Rosamund Pike gives a penetrating portrait of Marie Colvin in a superb film about the legendary war correspondent who was killed six years ago by Syrian forces while on assignment in the city of Homs.
The actress and I were lunching at the Toronto branch of Soho House when she mentioned how she’d had to reassure some of Colvin’s friends that she had the grit to portray the prize-winning journalist; and that her rendition was not going to be some movie-star version of the real deal.
She remembered telling them: ‘Don’t worry — I’m not going to look like this when I’m playing your friend.’
Rosamund Pike plays a war correspondent in new film, A Private War
Rosamund Pike wondered if the director would have cast someone older for the role
Initially, Pike wondered if director Matthew Heineman might go for someone older to portray Colvin. ‘She was 56 when she died and I thought they might have found it easier to find someone older, to cast a woman closer to 50,’ said the 39-year-old, who played a Bond girl in 2002’s Die Another Day not long after graduating from Oxford.
But she convinced the filmmaker she knew who Colvin was. ‘I feel I understand her,’ she said.
And watching A Private War at the Toronto International Film Festival, it became clear Pike did indeed understand the tough war correspondent enough to bring her to life on screen. It’s an electrifying performance.
During our lunch, Pike took from her handbag a letter she’d written to director Heineman (which he later returned to her) about what she thought of Colvin.
It was before she’d started doing her research on the celebrated Sunday Times journalist. Pike wrote that she saw Colvin as ‘clever, defiant, sexually strong, damaged, lonely, traumatised, ethical, daring, feminine — and masculine’.
More than a year after she penned those notes, Pike has absolutely nailed those traits on screen.
Rosamund Pike arrives for the premiere of “A Private War” at the Toronto International Film Festival
The actress has completely transformed herself. Her hair is mussed, her face etched with lines and she sports Colvin’s distinctive black patch to cover a lost eye, the result of a grenade attack in Sri Lanka.
She also behaves like a proper reporter: getting to the front line and getting the story; being daring and fearless (Colvin herself said ‘fear comes later, when it’s all over’); and being bloody minded with her editors.
‘She was of the same belief as photographer Robert Capa, who said: ‘If your photo’s not good enough, it’s because you’re not close enough,”’ Pike told me, ‘which is why she had to go to the dangerous spots.’
Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin photographed in Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt
The film’s combat scenes were shot in Jordan and the director staged several different war zones, but each time used refugees from the countries being depicted in that particular scene. For instance, for a sequence where Colvin interviewed Syrian widows ‘they were all Syrian women whose stories were painfully real’.
Colvin comes across as complicated (aren’t we all), fierce and funny — and sometimes romantic, though her love life was often shambolic. ‘Her close friends said that she was most damaged by the men in her life,’ Pike said ruefully.
The man who was closest to her, later on, was the war photographer Paul Conroy. The pair were not romantically linked, but as played by Jamie Dornan, Conroy seemed to have taken the most care of her. There’s a beautiful scene, in the middle of a war zone, where Colvin reveals that underneath all of her sensible dusty clothes she was wearing a colourful La Perla bra.
Mare Colvin (left) was killed in a rocket attack. She also released a book called ‘On the Front Line’ (right)
A Private War will have a gala screening at the BFI London Film Festival on October 20 at Cineworld Leicester Square (bfi.org.uk/lff).
David Suchet, Brendan Coyle, Adrian Lukis and Sara Stewart, who are in discussions about the possibility of transferring the Theatre Royal, Bath production of Arthur Miller’s The Price to Wyndham’s Theatre in early February.
David Suchet (left) and Brendan Coyle (right) are in discussions about transferring the Theatre Royal, Bath production of Arthur Miller’s The Price to Wyndham’s Theatre in early February
Jonathan Church’s highly praised revival is about two estranged brothers (Coyle and Lukis) and their dead parents’ effects. Suchet plays Gregory Solomon, the savvy dealer who comes to appraise the legacy.
However, the cast’s availability has to be sorted before producers can sign on to Wyndham’s.
Dominic West, who will play the doctor who treats Joe Gilgun’s Vinnie in the TV comedy Brassic, which starts filming in Manchester on Monday, for Sky and David Livingstone’s Calamity Films. Brassic will be broadcast next year.
You can also see West — who’s good opposite a terrific Keira Knightley — in Colette, which will be shown on October 11 at the BFI London Film Festival.
Dominic West (pictured) will play a doctor who treats Joe Gilgun’s Vinnie in the TV comedy Brassic