Greta Scacchi: You Ask The Questions

So, Greta Scacchi, why did you turn down Basic Instinct, and which of your films did you secretly worry would be rubbish while you were filming them?
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The Independent Online

Greta Scacchi, 44, was born in Milan to an Italian father and an English mother. She grew up in England and Australia. She made her name in the 1983 film Heat and Dust, and her subsequent big-screen credits include White Mischief, Presumed Innocent, The Player and Emma. Her latest film is Beyond the Sea, in which she co-stars with Kevin Spacey. She lives in Sussex with her partner, Carlo, and children Leila and Matteo.

Greta Scacchi, 44, was born in Milan to an Italian father and an English mother. She grew up in England and Australia. She made her name in the 1983 film Heat and Dust, and her subsequent big-screen credits include White Mischief, Presumed Innocent, The Player and Emma. Her latest film is Beyond the Sea, in which she co-stars with Kevin Spacey. She lives in Sussex with her partner, Carlo, and children Leila and Matteo.

I understand that you are soon to appear in a film playing George Clooney's wife. Was this a particularly taxing role? Tania Jones, Dundee

In fact, it was torture. In the film, Syriana, my character has been married to George Clooney's character for 20 years and is disenchanted with him. I had to shrug off his embraces and be unmoved by his kisses. It was very difficult trying to wipe the smile off my face every time he came near me.

Who made your heart skip a beat when you were 14?
Paul Hytner, Carlisle

Alan Bates in Far From the Madding Crowd and The Go-Between. And the extraordinary thing for me was that within two years of becoming an actor, I got to play his wife in Dr Fischer of Geneva, which was a BBC play. When I met him, I felt as though I knew him intimately already.

You haven't done much nudity, but you're known for it. Do you worry that you might be too good at it?
Martha Hudson, by e-mail

Precisely, but I don't need to worry any more because, since becoming a mother 12 years ago, no one has asked me to take my clothes off.

What is the best cure for between-takes boredom?
Susan Ponting, by e-mail

I never get bored on set. I know it's very politically incorrect to say it, but it's great to get away from kids and domesticity with the excuse that you have a job to do. I love having all that time to myself. If I do have a few minutes spare on set and I've already done my preparation, then I read a book or socialise.

Have you ever had to fight for a role?
Angus McIntosh, Aberdeen

Of course. It's a fight at the beginning of your career. Then, for me, there were a few years when I was at the top of some people's lists. And now it's even more of a fight because there are so many highly skilled actresses of my generation and so few parts. However, being cast in Beyond the Sea was an exception. I remember going up on the train to London to see Kevin Spacey about the part. I was frantically studying the role - getting the accent right, memorising the lines. But when I arrived, it was just Kevin in the room and he spent an hour showing me his song and dance routines. Finally, I realised that he was auditioning for me. If only it always happened like that.

In your experience, how accurate is The Player's representation of Hollywood?
James Brightman, Liverpool

Absolutely spot on. After I got the part in Beyond the Sea, I thought it would be a good time to go back to Los Angeles for the first time in over 10 years. And it hadn't changed at all.

What is your favourite poem?
Carrie Vincent, Brighton

"Morning Song" by Sylvia Plath, but I have many favourites. I read everything from Shakespeare to Wendy Cope and have collections dotted around the house - on the bathroom shelf, in the kitchen. Poems are far better suited to my pace of life than novels.

You turned down Basic Instinct. Why?
Priscilla Turner, London

There were lots of reasons, but the most important was that I didn't like the script. The money was very tempting but I felt that I shouldn't play another male-fantasy role. The part had nothing to do with being a woman. When the film came out, I was appalled that some of the great feminists of the time such as Camille Paglia and Naomi Wolf said the character was an icon for women.

Sometimes, I might regret turning down the role financially, but there are other things I regret more. I turned down the same amount of money - a huge amount - to do an advertisement for Pirelli tyres. And then Sharon Stone did it. In retrospect, I realised that she was welcome to Basic Instinct, but I wished I'd done Pirelli.

Which previous co-star would you most like to be marooned with on a desert island?
Amanda Varney, Sutton

George Clooney, of course. I'm sure he'd be very practical - he's a man's man - and also good company. He's very erudite, political, well-informed and funny, which is unusual in an American.

Which of your roles - stage and screen - do you remember most fondly?
Bruce Chapman, Leeds

On screen, Heat and Dust. It was my first proper film role and felt absolutely right for me. And, on stage, the production of A Doll's House that I did in Australia in 1991. I think the play's main role, Nora, is the equivalent of playing Hamlet for a woman.

I enjoyed your portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in TV's Jeffrey Archer: The Truth. What do you make of the great lady? Did you ever vote for her?
Jules Meredith, Brentford

There's no way I would vote for her, but I loved playing her. In my early twenties, when I had very black-and-white views - as one does at that age - I hated her. So, playing her brought all those memories back. One of my favourite party pieces is impersonating Thatcher, however, unfortunately I wasn't allowed to do it in the programme.

White Mischief took decadence to the extreme. What's the most decadent party you've ever been to?
Scott Knight, Luton

I went to a few wild parties in my twenties, because I had a pop-star boyfriend. However, drugs never interested me. I loathe a hangover and love an early night.

Which of your films did you secretly worry were rubbish while you were making them, only for them to be hugely successful? And vice versa?
Elsa Reid, by e-mail

One I worried would be terrible was Rasputin, an American TV series about the last Tsar, which I made with Ian McKellen and Alan Rickman. It was a very difficult shoot - the weather was terrible, local actors were being over-worked and filming was delayed. We finished two days before Christmas and we had advent calenders in the make-up room so that we could count the days. But, in the end, it was wonderful. I got an Emmy for it. And, the most underrated film I have done is Jefferson in Paris. I consider it the greatest film I've been in, but it was hardly seen because of its critical reception.

Would you marry?
Desmond Gun, Peterborough

I've never married. I might use the word husband when I'm in a proper relationship, because "partner" is ambiguous and "boyfriend" seems irrelevant once you've been with someone for a long time, but I consider marriage totally irrelevant today.

'Beyond The Sea' is released on Friday

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