NEW YORK — During the last five years, British actress Emily Mortimer has built a reputation with small, indie movies like “Bright Young Things” and “Lovely and Amazing.” But recently her career entered blockbuster terrain when she filmed Woody Allen’s “Match Point,” which opens on Christmas day.
Take, for instance, the picture’s recent Los Angeles premiere. “I’ve really never seen more photographers in my life,” Mortimer says, straight-faced. “It was one of those moments where you felt like, thank God I’m not an epileptic.”
Not to mention the accompanying rounds of interviews she’s had to endure — endlessly discussing what it’s like to work with the fabled director or her role as the wealthy Chloe Hewett.
As she sits in the Dreamworks offices here in Midtown, Mortimer bundles herself up in a thick black sweater and reveals her newest occupational hazard.
“I went out to dinner with my husband and in-laws the other night, and I was talking in sound bytes,” she says. “I was hyped up [from all the interviews] and I came home feeling really freaked out.” Fortunately, the down-to-earth actress was quick to call herself out on it. Her husband, actor Allesandro Nivola, played the dutifully supportive spouse and remained mum.
It’s a role he’s quite good at. For instance, Mortimer likes to ask impossible questions of him such as, “If I’d been a real cow to you for many months, and you found yourself on set with a deeply attractive younger woman who thought the world of you, and one night she made a huge sort of pass at you, and I’d been horrible to you for weeks and weeks and weeks, would you feel at all conflicted?” His answer? “Absolutely not,” of course.
Sadly, Mortimer’s husband in the film (played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is not as well behaved. He carries on an adulterous relationship with Nola Rice (played by Scarlett Johansson) right under Chloe’s nose, yet she chooses not to see it. “She’s a product of her background in every way,” Mortimer says of her posh, well-bred character. “She finds it titillating that someone could think of life as difficult or tragic. She’s just straightforward.”
This story first appeared in the December 20, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Not unlike Mortimer herself, who finds big Hollywood productions like awards shows an overwhelming endeavor. Once, dressed in a slinky sequined gown that was much too revealing for her own taste, Mortimer missed her cue to plant a congratulatory kiss on a famous gentleman she was giving an award to and slunk back to her mark, embarrassed. “People were laughing in the audience. It was not a joke, it was weird,” she says, cracking herself up with the memory. The dress made her do it, she says. “If I had been in something I felt better in I wouldn’t have been so, ‘What the f— am I doing here? I don’t know how to do this.'”
Now that’s she’s working within the budget of a Woody Allen film, she’s afforded a stylist — though Mortimer has spent her life developing her own sense of taste. It began during her school days at St. Paul’s in London. “It was a fashion parade every day,” she says. “We were all trying to outdo each other. I remember one girl came dressed entirely in bin liners and another came wearing her father’s old winter coat with the dry cleaning bag still over it. I used to wake myself up at six in the morning to work out what I was going to wear that day.”
But since she became a mother two years ago, Mortimer feels that she’s lost a bit of the confidence she had as a teen. “I used to feel so like I knew what was what,” she says. “I just had my finger on the pulse and I could completely work out from magazines what was the thing to get. Now I get really confused. It’s really stressful, that whole premiere thing.” In the coming year, she will likely be walking the red carpet for at least three films: “The Pink Panther” (opposite Steve Martin and Beyoncé Knowles), “Snow Angels” (opposite Amanda Peet and Sam Rockwell) and “Who Killed Norma Barnes?” based on Dostoyevsky’s novel, “The Idiot” (opposite Ralph Fiennes).
But with the help of Cher Coulter, a Los Angeles-based stylist who graduated from St. Martin’s, Mortimer is slowly regaining her senses. And the dress she wore to the Los Angeles premiere, a pink Balenciaga number, perfectly represented her comeback. “I was electric in that,” she says.