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Romola Garai

Romola Garai, co-star of "Rory O'Shea Was Here" Movie!

Though she was born in the U.K., actress Romola Garai spent her early childhood in Singapore and Hong Kong. As a trained singer and musician, she was discovered by a talent agent for her vocal range in a jazz band. She made her film debut in The Last of the Blonde Bombshells (2000), a U.K.-U.S. co-production about a woman (Judi Dench) trying to reunite a swing band from WWII. Garai portrayed the younger version of Dench's character. She then moved on to British television as office girl Zoe in the workplace drama Attachments and long-lost daughter Charlotte in the miniseries Perfect. She was cast as Kate Nickelby in Douglas McGrath's 2002 film version of Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickelby. The film won Best Ensemble Performance from the National Board of Review. However, it was Garai's role as Gwendolen Harleth, the wife of Henleigh Grandcourt (Hugh Bonneville), in the BBC adaptation of George Eliot's Daniel Deronda that really proved she could do period pieces. The next year, she earned her first major starring role in Tim Fywell's independent romance I Capture the Castle, based on the book by Dodie Smith. Garai played teenaged Cassandra Mortmain, a young woman living with an eccentric family in 1930s England. She earned a nomination for Most Promising Newcomer from the British Independent Film Awards. In 2004, she made her first American production with Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. She stars opposite Diego Luna as young American girl Katey Miller, who moves to Cuba with her parents in 1958. Other projects for 2004 include Mira Nair's Vanity Fair starring Reese Witherspoon.

Romola Sadie Garai was born on August 6,1982 in Southwark, London, England, UK .
Born in England to father Adrian (banker) and mother Janet (journalist) Romola Garai's unusual name is credited as the female version of Romulus, an Italian name for boys. She grew up in Singapore and Hong Kong until she was eight when her family returned to lay roots in Wiltshire. At sixteen, she left her parents and youngest sister, Roxy, to live in London with her older sister, Rosie, and attend school at City of London's School for Girls, where her major studies were based on theatre. She got her beginnings as a professional actress when she was spotted in a school production by a casting director looking for girls to play Judi Dench in the ITV drama Last of the Blonde Bombshells. After that role, she went on with her studies, eventually enrolling in University of London where she majored in English, planning to become a journalist like her mother once was. But after offers for other roles began to come in, she deferred her degree and eventually quit altogether to focus more on her acting career. Romola went on to film Daniel Deronda, I Capture the Castle, Nicholas Nickleby, and Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights and Vanity Fair with Reese Witherspoon. Not to mention her role in the West End adaptation of George Eliot's novel, Calico as Lucia Joyce for which she is currently nominated Outstanding Newcomer by the Evening Standard Theatre Awards. She is currently at University reading English. She used to sing in a jazz band.

More fun stuff about Romola Garai

Can play the violin.

Nickname: Romster

Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Was brought up in Hong Kong and Singapore until she was 10.

She has three siblings: one brother named Ralph and two sisters named Rosie and Roxy.

She is of Hungarian decent and her great grandfather is Bert Garai, founder of Keystone Press Agency in London in 1924.

Her two oldest siblings Ralph and Rosie were adopted as babies before she and her sister were born.

She had no professional dancing experience before arriving on the set of Dirty Dancing 2.

Her personal quotes:

"The filmmakers were obsessed with having someone skinny. I just thought, why didn't they get someone like Kate Bosworth, if that's what they wanted? An actress like that wouldn't worry about whether or not the political ideas were being sensitively or subtly dealt with. They'd do the job, smile and look pretty on the cover of Teen Vogue. There I am, 135 pounds and trying to make art! I was so wrong for it!" On the project Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights

"I [showed] my tits and teeth. I'm useless at it. About 40 per cent of success as an actor is now based on whether you're good at being interviewed and how you conduct yourself. And I'm really bad at that." On the Vanity Fair premiere

"I date nothing but older men. I've reached a stage in my life where I've started to worry whether it's a fetish or not. What did I find out? I suppose that the only real effect of ageing is deep cynicism - that, and you are maybe a little more comfortable with yourself." On her dating habits.

"I do think the Olympics are a curiously male obsession. Who can run the fastest from here to here? You know what I think? Who gives? Because if you're not running to catch a bus or running to buy me a bunch of flowers, I don't care." Her thoughts on the Olympics.

Romola Garai: her personal history reads like a Jane Austen novel

Now she's taking her adventures to Hollywood.

You've been working in the movies for a few years, mostly in BBC literary dramas and English period films like Daniel Deronda, Nicholas Nickleby [both 2002], and I Capture the Castle. Now you're co-starring opposite Diego Luna in the new movie Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, a loose remake of the 1987 picture starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. How did you get started acting?

ROMOLA GARAI: As a child growing up in the English West Country, near Wales, I performed in school plays and in speech and drama festivals. I was encouraged by my mum--we used to go to the theater a great deal together. When I was 14, I came to London to do a summer season with the National Youth Theatre. Then, when I was 17, a casting director approached me about a tiny part in a TV film called The Last of the Blonde Bombshells [2000]. It was only a couple of days off school and I'd get paid a bit of money, so I said okay. Afterwards she said, "If you'd be interested in having a career in this, you should get an agent." So, I got an agent, and rye been working ever since.

SLC: The makers of Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights don't call it a sequel or a remake, but a reimagining. What's it about?

RG: It's set in Cuba in 1958, during the [Communist] revolution, and it's predominantly about the political and social situation of the people who live there and the American expats. My character, Katey, is an American of privileged upbringing who's in Cuba because her father works for an American corporation out there. She meets a Cuban guy named Javier [Diego Luna], who is in a very difficult situation, as a lot of Cubans were at that time because of [former dictator Fulgencio] Batista's regime. Katey decides to help Javier by entering a dance competition with him; the prize, if they win, is that he receives a ticket to America. That they enter this competition together is a fact she keeps secret from her parents, who disapprove of their relationship. They fall in love, and then, as history tells, the revolution kind of got in the way.

SLC: What sort of dance training did you undergo in preparation for the role?

RG: The filmmakers took Diego and I to Puerto Rico nine weeks before we started shooting and taught us how to dance [laughs], as neither of us was a trained dancer. We trained four hours in the morning and four and a half in the afternoon.

SLC: What sorts of styles? Ballroom? Salsa?

RG: My character does a sort of white interpretation of Latin ballroom. It's much more formal and much less sexy. And Javier's dancing is at the opposite end of the spectrum--the real down-and-dirty Afro-Cuban dancing. But we each had to learn both styles because they come together in the film's final number.

SLC: Is this the "Nobody puts Baby in a corner!" grand finale?

RG: [laughs] Exactly.

SLC: Did you enjoy all that training?

RG: I can't begin to tell you how much I loved it. I've never used my body in that way, and I don't come from a culture that does. I was in this hot, tropical country, and we rehearsed in a studio on the top of a building. There'd be days when it rained that wet, hot, tropical rain for hours, and it would hammer away at the tin roof so loudly we couldn't hear each other speak--we would just dance without talking. It was glorious.

SLC: And how did it feel to leave the literary and period dramas behind and take on the role of a more or less modern girl?

RG: I loved the change. It was wonderful to do something which I felt I could be funny in, and which explored a different side of my personality. I'm only 21, and a lot of the roles I've played are adult roles, so it was fun to do something that represented the part of me that's still a teenager.

SLC: Did you feel any pressure remaking a film that was only 17 years old, recent enough, certainly, to still be a part of the public consciousness?

RG: Absolutely. I loved Dirty Dancing as much as anybody I watched it all the time. In a way, this is probably the only job I've ever done where I've felt like a member of the public. As a fan I can imagine somebody bringing out a sequel to Dirty Dancing and me going, "God, I wonder what it's going to be like," and going to see it.

SLC: You say that with a skeptical tone.

RG: Well, there is an element of "If something's perfect, why remake it?" But I think Havana Nights is a good movie. I'm quite proud of it.

SLC: Now, soon after you wrapped, you found yourself right back in corsets, making Vanity Fair opposite Reese Witherspoon.

RG: [laughs] That's right. Mira Nair directed, and she was utterly brilliant. She has the extraordinary capacity to push you as a performer, and yet never make you feel as if you should be afraid to experiment.

SLC: Had you ever worked with a female director before?

RG: Once, when I did a TV show. It was maybe three weeks' work. I have to say, I really enjoyed the experience [with Nair]--not necessarily because I think female directors have an innately different style, but maybe because I'm a woman, I find that conversation and finding a common ground are easier.

SLC: Had you read William Makepeace Thackeray's novel Vanity Fair before you made the film?

RG: Yes, I had.

SLC: And Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby and Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle before you made the recent films of those books?

RG: Mm-hmm.

SLC: Do you find it's helpful to be familiar with a book before filming an adaptation of it? Is reading a big part of your research in general?

RG: I try to be guided by the director as much as possible and go with what they feel is important for me. Nine times out of ten I think directors don't want you to do too much reading of the [source] material because we're not filming the novel, we're filming a script. But I think it's important to read so you have some idea of what the origins of the character are. It differs from project to project, really.

SLC: What's this moment like, as things are about to break and anything's possible?

RG: I suppose it's important not because of what is about to happen, but because of what has happened in terms of looking back at the last year and thinking about what I've learned. What's about to happen in terms of the critical and public attention for the films is obviously daunting, and exciting, but I don't feel like I'm going to grow, learn, or change because of it.

SLC: So, what keeps you busy during your spare time?

RG: I cook a lot. I love to bake. There's something about the preciseness of it, the way you have to be absorbed in it, that has a therapeutic quality. It shuts off your mind to other things. I love to travel as well.

My parents spent a lot of time abroad, living in places like Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and they've found it invaluable to defer to another person's culture. To be the outsider for a period of time changes you for the better. It shakes up your comfort level. You have to really make an effort to enter into other people's culture and psychology and language, which the British are very bad at doing.

SLC: We're even worse here in the States. Remember, our president had been off the North American continent only three times before he was in office.

RG: [laughs] You know what I mean, then.

SLC: Between the baking and the outsider's approach to travel, it seems as if you're looking for a bit of discipline. Are you?

RG: I think I'm looking for stability rather than discipline. My professional life isn't very conducive to a feeling of stability.

SLC: What's next for you?

RG: I just finished a film called Inside I'm Dancing, and I'm doing a play called Calico, which is going to be on in London's West End from February through May. I play James Joyce's daughter, Lucia. It's set in Paris in the 1920s, and it's about Lucia's gradual mental decline. She has a love affair with Samuel Beckett, who was her father's secretary at the time.

SLC: Are you still dancing?

RG: In the pub, pissed, on a Friday night. [laughs] I can be persuaded at any opportunity to break into salsa dancing. Believe me, my friends are utterly bored of it. They were all wowed the first time they saw what I'd learned, but by the fifth time, the twentieth time, they were like, "Yeah, Rom. Wicked. Can you stop now?" ]laughs] They're like, "We don't want to see your film now--we've seen quite enough of you dancing."


It Girl:Romola Garai

Don't be fooled by Romola Garai's sweet, inexperienced character Katey Vendetto in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. This British (yes, British!) 21-year-old is a bold, boisterous gal who prefers hilarious conversations to shy dance lessons. Playing an American girl living in Cuba in 1958, Romola takes on her second big-screen period role (her first was in Nicholas Nickelby), and she easily takes us back to that time with her talent and look. Read on and find out more about this down-to-earth, breakthrough star!

Dirty What?
When Romola told her friends that she'd been cast in the long-awaited sequel to Dirty Dancing -- opposite super-cutie Diego Luna from Y Tu Mama Tambien on top of that -- the reactions were pretty interesting. "There was shock, horror, and envy," she laughs. But she tried to chalk up the movie and her co-star to an artistic encounter. "I said, 'I just think it's a really good acting experience working with him,' and they were like, 'Yeah Right!'" We don't blame them! Getting paid to dirty dance with the next big Latin hottie? Sign us up! But are the rumors of off-screen love between Romola and Diego true? "I like to think we got along well." Guess you'll have to interpret that yourself!

What a Stretch!
Romola definitely has a few differences from her character Katey. "She's very bright, which no one's ever accused me of being," she jokes. But this adorably self-deprecating former English literature major still managed to bond with her alter-ego. "She's very enthusiastic in conversations, and then she puts her foot in her mouth, which I constantly do." It's nice to know that a budding starlet is a lot like the rest of us!

The Music Is In Her.
Romola used to play the violin, but that's actually the only music-related training she's ever had. Yep, that means she wasn't a professional dancer before being cast in Havana Nights. "If I was in a club, I wouldn't be terrible, but I'm not a trained dancer." She had us fooled!

Playing Dress-Up.
Who wouldn't love dressing up in the styles of the late '50s? Romola is no exception, and she gushed about the incredible experience. "It was a great period for fashion. It was the last decade of women wearing gloves and hats, and you had your hair done. And we don't do that anymore, so that was fun." Unfortunately, she didn't get to keep any of the amazing dresses she wore in the film (she really wanted to hold onto the floral cream dress you see on her above), but she did get to keep her cute dancing shoes!

She's Legally Blonde, Too

This isn't the last you'll see of Romola! Later this year, she'll appear with one of our other favorite blondes, Reese Witherspoon, in Vanity Fair -- Romola's third period piece in a row! In the meantime, find out more about Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights at dirtydancinhavananights.com. It opens in theaters everywhere on February 27th!

 

Romola Garai: Eager to Please

The introduction of a rambunctious catalyst into a static environment is tried and true formula. Jesus Christ in the Gospels. Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew. Randall P. McMurphy in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Inevitably, such characters are fighting against something, be it the eternal damnation of humanity or Nurse Ratched.

Rory O'Shea is different. Not because he's immobile -- confined by muscular dystrophy to a motorized wheelchair -- or because he's an insufferable cad, but because he is a rebel with no direction or resolve. Early in Rory O'Shea Was Here, he takes up residence in the Carrigmore Home for the Disabled, somewhere outside of Dublin. At first, he seems another McMurphy, ready to shake up the day-to-day monotony of the hospital ward with his sharp tongue, wild-child image, and penchant for punk music. His bleached spiky hair and nose ring are flourishes to the whole Rebel Package, and we are convinced he will invigorate every miserable, disabled soul in the home. Instead, Rory targets one melancholy individual, the sweet Michael Connelly (Steven Robertson), whose mobility and speech have been wrecked by cerebral palsy. Rory can interpret the words behind Michael's significant speech impairment, so the two become friends, and eventually Michael is gelling his own hair.

Despite the skepticism of Carrigmore's supervisor Eileen (Brenda Fricker), Rory engages Michael in his efforts to get out of the home, to live life on his own terms. Their friendship becomes terribly convenient when Rory learns Michael's estranged father is a wealthy barrister. Rory convinces Michael that his father can make up for years of neglect by paying for a specially designed flat for the pair. Michael relents, as does his dad.

Because Rory O'Shea Was Here is so earnest and eager to please, its failure is all the more unpleasant. Once Rory and Michael are free of Carrigmore, the film descends from cliché to maudlin. Rory and Michael have to hire someone to clean, clothe, and feed them. So they pick out the most beautiful blonde girl (Romola Garai) in a pub, ask her, and -- score! -- she agrees to become their fulltime caretaker. What the film seems to say is that although you may be disabled, you can still con a friend's family into paying your rent and convince a sweet girl to give you daily sponge baths.

Fricker's presence here reminds me of My Left Foot, the 1989 film in which she played opposite Daniel Day-Lewis as Christy Brown, an artist with cerebral palsy. Christy and Rory are alike in that they are disabled Irish men with fiery tempers and salty tongues. My Left Foot is based on the life story of a real person, while Rory O'Shea was "inspired by the experiences of real people." This explains the crucial disparity between these two characters -- one is dimensional and true, the other a generalization. Christy lives life as a constant battle to express himself through painting and poetry, but the battle is not about the handicap. Rory lives his life as a constant battle to express anger over his condition, and the battle is all about the handicap.

While sympathy abounds for Michael and Siobhan, it is in short supply for Rory. So screenwriter Jeffrey Caine makes a desperate move to retain our sympathy. The story turns tragic, and this decision undermines all that has come before it. Before this turn, Rory -- God love him -- is recognizable. He wants to be adored by women like everyone else, he wants to be arrested if he steals a car like everyone else, he wants to dance like everyone else.

That he accomplishes these things at the expense of other people's time, feelings, and money is not surprising. Neither is it that he's occasionally taken to task for his presumptions, especially by Eileen, who sees early on that Rory and Michael can't live "on their own." But Rory views her assertion as an insult rather than an insight. Therein lies the futility of his rebellion: he rails against a society that is ultimately supportive of him. Instead, he should be rebelling against the screenplay, his more immediate handicap. Its manipulations feel repetitive and unpleasant, like an amusement park ride. Oh, the car whips around again? Who saw that coming? Let's get off and get some fried dough.

Meet Romola Garai

21-year-old British actress Romola Garai makes her United States debut in "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights." Having done mostly television work in England since the age of 10, Romola expressed little trepidation when asked to step into the shoes made famous by Jennifer Grey in a feature film follow-up to "Dirty Dancing."

It is 1958 and Cuba is on the brink of a revolution. Romola stars as 18-year-old Katey Miller, a Radcliffe College-bound girl forced to move to Cuba with her family in the middle of her senior year in high school. An outsider to her family, her peers, and her environment, Katey is lost in her new environment until she meets a poor Cuban boy, Javier (Diego Luna). Katey is intrigued by Javier's carefree, but dedicated, lifestyle to both his country and to his favorite hobby - dancing. Together, they touch each other's lives as the world around them begins to change.

Romola was in New York City recently to talk about "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" and Cinema Confidential was there to speak with her as well.

Q: How did connect with this role and why did you accept it?

RG: I took it because I thought it would be a laugh. And I thought it was a fun script and I wanted to work with Diego [Luna]. "Y Tu Mama Tambien" was a big film for me the last few years and my friends loved that movie. As far as connecting with the character, I suppose she's a young girl who's trying to discover what she wants out of life and is torn between making career moves and dedicating time to her family, and meeting everyone's expectation and yet, at the same time, trying to find out who she is, so I supposed I identified with that.

TOM: When you started working with JoAnn Jansen and the choreography, did you ever ask yourself, "What did I get myself into?"

RG: Oh yeah, we turned up on the first day and we were completely appalled and were like, "This is the worst idea we've had in our lives." At least I was anyway, and yeah it was very daunting.

TOM: Did it get easier as the shooting went along?

RG: It got harder. Just when you have mastered a basic, suddenly you have to master a turn, and then three turns. So when you have the hang of something, you have to move on to the next level. When you get halfway through something, someone's saying, "You can do all the steps. Now make it look pretty." So, that's hard.

Q: Did you fall in love with dance? Do you still go out to dance classes?

RG: Yes, I fell in love with it, and with going out, not really. I haven't done any classes or anything, but when I get the chance to go to a salsa club, then I do take it.

Q: How long did it you to learn the dance steps?

RG: It took eight weeks to teach two people to dance if they were shot from the right ankle. We weren't professional dancers by the end of the shoot, but we could salsa dance. We could do it. We could do some fairly complicated steps, and it depends on what standard you want to judge us by.

Q: Are you shocked by how beautiful you look on-screen?

RG: Anyone would look great if you had 10 hours of makeup and it's being shot by Tony Richmond, who was the director of photography. It's the way the film industry works; they're good at making people look good. It has very little to do with me.

TOM: Do you have any memories from watching the first "Dirty Dancing" movie?

RG: Oh yes. We had a video at home when we were kids and we watched it all the time growing up. I have two sisters and it's a family full of girls, so it's a big deal.

Q: So what was it like to meet and dance with Patrick Swayze in his cameo in the film?

RG: It's pretty weird. It was like a strange dream, where you wake up and say, "Guess what? I was in 'Dirty Dancing.' I was Baby." And people look at you oddly, but that's exactly what it was like. He looks exactly the same as he did in the original film, which is more bizarre, but he is an amazing dancer. It was really nice.

Q: Is your family shocked by how hard you worked for this movie?

RG: It's an odd thing. If you don't work in the film industry or don't have anything to do with it, you don't believe it's happening until you have seen the film. The filming process and the script bare absolutely no relation to the final product, so I don't think they really thought about it at all. When I showed them the trailer from the movie when I got back home in London and put it on, they were just silent for about a minute, and that's never happened. They just couldn't believe it.

Q: I hear that you are at a university majoring in English...

RG: I've actually left. I left to make a film called "I Captured the Castle" about two years ago and I haven't gone back. So I only did a year of my degree.

Q: What was the toughest spot to shoot for the film?

RG: There was a dance sequence in the club, which took three days to shoot. Puerto Rico is very humid, but we had three days of heavy rain and that somehow makes it hotter and we were in an incredibly small club. It was shot on location with about 200 people in the room and lights and everything. I had all this hair and makeup on me and it was just sweating off me. You would wipe your hand off something and it would foundation coming off on the table. That was very hot and hard work. It was fun.

TOM: You mentioned earlier that you wanted to work with Diego after seeing "Y Tu Mama Tambien." How was the actual experience of working with him?

RG: It was great. He's a very talented actor who takes his job very seriously. It's nice to work with someone who's focused. "Y Tu Mama Tambien" was a big deal for me when I saw it the first time around so it was nice.

TOM: Have you ever felt you like a fish out of water or an outsider just like your charcter?

RG: Yes, for five months. I was a big gangly British girl stuck in the middle of this party with incredible beautiful people. I woke up everyday saying, "What am I doing here? There's been some mistake"

Q: Did you get any advice from Sela Ward?

RG: Sela is an amazing person to work with. She knows the industry really well. She's a bright woman and apart from some knitting tips, which I got from her, she was interesting to be around with. She knows her stuff. She's great.

Q: What sort of dance do you prefer?

RG: I think salsa music. There are a couple of places in San Juan, Puerto Rico that ended up seeing a lot of me. We would go and salsa dance and watch other people doing it and I would dance with different partners as well because that improves your style a great deal if you get use to different kinds of dances. I did some Afro-Cuban dances as well.

Q: Did you brush on what was going on in Cuba at that particular time?

RG: I felt that I wouldn't have a take on the film unless I had some knowledge of the political history. There's a biography of Cuba by Hugh Thomas which I read that gives you an exhausted history of the country, but it was really interesting. I did what I could to research the photographic aspects of Cuba and its time period. There were some great shots of people from the 50s; so I looked at some stills.

TOM: Can you talk about your upcoming film "Vanity Fair"?

RG: It's coming out in October and Reese Witherspoon plays Becky Sharp, and it also stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers. I play a character named Amelia, who's a friend to Reese's character.

Q: What's next for you?

RG: I'm doing a play in London at the moment about James Joyce. It will open in 2 weeks. James Joyce had a daughter who had an affair with Samuel Beckett in Paris when the family left her and that's where the play begins. The play is about their relationship. I suppose the daughter is focal point of the family that I think the play takes a neutral attempt to characterize her.

Q: With so upcoming films and the play, what keeps you grounded?

RG: My family who take a piss out of me all the time, which is nice. I live in London so I have a lot of things that keeps me connected to my past and friends, who are just graduating. I pretty much do the same thing, which is go out to the pub.

TOM: If you could have one superhero power, what would you choose and why?

RG: It's like the question of would you be invisible and fly. I think I would fly. Flying would be great.

 

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights: An Interview with Romola Garai

The thing thatís fascinating about sequels, prequels, remakes, or a new look to a popular film is that it comes with an awareness, which sometimes translates into a built-in audience. Back in 1987, Dirty Dancing took the industry by storm as Patrick Swayze reinvented himself with his dance moves and Jennifer Grey became very popular as the girl who rebelled from her straight and narrow folks. Besides the actors, it was the music and dance moves in the film that swept the nation off its feet. Hoping to accomplish the same feat in todayís world is a new version of that film, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. Romola Garai, who was last seen in I Capture the Capture, takes over as the female lead looking to find herself in Cuba, with the help of Y Tu Mama Tambien star Diego Luna. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Romola talks about working with Diego and learning to dance salsa.

WM: How did connect with this role and why did you accept it?

RG: I took it because I thought it would be a laughs. (She laughs.) And I thought it was a fun script and I wanted to work with Diego. "Y Tu Mama Tambien" was a big film for me the last few years and my friends loved that movie. As far as connecting with the character, I suppose she's a young girl who's trying to discover what she wants out of life and is torn between making career moves and dedicating time to her family, and meeting everyone's expectation and yet, at the same time, trying to find out who she is, so I supposed I identified with that.

WM: Was it difficult working with JoAnn Jansen and the choreography?

RG: Oh yeah, we turned up on the first day and we were completely appalled and were like, "This is the worst idea we've had in our lives." At least I was anyway, and yeah it was very daunting.

WM: Did it get easier as the shooting went along?

RG: It got harder. Just when you have mastered a basic, suddenly you have to master a turn, and then 3 turns. So when you have the hang of something, you have to move on to the next level. When you get half way through something, someone's saying, "You can do all the steps now, now make it look pretty." So, that's hard.

WM: Did you fall in love with dance? Do you still go out to dance classes?

RG: Yes, I fell in love with it, and with going out, not really. I haven't done any classes or anything, but when I get the chance to go to a salsa club, then I do take it.

WM: How long did it you to learn the dance steps?

RG: It took eight weeks to teach two people to dance if they were shot from the right ankle. We weren't professional dancers by the end of the shoot, but we could salsa dance. We could do it. We could do some fairly complicated steps, and it depends on what standard you want to judge us by.

WM: I'm sure you had some dance skills before the film. Did they ask you for any prior dancing experience?

RG: No. They were quite happy to audition actresses, and not dancers. That's what they got.

WM: Are you shock by how beautiful you look on-screen?

RG: No, I go, "Oh my God, I look so great." (She laughs). Anyone would look great if you had 10 hours of makeup and it's being shot by Tony Richmond, who was the director of photography. It's the way the film industry works; they're good at making people look good. It has very little to do with me.

WM: Do you have any memories from watching the first Dirty Dancing movie?

RG: Oh yes. We had a video at home when we were kids and we watched it all the time growing up. I have two sisters, and it's a family full of girls, so it's a big deal.

WM: So what was like to meet and dance with Patrick Swayze, who has a cameo in this film?

RG: It's pretty weird. It was like a strange dream, where you wake up and say, "Guess what, I was in Dirty Dancing. I was Baby." And people look at you oddly, but that's exactly what it was like. He looks exactly the same as he did in the original film, which is more bizarre, but he is an amazing dancer. It was really nice.

WM: Are parents shocked by how hard you have worked for this film?

RG: It's an odd thing. If you don't work in the film industry or don't have anything to do with it, you don't believe it's happening until you have seen the film. The filming process and the script bare absolutely no relation to the final product, so I don't think they really thought about it at all. When I showed them the trailer from the movie when I got back home in London and put it on, they were just silent for about a minute, and that's never happened. They just couldn't believe it.

WM: I hear that you are at a university majoring in English.

RG: I've actually left. I left to make a film called "I capture the castle" about two years ago and I haven't gone back. So I only did a year of my degree.

WM: What was the toughest spot to shoot with this film?

RG: There was a dance sequence in the club, which took three days to shoot. Puerto Rico is very humid, but we had three days of heavy rain and that somehow makes it hotter and we were in an incredibly small club. It was shot on location with about 200 people in the room and lights and everything. I had all this hair and makeup on me and it was just sweating off me. You would wipe your hand off something and it would foundation coming off on the table. That was very hot and hard work. It was fun.

WM: How was working with Diego?

RG: It was great. He's a very talented actor who takes his job very seriously. It's nice to work with someone who's focused. "Y Tu Mama Tambien" was a big deal for me when I saw it the first time around.

WM: So does your reel life imitate your real life? Do you want to date Latin or Jewish people?

RG: Absolutely. Every time I make a film, I think about living this character. The last film I did was with two guys in a wheel chair and I desperately wanted to go out with a disabled person. Of course not. (She laughs.) Your life is your life and your job is your job. Sometimes, they collide but you try to avoid that.

WM: Have you ever felt you like a fish out of water or an outsider?

RG: Yes, for five months. I was a big gangly British girl stuck in the middle of this party with incredible beautiful people. I woke up everyday saying, "What am I doing here? There's been some mistake"

WM: Did you get any advice from Sela Ward?

RG: Sela is an amazing person to work with. She knows the industry really well. She's a bright woman and apart from some knitting tips, which I got from her, she was interesting to be around with. She knows her stuff. She's great.

WM: What sort of dance do you prefer?

RG: I think salsa music. There are a couple of places in San Juan, Puerto Rico that ended up seeing a lot of me. Wed would go and salsa dance and watch other people doing it and I would dance with different partners as well because that improves your style a great deal if you get use to different kinds of dances. I did some Afro-Cuban dances as well.

WM: Did you brush on what was going on in Cuba at that particular time?

RG: I felt that I wouldn't have a take on the film unless I had some knowledge of the political history. There's a biography of Cuba by Hugh Thomas which I read that gives you an exhausted history of the country, but it was really interesting. I did what I could to research the photographic aspects of Cuba and its time period. There were some great shots of people from the 50's; so I looked at some stills.

WM: Can you talk about your upcoming film, Vanity Fair?

RG: It's coming out in October and Reese Witherspoon plays Becky Sharp, and it also stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers. I play a character named Amelia, who's a friend to Reese's character.

WM: What's next for you?

RG: I'm doing a play in London at the moment about James Joyce. It will open in 2 weeks. James Joyce had a daughter who had an affair with Samuel Beckett in Paris when the family left her and that's where the play begins. The play is about their relationship. I suppose the daughter is focal point of the family that I think the play takes a neutral attempt to characterize her.

WM: With so upcoming films and the play, what keeps you grounded?

RG: My family who take a piss out of me all the time, which is nice. I live in London so I have a lot of things that keeps me connected to my past and friends, who are just graduating. I pretty much do the same thing, which is going out to the pub.

Romola Garai plays Gwendolen Harleth

Rising star Romola Garai literally fell head over heels for the part of Gwendolen Harleth

Romola, barely looking her 19 years, explains how a photo-shoot on a very hot day in Malta almost landed her in hot water. "The cast were asked to do some publicity shots for Daniel Deronda. I was corseted in full period-style gown, and we had to stand in this room, with make-up to make sure we weren’t sweating, for about twenty minutes. Eventually they said: ‘You can go.’ And I walked out of this room and just fell down a flight of stairs, landing in a pile of dust at the bottom," she says breathlessly. Luckily for her, nothing was broken, but she was worried about the state of the dress. Romola continues: "You know you are committed to work when you fall over and you think: ‘Oh no, my dress!’"

Romola, who was plucked from the anonymity of A-levels to play the young Judi Dench in The Last Of The Blonde Bombshells, certainly seems committed to her work, even abandoning a degree in English at Queen Mary’s College to concentrate on her acting. And it appears to have paid off, with the complex role of Gwendolen to add to her growing list of credits

Romola admits that playing Gwendolen, a young, petulant woman who makes a fatal mistake in marrying the domineering aristocrat Grandcourt (Hugh Bonneville), was a challenge for her. "The thing that I found difficult to play," Romola explains, "is why someone as intelligent as Gwendolen would make such a fatal error in marrying this man that she believes she can control. But I suppose that just comes from naïveté. Gwendolen has no experience with the world at all, outside of her domestic sphere."

Romola believes that Gwendolen’s relative inexperience, though possibly a fault, is not the fatal flaw that leads to her downfall. Her fundamental flaw is selfishness, and that’s what George Eliot is exploring. Eliot was quite a social activist, so she very much believed in being interested in the world around you, especially in Victorian London.

"[Elizabeth] Gaskell, Eliot and other women writers were engaged in a moral struggle to improve themselves. And Gwendolen doesn’t think about others and, as a result, suffers because she doesn’t know enough about other people to be able to judge characters properly. So she makes this mistake, which is just appalling, because she has to suffer the ignominy and mental torment of this desperately unhappy marriage."

However, unlike your average character in a Greek tragedy, Gwendolen does not die from her fatal flaw at the end of Daniel Deronda. She is redeemed instead, thanks largely to the eponymous hero himself, played by Hugh Dancy. "The relationship that she has with Daniel is completely different to the misery she endures with Grandcourt. Daniel’s positive influence convinces Gwendolen to change from a selfish person who doesn’t think of others."

Although Gwendolen is admittedly rather spoiled, Romola actually thinks she has something in common with the tragic heroine of Daniel Deronda. The affable actress explains: "It’s so funny when people say: ‘Do you see yourself in Gwendolen?’ and I say: ‘Yes’, and people seem really shocked, like you said something appalling. But I think she’s like so many young, clever, beautiful, spoilt young women who lived in an age that didn’t afford women the opportunity to express creativity or intellect."
Fortunately for Romola, she did not grow up in the 1800s, but had an untraditional upbringing in Hong Kong and Singapore until the age of 10, where her obvious intelligence, rather than being stifled like Gwendolen’s, was encouraged. Her parents liked to discuss books and music around the dinner table. And it is this that Romola partly attributes to her success. "It doesn’t matter how good you are [as an actor]; if you can’t talk to the director, that really affects the result. I think I’m quite gregarious and chatty, and I think that really helps. I’m not sure whether it’s made me a better actress, but I think it’s helped my career," Romola confesses.

Her career doesn’t seem to need much help, with an upcoming role in I Capture The Castle, a feature film based on Dodie Smith’s classic novel, and other offers she is currently contemplating. But, for now, she is happy to play Gwendolen. "She is sexy and I think that’s really fun!" Romola says without any hesitation. Breaking off for a moment, Romola recalls impulsively stamping her foot during a scene, with obvious relish, just because it felt like something Gwendolen might do.

With a coy smile, Romola admits that Gwendolen is "the kind of girl that I would have loved to have been at school: the cool, sexy, difficult, naughty and arrogant person with whom everyone seems to be in love. And, for eight hours every day, I get to be that person".

 

 

 

 

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