caught in sectarian crossfire and dies.

Two decades later, we see Colette, now a single mother, out for revenge. She tries to plant a bomb on the London Underground before she is captured and persuaded by an MI5 officer (Clive Owen) to turn informer or face a lifetime in jail without ever seeing her boy again. When she returns to Belfast, it is through Riseborough's haunted features that we experience her hopeless situation, forever calculating what, if anything, she can salvage from her life. When the suppressed emotion does lurch to the surface, it's so powerful, it's almost visceral. Even after her early successes -- from Rada to the RSC, a Bafta-winning performance as the young Margaret Thatcher and starring roles in Brighton Rock, Made in Dagenham and W.E. -- this is a performance that puts Riseborough at the very front rank of British actresses.

We meet in a humongous suite at the May Fair Hotel, which feels very far from Belfast, and indeed the outskirts of Newcastle where Riseborough grew up in an upwardly mobile working-class family (her father was a Thatcher-voting car salesman). She wears a floaty silk dress, a shade darker than her almost transparent skin, and speaks in a softened Geordie accent. Despite the array of furniture on offer, Riseborough spends a lot of time sprawled on the floor.

She has recently flown in from remote Idaho, where she lives with her American artist boyfriend, Joe Appel, in a log cabin surrounded by snowy pine trees, "a blue pocket in a frighteningly Republican state". He has been working on his art; she has been practising her banjo and recovering from an intense filming schedule that will result in five of her films being released this year. It sounds like a rather romantic set-up.

RITAIN is taking some readjustment.

BShe met Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, in a TV studio the night before and seems to have really liked him, which we can probably put down to jetlag. Indeed, she is very free-associative in her conversation, which touches on genocide, the founding fathers, a great omelette place in Santa Monica and the situation in Uganda, before we move on to the Troubles. …

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