The What We Did on Our Holiday actress talks David Tennant, Gone Girl and why she's worried audiences will get sick of her...
By Susanna Lazarus
Rosamund Pike is the most elegant pregnant woman I've ever met. If countless press cuttings hadn't already informed me she was seven months gone, I'd have paid next-to-no attention to her carefully concealed bump. She has that elusive pregnancy glow people talk of but I'd never actually believed exists.
She's in London to promote What We Did on Our Holiday – a new film from Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, the creators of Outnumbered – and co-starring David Tennant and Billy Connolly. It was shot in the remote Scottish Highlands in summer 2013 just as Pike was negotiating to star as Amy Dunne in the hotly anticipated adaptation of the multi-million-selling novel Gone Girl.
What We Did on Our Holiday is the antithesis to Gillian Flynn's dark thriller. A family romp, packed with Hamilton and Jenkin's trademark gags and a new brood of scene-stealing youngsters. "They're good architects of human emotion," observes Pike, "and you're never allowed to wallow in anything that's too painful for too long – you're always pulled out of it into having a laugh."
It was during filming in the remote village of Gairloch that the 35-year-old first entered into negotiations with David Fincher, director of The Social Network and the man tasked with bringing Gone Girl to cinemas. "It was something I was doing pretty much in secret from everybody. I knew he was serious but there were still a lot of steps to go through."
She recalls the moment she heard she'd got the part, while filming amidst clouds of midges on a deserted patch of Scotland's coastline. "There was no phone reception and you could occasionally walk up onto a seemingly random point on the cliffs and get a bar of signal. On one of those trips up there, that was when I got the message that I was going to be offered the role of Amy Dunne but I didn't have enough signal – I couldn't email anyone, I couldn't call anyone."
It wasn't until the following morning that her co-stars learned that Pike had bagged the most coveted female role of the year. "I came down to breakfast and Amelia [Bullmore] and David Tennant were sitting having porridge and he said, 'We've just read you've got this incredible role,' and that's when I thought, 'it's out there, it's no longer my secret.' Suddenly the world has it and they can talk about it and dissect it and analyse it and deem you worthy or unworthy and all the rest of it."
But Pike is no stranger to scrutiny. Her career has been dotted with the burden of anticipation ever since her 2001 breakthrough playing Bond Girl Miranda Frost opposite Pierce Brosnan's 007 in Die Another Day. In 2005 she sought the inevitable comparisons with the BBC's indomitable Pride and Prejudice, playing Jane opposite Keira Knightley's Lizzie in a Hollywood update. But the pressures of the past pale in comparison to the present.
"I don't think there's ever been expectation like this. I don't think I've ever been as under scrutiny like I'm under scrutiny now – it's a completely different thing. There's a particular fascination with [David] Fincher as a director and the combination of him and this material is very exciting to people."
With two films released in consecutive weeks, Pike is certainly reaping the benefits of this "fascination" – so with her second child due in just two months (she gave birth to a son, Solo, with partner Robin Uniacke in 2012), is this a frustrating time for a career break?
She pauses. (Each question I pose is weighed up, considered and met with an eloquent answer.) "I feel a responsibility to an audience to keep surprising them – hopefully with these films there will be an element of surprise for people – but you've just got to make sure you don't work too much, I think. Even though you want to, you really
want to. I could work back-to-back and be very happy because I love it and crave doing it, but I also know that for longevity in the business and for audiences not to get bored of you, you've got to take your time."
True or not, there's certainly a hunger for Pike's work. Her chilling turn opposite her Gone Girl co-star Ben Affleck (playing Nick Dunne) is the performance of her career. The critics sung her praises
earlier this week when the first spate of reviews were published, with one terming her Amy "vulnerable, aggrieved, calculating, heroic, overmatched, viperous and terrifying" in any given scene.
I tried reading her the above, but Pike was having none of it. She looks at nothing – not even the reviewers revelling in her work (and there are many). "It's basically a fear that at some point it will make me too self-aware to be a good actor. That's generally the worry. It's not so much that I'm going to read that somebody didn't like me.
"I remember once going outside a theatre, knowing that I'd had some good reviews, and feeling that somehow whatever was good about my performance would just disappear if I read that they loved it, so there's a fear."
I ask her what it was like working with Ben. "Miller?" I meant Affleck, but it's clear she'd rather discuss her What We Did on Our Holiday co-star. How do they compare? "Both are very handsome, very clever. Ben Miller is a physicist and Ben Affleck is very politically astute and thoughtful. Ben Affleck is probably funnier than people realise. Ben Miller everybody knows is very funny. Ben Miller creates his character with all this bluster and insecurity – I find it very funny and ultimately rather touching at the end – and Ben Affleck approached his role in Gone Girl with equal degrees of savvy.
"For whatever reason, Ben's come under that tabloid scrutiny and he was able, I think, to employ some of that when it came to playing Nick Dunne who gets pretty wrung through the mangle of the tabloid press in Gone Girl."
Pike is yet to experience the same intensity of media attention, although there's no doubt Gone Girl has elevated her status across the pond, like that of her co-star Tennant whose Broadchurch remake Gracepoint is poised to hit American TV screens next month. Pike is a self-confessed "big fan of Broadchurch".
"I was completely obsessed with it and am really looking forward to the next one – and seeing what the Americans have done with it." She mentions she and Tennant bumped into each another in LA a week after filming wrapped in Scotland last summer. "He was on holiday and I was working so I felt rather bad appearing by the pool but we had a nice time. We did hang out, ordered some room service and had fun with our two families.
"Andy and Guy gave us all an extra treat beyond What We Did on Our Holiday: we made some friends."