Rebecca Hall, in just a handful of roles, has become one of our favorite actresses, someone whose presence makes any project endlessly more exciting. Most of us first remember seeing Hall in Christopher Nolan's underrated magician thriller "The Prestige," and she made a splash not long after in Woody Allen's hit "Vicky Christina Barcelona" (she played Vicky), before turning in ace supporting performances in Nicole Holofcener's "Please Give," Ben Affleck's "The Town," the 1974 section of "Red Riding Trilogy," and this summer's "Iron Man 3" (as a brilliant scientist who creates something very bad). She's a fearless actress, bringing both a tightly coiled intensity and disarming beauty to her performances. This is the especially the case in this week's "Closed Circuit," where she plays a lawyer trying a terrorism case in Britain's controversial closed court proceedings (she's also involved romantically with another lawyer, played by Eric Bana).
We got the chance to speak with Hall about what it was like making a British thriller in the tradition of some of her favorite (American) suspense films, just how greatly her role was reduced in "Iron Man 3," her thoughts on the current controversy surrounding the NSA and surveillance, what it was like filming the directorial debut of her "Prestige" cinematographer and longtime Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister, and how much she wants to do a comedy.
"I was intrigued by the idea of doing a conspiracy thriller that was set in London and not just because it's my home town and I liked the idea of being able to walk home," Hall explained, as to why she took the role. "It felt to me reminiscent of the types of film that I loved from the seventies—things like 'The Conversation' and 'Parallax View.' British films never had a moment with that sort of thing and I thought that this was a good opportunity for creating something like that."
Another reason she committed to the film, Hall says, is because, "It felt very topical and relevant to now. And has become increasingly so since we made it." Of course, we couldn't help but ask about her feelings on the numerous NSA leaks and the fact that London is notorious for being one of most heavily recorded major cities in the world. "Well, that's interesting because when I started working on the film it wasn’t called 'Closed Circuit,' it was just called 'Closed,' which is pertaining to the closed court proceedings," Hall explained. "I think the issue that the film really raises, which is very controversial in England and something that should be a talking point if it isn't already, is a country that deals in open justice and the rule of law yet there are these cases which whereby the defendant doesn't have a fair trial because they're not allowed to be in the courtroom where the evidence is presented against them." Indeed, the movie delves into the minutiae of the British court system, which is even more shocking than any of the conspiratorial goings-on in the main thrust of the movie.
Hall was adamant that this, along with the issues of surveillance brought up in the film, demand discussion. "It's not okay to just sit back and say, 'Well I've got nothing to hide so it's okay that the government sees it.' We have to have the discussion. If we don't, then it leads to madness and police states. It has to be raised and it has to be a concern."
"Closed Circuit" comes at the end of a huge summer for Hall, one that started with the release of the $1 billion-grossing "Iron Man 3." While watching the movie, you couldn't help but feel like her character, a scientist who helps develop a dangerous new technology, was somewhat pared down in the final edit. When we asked her if there was a version of the movie that featured her character more heavily, she laughed and said, "Of course there was." Not that she's angry, of course. "No I get it. And they made a great movie so I don't really care. It happened to everyone, really. That script was huge and nobody really knew what the final thing was going to be like. So, you know, it's normal."
As we mentioned before, Hall got her big break in Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige," a movie that, like his Batman trilogy, was photgraphed by cinematographer Wally Pfister. Pfister is now making the move to directing and hired Hall to play the lead. That film, next spring's sci-fi head-scratcher "Transcendence," features Hall again playing a scientist, but this time one that uploads her husband's brain to a computer after he is assassinated by terrorists (that old story). Johnny Depp plays the husband and his computerized self. She had to drop out of a Lynne Shelton movie in order to do "Transcendence," a decision that left her "gutted," but she was still thrilled with taking on the role.
"It was brilliant," she said of the experience. "I thought he was great when he shot 'The Prestige' and I think he's still great. It's completely unique and probably unprecedented and will not be repeated that someone works with a first time film director that has so much experience. He knows exactly how to be on a film set and how to make a film and has all the open enthusiasm that's usually associated with first time filmmakers with all the experience that usually isn't."
But after all these really dark, dramatic roles, like the one she plays in "Closed Circuit," Hall is ready to let loose. She told us earlier that she really wants to do a comedy. "Like a comedy-comedy," she clarified. But when we asked her what was next she said an extended run on a "big, depressing" Broadway show. She sighed and said, "It's even more reason why I need to do a comedy."
"Closed Circuit" opens today.