Albert Nobbs was the last time we saw her on the big screen and the movie is about to be released onto DVD.
I caught up with her to chat about her role in the film, reuniting with Glenn Close and what lies ahead.
- Albert Nobbs is about to be released on DVD so can you tell me a little bit about the movie?
I worked with Glenn Close about eighteen years ago on a film called Paradise Road and we kept in touch over the years.
At the beginning of last year I had an email from her saying that she had something that she wanted me to read - then this wonderful script arrived.
It was based on a play that she had done off Broadway twenty years ago, that was based on an Irish short story, and I just loved it.
I think it is a very sad film in many ways as these two women find it impossible to get work or live in their own sex and have had to live as men - but I think that it was no uncommon in that period because it was hard for women to get work.
It’s interesting that the two characters, Janet McTeer’s character and Glenn Close’s character, handle it so differently.
McTeer’s character is so comfortable in her skin and living as a man and she has a relationship with a woman - we never get to know what that is and it is not mentioned in the short story - but it seems to be about companionship.
Then Glenn’s character has no one to confide in and I think that Hubert is the first person that she has had a conversation about what has happened to her. I find it a very sad character and I loved the story. I loved Ireland too and I love the idea that it was set there.
And she (Close) said that she wanted me to do it because she wanted there to be some humour in the film (laughs). I was thrilled to get the part.
- You take on the role of Mrs. Baker in the movie so what was it about this character and how we see her develop throughout the film?
I love Mrs Baker because I think she is such a tough character - a couple of friends said ‘oh she is so horrible to Albert’ but I think that she is quite nice to Albert compared to how she treats some of the staff in the hotel.
But I think she herself has had quite a touch upbringing, although we don’t know about it, she is someone who is hanging on by her fingernails to survive at a very difficult time in history.
But what she’s done is to throw herself open to be used in anyway and I think that she loves having the toffs, the Anglo-Irish brigade that come in, and slum it in her hotel.
They make fun of her quite a lot but she allows them to because she loves having that class of people as I think that she is a tremendous snob.
I also think that she is tremendously manipulative and a bully but also she has the vulnerability of being in love with the doctor - who let’s her down in the end.
- This is a movie that Glenn Close has had close to her heart for many years so what was it like being in a project for which she had so much passion?
Well it was rather wonderful. She has passion foe everything that she does and when we worked before every waking hour was spent trying to improve what we were doing, she is very inspiring to work with as she is completely focused on work.
I loved working with her the first time and I was very happy to do so again. I think it is tremendously tenacious to hang on to a dream for that long because she has been trying for many years to have it done as a film and it has been through many incarnations. So hats off to her for getting it off the ground.
I just love it and I wish her all the luck in the world with it. The interesting thing about it from our points of view was not everybody but almost all of the cast had worked with Glenn before.
As well as producing and starring in it and writing it she was also very instrumental in casting it and many of us had worked with her before.
She inspires loyalty in people and we were all delighted to come together as a group and tell stories about what we had done with her before.
- Rodrigo Garcia is in the director's chair for the movie so how much did you know about him before hand? And how did you find working with him?
I didn’t know anything about him before hand except that he had created and directed In Therapy with Gabriel Bryne; which I loved. I thought that he would be quite serious - he is serious but he is just the most adorable man.
He is someone that you want to pick up and cuddle as he is a wonderful, passionate, warm-hearted, kind Columbian. He is just a very lovely person. He is a very understanding director and very inspirational.
- I was reading that is quite a laid back filmmaker who allows his actors to try out their own ideas so how much do you like that kind of filmmaker?
I love that. I’m trying to think of the who else I have worked with who… well I did a very small part in one of Woody Allen’s films and he is great like that - I said ‘can I mess about with your words?’ and he said ‘say anything you want’.
So I improvised a lot in that film with him and he was very open to that. And I have just done a film which is Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut which comes out in January called Quartet.
He is really inspirational and I think that I learnt a lot from him. I came quite late to film, I didn’t come to film until I was fifty; you are practically in coffin by then, so it was great to work with someone who knows so much about film.
I have been really really lucky with the people that I have worked with in these latter years and I have learnt a lot from all of them.
- The cast was a balance of experienced actors such as your self and Glenn Close and then younger talent such as Mia Wasikowska and Aaron Johnson so how did you find working with them? And what kind of set was it to be on?
You know Mia Wasikowska has probably done more films that I have (laughs). She is a lovely and adorable girl who is very centred and very down to earth and beautiful to work with.
I loved Aaron Johnson, I worked quite a lot with him compared to Mia, but what I liked about him is he likes to work in the wing like I do; so not to plan too much and to just take inspiration from your fellow actor and see how it flies on the day. I liked the way that he worked.
- Glenn Close and Janet McTeer undergo a fantastic transformation for the movie so what was it like to see them go through that - the make-up on the movie was just incredible?
It was unbelievable. They were the only two who got to wear make-up as the rest of us went bear faced every day - you expect when you a film that you are going to come out looking gorgeous but none of us had any make-up.
But it was interesting sitting next to Glenn in a morning and seeing her transform in the chair. I don’t know about you but the last thing that we want to give us is mascara and my lovely kind make-up artist, who I had worked with before, she sometimes would paint a little bit of dark on my eyelashes and Glenn would say ‘Pauline you are not having mascara’. But it was extraordinary to watch the transformation yes.
- So what kind of set was it to be on - you do make it sound like it was a lot of fun?
It was loads of fun but it was quite hard work too because we shot in a short space of time - money is short in film and this was a comparative low budget film. So you have to cram work into shorter space of time which is not ideal but it works out in the end.
But also it coincided with the massive snow storm and the lack of transport that befell us. It was 2010 when all the airports closed and they were trying to get us to and from England and some people from America and Mia’s parents from Australia were coming to join her for Christmas.
The house that we shot in I had shot in before and I knew it well - it is an amazing house that seems to be able to come anything.
- You have enjoyed a long career that has been incredibly successful so what has kept you in the industry for so long?
I enjoy it, I really enjoy doing it. We are very lucky as actors to be paid for what otherwise might be a hobby - my mum and my aunt were enthusiastic amateurs and I think that they would have loved to have gone into the profession.
I enjoy the work and I enjoy the change and the fact that we can do different kinds of work.
Also throughout my career and even now I still enjoy the idea of surprise and so I try not to get tied in too far ahead because you never know what Monday might bring - I have always loved Mondays.
- Throughout your career you have mixed your movie roles with TV work and you have worked on the likes of Mount Pleasant and Bleak House so how does TV and film compare/differ?
It is much quicker - what may have taken sixteen week twenty five or thirty years ago is now done in ten so the pace is relentless now. But you soon get use to it - you get use to everything really.
- So how have you seen the industry change in the years that you have been in it? And has it changed for the better?
One of the main changes that I see is that many of the decisions are made by a committee now about whether or not to do programmes - whereas thirty years ago those decisions were made with a handshake and by one man.
Producers were given much more autonomy then, and directors too, and directors use to be first hired now they seem to be hired quite late in the process which I do find quite strange.
- How have you changed the way that you choose the projects as you have spent longer in the industry?
I choose them if I feel like I want to do them, I am not always right about what I want to do and sometimes I choose things and they are a mistake.
I choose through gut instinct really and that is the way that I have always done it - so that hasn’t changed.
- You have mentioned Quartet already so can you tell me a little bit about that movie how did you get involved?
Yes it is from a stage play by Ronnie Harwood and it is Dustin Hoffman’s first place as a director. I believe I was suggested for it by both Tom Courtenay and Maggie Smith - which is lovely.
Throughout the industry a lot of my big breaks and kindnesses have come through fellow actors and I am grateful for that and try to do the same.
I had never met Dustin before we had started but we had a long conversation on the phone and he cast me like that.
- How did you find him as a first time filmmaker?
Terrific. He was really kind and thoughtful and he was inspiration really.
- Finally what is coming up for you?
I have no idea; I am waiting for that surprise on a Monday.
Albert Nobbs is released on DVD 3rd September
FemaleFirst - Helen Earnshaw