Film: Keeping her head above water

British actress Minnie Driver is kicking up a storm in Hollywood. Ivan Waterman talks to her about her new film `Hard Rain'.

What is it about Minnie Driver which inspires such extremes of emotion? American actresses of the La La Land variety are not among her greatest fans. In fact, they probably wish she'd board a plane straight back to Blighty.

Forming a dangerous Renaissance grin, her lip curls up, deep brown eyes narrowing before focusing on you. She knows who they are, and she can handle them. She is well used to the fake smiles of support from the valley of the super-vixens.

The Brits, so Colin Welland once warned Hollywood in an infamous address linked to Hugh Hudson's Chariots of Fire sweeping the Oscars' board, were "coming". Well, some 18 years on, it seems they have finally arrived, at least in female form.

The luscious, amazonian Driver is grabbing as much attention as she can lay her hands on, along with Kate Winslet and Helena Bonham-Carter waving the wretched Union Jack.

"The competition is intense," Driver concedes. "I'm glad we're getting a chance. A lot of us can do `American'. But I do know a couple of American actresses who have been extremely pissed off by that, and very disparaging.

"I would love to tell you who they are, but I can't. You can hear those tongues wag. `How dare they come over here and steal our jobs!' If we can do it, then too bad."

Is she matey with Kate? Do they have a good laugh? "I don't really know any of the British actresses," she insists. "Emma Thompson is wonderful. But if I could emulate a career, it would be De Niro or Streep. But I want my career. I want `The Minnie Career'."

She knows what she wants, and how to find it. Heads turn when she cruises through a hotel lounge in a fabulous Rodeo Drive trouser suit. Her amazonian limbs were barely concealed by the tiniest of mini-skirts when she was doing promotion rounds for her cute breakthrough movie Circle of Friends, capturing our hearts as the sexually clumsy Irish co-ed Benny Hogan.

But this is Beverly Hills. And so her once dazzling red, pre-Raphaelite curls have been combed out to make way for a sharper, on-the-shoulder business look. She oozes control and confidence. At 5ft 1O, and with that striking jawline, she's power-packed.

We're at the Four Seasons Hotel to talk about Hard Rain. It was originally entitled Flood, but the common or garden eco-disaster epic is now dressed up as thriller. Cerebral stuff it isn't. All-action Driver is girl in the eye of the storm, up against a gang of marauding villains, led by Morgan Freeman, trying to hi-jack a security van containing pounds 2m in cash.

Now here's a hoot. Of all the actors in the West to be waving the law and order banner, enter Christian Slater (just released from jail for assault) as security guard, taking her under his wet cape when a bursting dam sinks the small town community.

The cast was indeed an absolute shower. Director Mikael Salorman took the all-star mob to an aircraft hangar, immersing them for much of the filming in a five-foot-deep tank of around five million gallons of water. There were few smiles as they sipped their late night cocoa.

The word was that Minnie threatened to get heavy with lawyers because she was being forced to work 16-hour-days in freezing conditions. Feisty Driver now admits to behaving like a spoilt babe.

"It's very stressful when you are so cold and trying to function," she says. "I wasn't happy at all. You want to say `Enough is enough', but everyone else was just getting on with it, working such long hours, coming back for more. The rest of them dealt with it far better than I did. I got an ear infection, very dry skin and my hair fell to pieces. But believe me, I got off lightly!"

Hard Rain is a personal landmark: nobody will be taking liberties with her again.

Minnie - real name Amelia - was brought up in Barbados and Hampshire with her elder sister, Kate, a former model, who is now her personal assistant.

Their father, financial tycoon Ronnie Driver, and mother, former model Gaynor Churchward, parted when she was seven. She was sent to board at Princess Anne's old school, conveniently close to the family's country pile in Petersfield.

Being trapped in the dorm with a pack of junior debs was not to her liking. A free spirit, she was more used to roaming beaches in the West Indies.

She was so fed up by the age of ten, she made a run for it. "I was miserable and confused," she says. "Mother was taking me back to school, and I didn't want to go. I hid somewhere but she found me, drove with me screaming out of the window: `I am being abducted - save me!'"

She left Bedales at 16 in a huff, her education polished off in Paris and Grenoble before she hit the acting trail. She says she had a torrid affair with "a much older man". She was 20 and it was her first real experience with the opposite sex. She was cruelly used. "But he had given me a lesson, an initiation."

Now, lovers simply fade away. There was the cerebral John Cusack, creator, director and star of the superb black comedy Grosse Point Blank; and the laddish Matt Damon, co-writer of the weepie Good Will Hunting. She curtly dismisses him, wishing him well "on his next ego trip, wherever that might take him."

This is Minnie's era. At the age of 28, she's still `feeling the quality' of screenplays. She returned to Britain to make the low budget drama The Governess, her first film here since casting herself into the Californian spider's web four years ago.

So far, so very good then for the girl called Minnie who actually drove a Mini as a teenager. "My father had quite a sense of humour," she says. "He nicknamed me Minnie and my sister Kate was called Lori. Geddit? Super- vixens in La La Land go blank. They just stare and say politely: `Excuse me...?'

"But England's odd. I was working there for four years, doing good work but then...nothing. They want you to pay your dues, show respect. They don't like girls who get success too early. People would sooner cross the street than make any positive comment about your work. But I will never be an `insider' in Hollywood. Culturally, I will always be 7,000 miles away."

"Friends" have been crawling out of the Sunset Strip woodwork to make contact. "It is bizarre, this fame thing," she says. "People you haven't seen for years suddenly appear. If I say I am in the bath, they more or less say `What a snooty cow, she doesn't have the time of day for us now.'

"What do you do? Become blanket nice; a generic idiot? It does get weird...people want to give you such a hard time."

Just as well she literally towers over most of them.

`Hard Rain' is released on 17 April

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

    Employment Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Day In a Page

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride