In an age when virtually everyone has a prepared statement for the press--if not a calculated, image-reinforcing soundbite--it's surprising and refreshing to find an artist who's almost speechless when the time comes to discuss her craft.

At first, it was a shock that Miranda Richardson, 1995 Oscar nominee for Best Actress in Tom and Viv, would prove such an unpolished interview. I assumed the British actress, who can turn a supporting role into a blazing comet of wicked bravado (The Crying Game) or an anchor of quiet desolation (Damage), and transform a tepid, overstarched literary melodrama (Tom and Viv) into a ferocious study of thwarted ambitions, would take command of the situation and dazzle me with insight.

While I sensed nervousness at the other end of the line, it wasn't the theatrical-dynamo kind we're accustomed to seeing in Richardson's performances. She barely spoke above a whisper, even when asked to talk louder. She'd start to make a point and then trail off uncertainly. Her frequent response was an uncomfortable pause, followed by an anxious "I'm sorry, I really couldn't comment on that."

When asked if the extreme antisocial behavior displayed by her character in Tom and Viv was true to the real subject, Richardson said, "A movie is always going to concentrate on the moments of conflict and passion. People don't want to watch the boring bits."

Other highlights:
Do you approach comic and tragic roles differently? "If you can play comedy, you can play anything. But I don't think you can learn [to play comedy]. It's instinctual."

Were the mechanics different in portraying a timid woman in Enchanted April and an angry, unstable one in Dance With a Stranger? "Well, they're just different characters."

How do you think winning an Oscar would affect your career? "It might offer me a better choice of roles. But the part still has to be right. I can't play what I can't do."

It's difficult to imagine anything Richardson "can't do." I kept trying to reconcile this hesitant voice with the pop-eyed, gleefully homicidal queen I loved in Rowan Atkinson's Black Adder II. They seemed from two different worlds.

Which, of course, they are.
A toast to you, Miranda. We need more film artists who let their performances do the talking.

--Jimmy Fowler


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