Rosamund Pike on the Search for Happiness

The Brit beauty's happy place? In London, of course (though wearing Louis Vuitton at this year's Met Ball was also a blast). Read on for more from one of this year's breakout film stars

Rosamund Pike as Clara in Hector and the Search for Happines (Photo: eOne Films)

Rosamund Pike as Clara in Hector and the Search for Happiness (Photo: eOne Films)

Actress Rosamund Pike has slipped the shackles of Bond girl servitude and icy-Brit period pieces (The Libertine, Pride & Prejudice) with a rich variety of roles in action flicks (Jack Reacher, Wrath of the Titans), sci-fi spectacle (Surrogates, The World’s End), Canadian indies (Fugitive Pieces, Barney’s Version), and, of course, as the titular Gone Girl in David Fincher’s much-anticipated adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s mega-bestseller. Hector and the Search for Happiness (which debuts nation-wide September 26) further showcases the warm, emotional, intelligent and slightly quirky personality that shone in The World’s End—and was in full force in person at TIFF this year, where she was promoting the film’s Canadian premiere. Here, our conversation.

Matthew Biehl: Hector and the Search for Happiness is your second film with Simon Pegg. Was that a happy coincidence or did you two sign on together?

Rosamund Pike: We actually signed on to Hector before we knew we were working together on The World’s End. I was thankful every day that we were on set that we did World’s End first because it made it so easy to be relaxed and have fun; I didn’t feel self-conscious at all. Your job as an actress is to fast-track intimacy all the time but if you already have a connection it’s so nice. I think, “Why don’t I do this all the time? Why don’t I work with the same people again?” The old filmmakers used to know that. If there was chemistry between two actors you would want t see them again in different parts. You can keep playing with relationship and changing it.

MB: You definitely can see this familiarity between you two at the beginning of the film with the quick cuts of the routine of Hector and Clara’s relationship.

RP: Yes, the total mundane. The high functioning co-dependent modern couple with two incomes whose fear and control govern their relationship. It’s not a bad relationship—they have good sex, they have fun—but everything is so ordered and neat and tidy that there’s no room for the chaos that lets in the really raw emotions that might make them more whole people.

MB: A lot of the film has Hector and Clara interacting over the phone and Skype. Were you and Simon actually filming these scenes apart, or were you there with one another?

RP: We were apart, but I still wanted to act against Simon, especially for the phone call we have at the end. When I was working with Paul Giamatti on Barney’s Version, if there were scenes with phone calls we would always be available to each other even if I was out and about in Montreal. They’d call me on my cell phone and I would do the lines with him, and for me that’s vital. Simon not so much, sometimes I was there whereas other times he said “I can just do it with someone else reading in.” It never works for me that way, I need the connection. At that time, your character is in love and it is so important, it becomes totally real to me. I’m like a child in that way, I make believe that it’s real, so as soon as it’s someone else’s voice it just kills it.

MB: Touching on your role as Miriam in Barney’s Version, I saw some similarities between Miriam and Clara. You’re playing these female characters that are quite supportive of somewhat egotistical men. How do you bring richness to a role that could easily be a background character?

RP: I gravitate to writing and I thought there was enough interest in dramatic possibility in Clara. I want to do something where people will look at the film and recognize something in their own lives. That’s why you do films, really; so another human being sees the film and thinks about what it is to be human. It’s humanity you’re training in. I felt that Clara’s fear, her control, her sweetness, and her caution was something that I could express. Overall the Clara in my head has a much more full life that can ever be realized on the screen because she’s got so few appearances. Sometimes it’s a shock I’ve created something in my head that’s much fuller and richer and in the end you realize she’s limited to the five scenes that she’s in. It can be disappointing and I’m starting to crave the chance to do more and have more screen time in all movies. You can explore more ideas with the audience and it sits with them longer.

MB: Even though you were limited to a few scenes, you really got to play with emotion so much in this role, especially in the phone call in the streets of London.

RP: Which was very funny to film actually. None of the people on the street knew they were extras, we were just filming rogue with a long lens and a radio mic, with Simon down at the other end. It’s fun to do that when nobody has any idea, so I’m just some girl getting arguing on a phone call in the middle of the street. I think someone even tweeted, “I saw Rosamund Pike having a fight with her boyfriend.”

MB: You got to film that scene in London, but you filmed the interior scenes in Vancouver. Is it hard to put yourself into the moment and imagine you are somewhere else?

RP: No, it’s normally not hard. But if you can go the real location it does give an amazing sense of place, though you rarely get the chance. Even in Gone Girl we didn’t film the New York scenes in New York, we were in Los Angeles. But we did film in Missouri, which is part of the whole fabric of that novel and part of where Gillian Flynn, the writer, comes from. So that was great to do that because you do get a texture that you can’t manufacture.

MB: It seems there is a trend where in order to find yourself you have to go on some grand journey, like Hector. Do you think that’s really the case?

RP: Facing what you’re not takes you back to who you are and it puts a perspective on things. I think the hardest question of happiness is how do you even quantify it? They analyze countries—is it Denmark that has the highest proportion of people who claim to be happy? But how do you know that when you say, Are you happy? to somebody that it means the same thing to them as it does to you? Then there’s the problem of translation—sometimes the question means, Are you satisfied with your life? or, Are you happy? or even, Are you content? which all have subtle differences. I find the question really fascinating. How do you have a standard of what’s happiness? It could mean having shelter, food, water and health or it could be a fine bottle of wine in a beautiful location with the people you love. I definitely think that the more choices we have, the harder it is for people to navigate their own happiness.

MB: In the sprit of the search for happiness, what makes you most happy?

RP: There are so many, but I always seem to associate happiness with water. I’m someone who can’t drive past a sign for a lake without diverting and going in it. I always, without fail, feel happy even if I’m in freezing cold water. A day of doing nothing makes me very happy if that ever comes about. Always getting back to London after I’ve been away and just putting my feet on pavement—it’s the continuity, knowing that you’ve trod the same path. Open roads, adventures, like traveling in a RV with my partner and our child off to Joshua Tree for Christmas. The spirit of adventure and doing something slightly different like you’re cheating time. I feel secure in knowing that I’m from London, I live in London, I love it and I find great happiness, especially now that I have children, doing the same things that I did as a child with my own children. It’s sort of like banking memories though generations; that’s a security, which is partially linked to happiness.

MB: You attended the Met Ball this year and were one of the first people to wear Louis Vuitton by Nicolas Ghesquière. What was that experience like?

RP: It felt quite ballsy in a way. This was the kind of dress that Nicolas was up for someone to wear to the Met Ball, but it was very different from the typical Met Ball fare. You feel like you’re sort of rocking and rolling it while other people are glamming it up, which is slightly subversive and it feels quite cool. I actually get quite frightened of things like that, so I pretended to be a friend of mine and went as her in my head and with this attitude of let’s get this party started. It’s a real fashion parade, but at least I could walk in my dress. I didn’t need help, which was good because I was unescorted so knowing that you’re not going to fall up the steps is liberating. I do love a big gown as well but this felt very refreshing. I was also in the early stages of my pregnancy, unannounced at the time, so I was carrying a secret. It’s awful that something so wonderful as pregnancy can also provide stress when you’re in the public eye, but there’s a certain expectation of the way you present yourself and how you’re supposed to look. It’s nice to know that whoever this child will be will be able to look back and know that they where one of the first people to wear Louis Vuitton by Nicolas Ghesquière, squeezed inside a python skin corset.

Rosamund Pike in Louis Vuitton by Nicolas Ghesquière at the 2014 MET Ball (Photo: Keystone Press)

Rosamund Pike in Louis Vuitton by Nicolas Ghesquière at the 2014 MET Ball (Photo: Keystone Press)