British actress Olivia Williams stars opposite Kevin Costner in The Postman

"Nothing could ever match the disappointments of my early career. Before I got the call from Kevin, I'd reached the stage where I was ready to walk away and try to earn a more secure living. So if it stops now, I won't be embittered. I regard every moment of working as an unlooked-for bonus.

"Kevin had been looking for a female lead for a year and a half when I did the video audition. I didn't think it was in the bounds of possibility to get the part. When he asked me to do a second video audition I thought I'd save myself a week of raised hopes and trying to decide what to wear only to fail to reproduce what he'd liked the first time, and refused. That was when he invited me to LA, and three days later we were rehearsing the scenes on set in Arizona.

"I fell among unusually kind people. Warner Brothers stipulated a clause in my contract that would have prevented me working for anyone else. Kevin refused to allow me to sign it and backed me up with his influence. Far from being a megalomaniac, he is protective, loyal, extremely professional and includes all his employees in the creative process - add "very sexy" to that list of attributes, and you understand why he is able to produce, direct and star in a movie. I learnt how to act on film from him, and he paid me for the privilege - bloody marvellous. Trying to get another job proved difficult after The Postman filming finished. People want to see examples of your work, and there aren't many connoisseurs of obscure Jacobean theatre in LA. The producers and editors put together a showreel of my scenes long before images from the movie were even allowed out of the cutting room. Without that, I would have been unlikely to get my next job on Rushmore with Bill Murray.

"There was a huge amount of publicity to do for The Postman. It was so much KC's project that he took most of the flack and I managed to keep my head down. My lowest moment was my first night back in the UK, just in time to hear Barry Norman compare me to a gestating elephant.

"My most star-studded experience in LA was at Carrie Fisher's birthday party, where I just sat in the corner and scribbled down famous names on a napkin. But I spent most of my time at the Larchmount Yoga Centre, rather than running with the big boys. Mostly out of fear. I don't think I'd put myself through being unemployed in LA. It's bad enough in London." Olivia is happy to be at home and is looking for the next good script

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