Rachel Weisz’s radiant milk-white skin, tender blush, and enormous brown eyes earned her the sobriquet ‘English rose’ at the very beginning of her career, after she played a small part in Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty. In 2011 this reluctant rose found herself in the headlines when she secretly married Daniel Craig
This year Rachel Weisz will star in two new films which precisely reflect the roleselection strategy she has developed over the years. The first is the Hollywood blockbuster The Bourne Legacy; the second is an independent project by the classic director Terrence Malick.
Weisz grew up in North London, the daughter of Jewish émigrés from Eastern Europe. Her mother is an Austrian psychoanalyst; her father, a Hungarian inventor in the field of medicine. Her parents always wanted her to become a lawyer. But while studying law at Cambridge, Weisz played in a student drama club — and then, upon graduating, gave herself up entirely to acting. Success came almost immediately, her beauty bringing her numerous roles on TV. Her breakthrough onto the big screen followed in 1996 with Chain Reaction — an action-packed Hollywood film in which she played the girlfriend of the lead character (Keanu Reeves).
This was a standard role which did not require any depth or talent for method acting: Weisz and Reeves were scientists running away from an evil corporation that was intent upon world dominance; after making their escape, they ended up in each other’s arms. But Weisz has never missed an opportunity to tackle more sophisticated plots. Playing Helen in Michael Winterbottom’s I Want You (1998), she had an ambiguous role as a seemingly innocent hairdresser with a horrific past: when she was a young girl, her father surprised her with her boyfriend and attacked them both; while defending her, Martin killed her father by accident. Later, when Martin returns from prison, his obsession with Helen as strong as ever, he finds that she no longer has any need for him. However, the past suddenly takes on a new light when we learn that Martin took upon himself the blame for a crime which Helen had committed.
From this point forwards, Weisz alternated between commercial and independent projects, mixing, for instance, a film by classic Hungarian director István Szabó with Hollywood blockbusters such as The Mummy (1999) and its sequel The Mummy Returns (2001), films which brought her money and fame. Subsequently, she slaked her creative ambitions with a role in Fernando Meirelles’ The Constant Gardener (2005), playing Tessa, a tirelessly stubborn political activist who gets in everyone’s way. Tessa almost ruins the career of her diplomat husband when she starts investigating a pharmaceutical corporation whose tests of a new medicine in Kenya have resulted in dozens of deaths.
The Constant Gardener brought Weisz an Oscar in 2006, making her an A-list Hollywood star. The film contains nude shots of Weisz in a heavily pregnant condition: during the shoot she was expecting a child by her partner, the director Darren Aronofsky. She gave birth to a son, but the couple never married: Weisz was reluctant to forsake England in order to settle with Aronofsky in America. Nevertheless, their partnership continued in film, Weisz helping Aronofsky to realize his dream project — the mystic historical thriller The Fountain (2006), a film which was admired by some for its profound philosophical content and heavily criticized by others for indulgence in kitsch and oversimplification. Weisz regards The Fountain as, above all, a film about love and the latter’s transience:
“The key scene in the film is when I say to my partner:‘Let’s go and look at the first snow’, but he replies that he is too busy. That’s where the real drama is hidden”.
While shooting the film, Weisz and Aronofsky decided temporarily to live apart — not because they had quarrelled, but in order to ensure that their personal relations would not get in the way of their working together.
Weisz has called Hollywood ‘truly toxic’ and has always kept away from the celebrity party life. “I like being invisible”, she has declared. This might seem a strange position for an actress to take, but she has provided a thorough explanation of what she means:
“Acting is usually regarded as a form of selfexposure, but for me its value is in something else — in the opportunity to hide, to disappear inside one’s character”.
In 2011 Weisz was asked to star in Jim Sherman’s psychological thriller Dream House. Her husband in the film was Daniel Craig, whose career had taken off dramatically after playing James Bond. When shooting finished, Craig split up with producer Satsuki Mitchell and Weisz announced that she and her partner, Darren Aronofsky, would separate. Amazingly, Craig and Weisz had known each other from way back and in 1994 had even appeared on stage together in a play involving a number of nude sex scenes. In June 2011 the two actors married in secret. Thus Rachel Weisz became not just another Bond girl, but Mrs James Bond.