Actress Rebecca Hall is no stranger to famous auteurs. As the daughter of Sir Peter Hall, one of Britain’s most illustrious theater directors, the lanky brunette is accustomed to the “healthy arguing” that accompanies such positions. Fortunately, Woody Allen, who cast her in his latest film, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” opening Aug. 15, proved to be a more laid-back study than one might expect.
“He lets you do your job, and he’ll tell you if you’re not doing well. But otherwise, he’ll leave you alone,” says Hall, who stars opposite Scarlett Johansson as Vicky, the more uptight of two American friends traveling in Barcelona. “He always said to me, ‘You can say whatever you want, just put it into your own words if it starts feeling unnatural.’ It does ruin you for the rest of your jobs, when someone comes up to you and says, ‘You didn’t put an ‘and’ in the second sentence there.’”
Hall might want to start memorizing those conjunctions: the Londoner, 26, has no fewer than four projects in the pipeline, including the film version of the stage play “Frost/Nixon”; a Nicole Holofcener movie with Catherine Keener and Amanda Peet; a screen adaptation of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” with Colin Firth, and a theater project with Sam Mendes beginning in October.
QUICKIE: Hall’s audition with Allen gives new meaning to the word efficiency. “I went in and he said, ‘Hello, can you do an American accent?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And then he said, ‘OK, goodbye,’” recalls Hall with a laugh. “I found out a couple of weeks later that he wanted me in his film and then 10 days after that I got a script.”
FATHER KNOWS BEST: Although she shot her first TV job when she was only eight, Hall hesitated to follow in her family’s footsteps (mom Maria Ewing is an actress; sister Lucy is a set designer, and brother Edward is a theater director). But after seeing her in a Cambridge University production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” when she was 18, Hall’s father convinced her of her talent. “He sat me down and said, ‘You know what? You’re very good at this,’” she says. So much so that he cast her in her theater debut, George Bernard Shaw’s “Mrs. Warren’s Profession.” “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done,” admits Hall. “I knew I was going to be greeted by an audience of people knowing who I was, feeling that it was nepotism. I also knew if I got over that hurdle and faced those demons, it would never be an issue for me for the rest of my life.”
ACADEMIA X: Her father was less supportive of her decision to leave Cambridge, sans degree, after studying English for two years. “I just felt I’d got everything out of it that I wanted to get,” explains Hall. “If you’re going to do something as nutty as acting, it makes sense to do it in a way that there’s no possibility of ever being qualified to do anything else.”