YOU’VE been shooting a movie called Shut In in Canada. How’s it going?
We were doing night shoots in the middle of a forest outside of Montreal in subzero temperatures. I’m like, ‘Oh, I clearly missed this part of the script! What am I doing here?’ It’s a horror genre picture so there’s a lot of fear and a lot of emotion and a little bit of action, too.
It must be said, seeing you hip hop dance in Noah Baumbach’s new movie While We’re Young is one of the greatest things in cinematic history.
Oh God, thank you! I have to say, I had a lot of fun doing the whole movie, but especially that scene. I do have a bit of a frustrated dancer in me. I had always wanted to play a dancer in a movie at some point — sadly it never came true. That’s the thing that I missed the boat on, being at this age (46).....
You and Ben Stiller play a 40-something married couple jolted out of a rut when they befriend a young hipster couple. The script contains the term ‘middle age’ — are you OK with that?
I don’t hear it that much. I guess it’s either because people are being polite or politically correct — we’re not allowed to say anything these days, because God forbid we upset someone. I remember hearing it much more when I was younger, that’s probably because we lived with our grandparents. They were exactly the same age as I am now. I remember watching my grandfather every night in his routine — fall asleep in front of the news at 6 o’clock — and my grandmother struggling to get out of her chair. They seemed so much older than we are, but that’s because we have had kids much later and we’re on the floor rolling around, kicking a ball, being goofy ... But the truth is, yes, when we get down to it, we are in the middle of our lives and hurtling towards the end (laughs).
How nigh does the end feel?
In many ways I feel the same as I did in my late 20s ... except for certain times of the day: when you might catch yourself in the mirror or look at your phone for the first time in the morning and you can’t see it.
Your character in the film says if she had a child, she’d “fold the baby into my life”. Have you and Liev (Schreiber) done that with your two sons?
Having kids later in life you’re much more careful about that ... The later you leave it the more books you read and, probably, the more neurotic you become (laughs). I was raised being folded into my mother’s life — she was 19 when she had my brother and 20 when she had me. We did just sleep on the floor in a restaurant if she went out for dinner and we did just sit there in a flea market if she was selling her handmade clothes and antiques. Life is very different now, how people raise children, sometimes I think to the other extreme — we’ve gone too far. Liev and I both work a lot, but while our hours are extreme, there are big gaps until we work again. So on the days that we’re not 12 hours on a set, we’re absolutely there with our kids. We don’t want to have help around, we’re just with them. We fold in their way, as well.
It certainly sounds like you folded in their way after partying until 4am on Oscar night, then attending the kids’ science fair that morning.
Yes. On very little sleep. But it was wonderful because you could see how much work they’d put in and obviously they’re so happy to see you there.
Were you a proud mamma watching Birdman scoop up all those Academy Awards?
It was great. I was so happy for Alejandro (Gonzalez Inarritu). This was going to be his experimental film and look how it paid off. It’s incredible.
Ben Stiller is not the type to crack endless jokes in real life, but did you still feel you had to keep up with him on set?
The size of his talent is pretty gargantuan. That definitely makes you feel like you’ve gotta raise your game. And I wasn’t proven in this world, so I did go into it feeling a little bit nervous. Ben, actually, it was hard to keep a straight face sometimes because his eyes are so deep and he’s so pained and subtle ... he’s really not trying to be funny, but it’s so funny (laughs).
Yeah, certainly feeling a bit more confident and maybe it opens doors to future comedic things. I always felt like I can make people laugh in my life, I just was never really good on one-liners or sure of my timing. And I can’t be cute-funny, you know, like in those romantic comedies? If I’m mad, I’m mad! I’m not mad and cute (laughs).
Most probably think of you as an ultra-serious dramatic actor, but looking back you did Tank Girl, The Ring ...
Yeah, there have been times where I’ve felt, ‘Oh I’m doing a bit too much of this’ — you know, the dramatic world, constantly emoting. That’s why I’ve had to proactively get out there and start telling people I want to do lighter stuff. I’ve pretty much done bits and pieces of everything now. The only thing I really haven’t done yet, which is on my wishlist, is theatre.
Surely a Broadway show is in your future, living in New York?
Well the problem is right now we’re in LA a lot because Liev’s show (Ray Donovan) shoots here. We’ve been going back and forth half the year.
How do you look back on Diana? It didn’t get the reception anybody might have hoped.
It was always a risky thing — people had such strong feelings about her. I went into it with the hope, as an actor, to make a transformation and tell a story of this ironic situation: a woman who was struggling with happiness, but yet, a princess! And that level of fame is extreme; there really hasn’t been anyone like it since. So it’s always a disappointment if things don’t go well and in this case it felt personal because I was playing that role and it was a big risk for me to take on. But I did it anyway. You know what? It doesn’t matter. It’s not gonna make or break me at this point, so it was worth trying.
Are you more willing to take those kinds of risks these days?
I guess so. This is one of the upsides of getting older ... The other day I was having a conversation with a woman in her late 50s and I said, ‘Is there anything to look forward to? Tell me! I’m feeling like time’s running out, the body’s not working like it used to, dah dah dah’. She said, ‘The good news is, you don’t care as much about what people think’. And that’s true. That’s apparent in the work. I’m not here trying to make movies because I want them to be commercial hits, I’m here because I want each experience to be a good one and I wanna connect with a little piece of story that might grow me and someone else.
Can you see yourself still doing it, Dame Judi Dench style?
I’d like to think so. Liev and I, like I said, are travelling back and forth. I think we’ll have to choose a place pretty soon — for the sake of the kids and school and everything. So that might mean slowing down a bit. But there’s no reason why we’d have to stop altogether. I love what I do.