Watch: The cast of Women Talking share their experiences of the film's austere shoot
Claire Foy, who stars in the Oscar-nominated Women Talking (in select UK cinemas from Friday), has opened up about the everyday things she, and the rest of the cast, had to give up when the film was being made.
Set in a remote and isolated Mennonite colony in Bolivia, the film explores the aftermath of a series of horrific crimes in which the women of the Amish-like have systematically abused by the men of their community.
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Director Sarah Polley wanted to reflect the austerity of the location where the story is set, so the actors were kept make-up free. Even natural looking make-up wasn’t allowed. That wasn’t all. As Foy revealed, “shaving our legs, plucking our eyebrows” were out of the question.
But the actor, best known for her Emmy-winning performance as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix's The Crown, viewed it as all part of the job.
“That’s acting, isn’t it? You have to imagine that they have no electricity, that they’ve never learnt to read and write. There’s an intellectual leap you have to make.”
She also admitted that it would have been a deal-breaker if she’s been asked to give up anything food-related: “It’s the only thing that gets me through the day.”
Co-star Jessie Buckley felt much the same, particularly if she’d been asked to forego coffee.
“Especially in the morning. I wouldn’t get up at 3 o’clock without it!” And Ben Whishaw owned up that he would have “felt annoyed” if a glass of wine at the end of the day had been ruled out.
However, he added “I think we all understood what this film was about and we understood what it was going to demand of us.”
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The Oscar-nominated film arrives in the UK on Friday and is based on the book of the same name by Miriam Toews, inspired by true events in Bolivia. Between 2005 and 2009, women in the Mennonite religious community were drugged and raped at night by nine men from the colony.
Watch a trailer for Women Talking
Both the book and the film imagine events after the men are found guilty of their crimes. The survivors come together to decide on their response to the verdict. They face three stark options: do nothing, forgive the men or leave their homes forever.
Foy recalled how shooting the majority of scenes on a huge sound stage helped with creating the sense of community on screen. “We were removed from everything for the majority of the time – it was COVID as well. So it was a very isolated, odd experience, which I think fed into it.”
And Polley explained how the cast spent a lot of time away from the set. “There was this big Green Room, where everybody was together, like a theatre company. It was a whole world in that room. Sometimes I felt a bit bad about keeping them in pretty austere circumstances a lot of the time, but it was really good in terms of building that community.”
Women Talking has been nominated for two Oscars – Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay for Sarah Polley. She was also nominated in the same category for her directorial debut, Away From Her, in 2008.
Jessie Buckley, an Oscar-nominee last year for The Lost Daughter, will next be in cinemas in Wicked Little Letters, which re-unites her with Olivia Colman. Best known to everybody as the voice of Paddington Bear, Ben Whishaw’s latest film, Passages, recently premiered to acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival.
The film’s impressive ensemble cast also includes Rooney Mara, triple acting Oscar winner Frances McDormand, Sheila McCarthy, August Winter and Judith Ivey.
Women Talking is released in selected cinemas on 10 February and around the UK on 17 February. Watch a trailer below.