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
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
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

    Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

    Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

    Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

    UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

    £45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape