ANNA FRIEL interview

ANNA FRIEL interview
By alexander laurence

Anna Friel is a well-known British actress from Manchester. As a teenager
she acted in British TV programs such as Emmerdale and Brookside. Her lesbian
French kiss was one of the most memorable moments in soap opera history. A
year later, she appeared nude on TV in the film The Tribe. There was an
unforgettable ménage a trois with her and the actors Jonathan Rhys Meyers and
Jeremy Northam. She is definitely no stranger to controversy.

Anna Friel is very much an actress who is versatile. In 1998, she appeared
in the original Broadway staging of Closer, with Natasha Richardson. I asked
her about this very famous production. “When I did Closer on Broadway,”
she explained. “I had never done any stage in my life. I have just been back
in New York City a week ago, and the experience has come back to me. The
visit made me think about it. Natasha Richardson was the lead in that play, and
she has just passed away. She was a very elegant lady. She nurtured me and
took care of me. She used to take me up to her house on the weekends. I was
very scared when I first went onstage. She was a very warm and lovely woman.
She had the most powerful voice you have ever heard. She had a very
particular, rich, deep voice. She sounded great in a theater. Her death was very

Sometimes when a famous play is turned into a film, something is lost in
the translation. I wondered what Anna Friel thought of the role, which she
helped shape. She answered: “I didn’t know they were making a film. I loved
the part so much. I thought it was so much mine. Of course it wasn’t. It was
Patrick Marber’s. I couldn’t watch the film for two or three years. Now I
have and it’s a fair film. But the stage version is so much different. You
would have the experience of people marching out of the theater because they
reacted to the swearing, and all the references to fucking. They would storm

Some of her best-known films include The Land Girls (1998), Rogue Trader
(1999), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999), Timeline (2003), Bathory (2008), and
Me Without You (2001). Many of these were indie films and British
productions. They are much different from doing a film with Will Ferrell.

The Land Girls was one famous indie film where Anna Friel was more or less
introduced to the film world. I asked her about how she got that role: “I
did a lot of auditions. Sometimes they would call me up and offer me a part.
For The Land Girls, they were matching up three girls. They took myself,
Rachel Weisz, and Catherine McCormick, and put us into different groups for six
different auditions. They found the perfect three. That was a long time ago.
People mention that film a lot.”

One of her best films is Me Without You, with she co-starred with Michelle
Williams. It was about the close friendship of two British girls during the
punk rock era. I asked Anna Friel if she was a fan of the music in that
film. She said “The soundtrack to the film Me Without You is great. The director
of that film knew what would be on the soundtrack, so she played a lot of
the music on the set. The music would create a mood for that scene. I worked
with the music a lot on that film. The director was shocked that I didn’t
know who Mick Jones was. I had to listen to The Clash and learn about all
these references in the movie.”

Recently she was starring in Pushing Daisies as Charlotte “Chuck” Charles.
She was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2008. This show was one of the most
amazing shows recently on TV, but was thwarted by production problems. “I
did Pushing Daisies over a period of two years. We made twenty-two episodes.
The strike happened, so I got lucky and I went off and did Land of The Lost
with Will Ferrell. The show was definitely affected by the strike, but I
received my first Golden Globe nomination, and the show itself received twenty
different nominations. It was a very nice high-class show.”

It always seemed like Pushing Daisies was too smart for its audience. I
asked her if maybe this show was too ambitious? “It was a peculiar show and
appealed to a certain taste” she said. “It had some of the best people
involved. Barry Sonnenfeld directed one of the pilots. It was a visual
feast. There
was a lot of visual information in a short space of time.”

It appears that Anna Friel is very versatile, and very comfortable working
in any medium. I asked her if she preferred one sort of acting to another.
She told me: “As an actress you should mix it all up as best you can. You
should choose the best characters that are offered. It could be in TV,
theater, or movies. This year I am doing two different movies, and then some
theater. You should do whatever is going to develop you as an actress,
and create
longevity. Those mediums appeal to different groups of people. As an
actress you want to appeal to many different groups of people as possible. Some
people love theater and some hate it. They would rather turn on the TV or
watch a movie.”

This summer she stars in Land of the Lost with Will Ferrell and Danny
McBride. This film is anticipated to be one of the big movies of the
summer. Land
of The Lost is a movie that was supposed to be made for a long time. Many
people might not be familiar with the original show. Anna said: “Land of The
Lost was a TV series from the 1970s. They found a wormhole and went back in
time. There are these Sleestacks, which are big lizards guys with big eyes.
It stars Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, and myself. Danny McBride was in
Pineapple Express and Tropical Thunder. He’s a brilliant actor.”

Since she was the only woman with a mostly male cast and crew, I asked her
if she felt comfortable? “It was a new experience for me being the only
woman around. I was drinking all these organic drinks and they gave me gas. We
were doing a scene and I farted on set. It was uncomfortable for a few days.
Then Will Ferrell told me he was building up some gas, and he had one
coming. He farted for more than ten seconds, and it was a gentlemanly
thing to do.
After that everything was fine.”

Anna Friel has a daughter with actor David Thewlis. She has been living in
Los Angeles and London for the past few years. She has been involved with
many charities, including Burma Campaign UK, which helps the country of Burma.

I asked her about living in two places. She said “I live in both in England
and Los Angeles. I was here for two years, while I was doing Pushing
Daisies. I left for London, for three months, right before Christmas.
I have just
got back. I will be here until June, when I start up another movie in June.
I used to live in London, but now I live in Windsor, which is forty minutes
out. London is too mad and busy.”

She has two cats that she has brought with her. “They have been tearing up
all the furniture.”

How is Anna Friel adjusting to the bi-coastal life? “I like cooking. I try
to make a lot of salads. Salads are really good in America. I am trying to
copy some of the recipes. I drink weird drinks every morning. One is called
Breakfast Liquid Lunch. I like green drinks with dandelion leaves. I go to
the Hollywood Bowl a lot. I have seen Kings of Leon and Van Morrison. Once you
have been to the Hollywood Bowl, you don’t want to go anywhere else. This
year I am going to the Benicassim Festival. Oasis is playing this year. I
like the smaller festivals. Some of the big festivals you can get lost.”

It was a very warm, summery day in March when I conducted this interview. I
was lucky enough to meet Anna Friel in the Hollywood Hills, at Canadian
singer Michael Bublé’s house. She lives nearby, and came there to do a photo
session. We chatted in a closet while the makeup and hair people were getting
her ready. Soon she would be transformed in an Alexander McQueen dress. Anna
Friel is very striking and energetic. Recently, FHM magazine has chosen her
number nine in their “100 Sexiest Women In The World” list.

I knew she was a music fan. She had attended the War Child concerts in
London. I asked her about how she got into music. She said: “Most of my friends
are musicians as opposed to actors. I go to loads of gigs. At my sixteenth
birthday I met Vince Powell. He used to own Glastonbury, Reading, and
Phoenix. I am used to going to all the festivals every year. I was
treated nicely
and I had an artist pass. Once Paul Weller came up to me, tapped me on the
shoulder, and asked me to introduce him onstage. I didn’t know who he was and
I said sorry, I am eating my dinner. And then my friends took me aside and
explained to me that this was Paul Weller and it’s a big thing to be asked to
do. I guess that I wasn’t up on all the bands. I went backstage and saw
that there were thirty-thousand people there.”

Being from Manchester, I wonder how close was she to that music scene. “I
knew a lot of Oasis when I was growing up. I was too young for the Hacienda.
I wished that I had a chance to go there. I lived about twenty minutes
outside the city. I went to loads of Oasis gigs when I was younger. I
spent a lot
of time with them. Alan McGee from Creation Records had asked me to do a
music video. Alan McGee used to give me a bunch of CDs and tell me to open my
music library.”

Simon Cowell tried to sign Anna Friel when she was still a teenager. I
asked her about the association with the man from American Idol: “I sang a lot
when I was a kid. I come from and Irish family and it’s all very musical. If
you didn’t play an instrument you had to use your voice. When I was on a TV
show, and became a household name, the logical step is to do a pop record. I
figured that if I did that, I would never be taken seriously as an actress,
which is my first love. So I pursued the acting, left singing as something
I would do later. I saw Simon Cowell years later and he told me that I did a
smart thing by focusing on the acting. I will be singing on the stage in
the Fall. It will be in a stage production of Breakfast At Tiffany’s. It’s
not a musical.”

Being from Manchester, I wondered how close was (Anna Friel) to that music scene. “I
knew a lot of Oasis when I was growing up. I was too young for the Hacienda.
I wished that I had a chance to go there. I lived about twenty minutes
outside the city. I went to loads of Oasis gigs when I was younger. I spent a lot
of time with them. Alan McGee from Creation Records had asked me to do a
music video. Alan McGee used to give me a bunch of CDs and tell me to open my
music library.”

Read the whole Anna Friel interview, coming out in Zoo Magazine (June 2009).