Been a while since I’ve done one of these career therapists, so I should remind anyone reading this, that this Saturday “column” always comes from a place of love. Very rarely will I write about actors who I don’t like or who I don’t think can be doing better for themselves, career-wise.
Of course, it’s often about perspective and actors like this week’s “client,” Rachel Weisz, has every right to do everything she wants to do. She’s earned that respect after years of working hard and being awarded with an Oscar for The Constant Gardener in 2006. If you look at the movies she’s done since then, there’s a lot of really solid films with great filmmakers, and she hasn’t just done whatever big franchise movie that comes her way, although she’s done a few of those as well.
But let’s go back to the first time I ever became aware of Weisz, which actually was a movie that did become a franchise film, Universal’s The Mummy back in 1999. While that movie didn’t show us exactly what Weisz was capable of, she also appeared that summer in István Szabó’s Sunshine, about a Hungarian Jewish family, the first of many times Weisz has tackled a topical drama about being Jewish.
I started to see Weisz in more films as she had great roles in Enemy at the Gates, About a Boy, The Shape of Things and more before scoring the role in the John le Carré adaptation The Constant Gardener, which shifted things quite favorably for the actor.
After that, there was an eclectic mix of things, including the excellent The Fountain with her then-boyfriend Darren Aronofsky, which didn’t fare well but definitely has its fans (including me). She worked with Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-Wai in My Blueberry Nights — the filmmaker’s not particularly well-regarded English debut — and Rian Johnson in his amazing and underrated second film The Brothers Bloom. But there were misses like the dragon epic Eragon, based on the popular book series, and the Vince Vaughn comedy Fred Claus. Although she worked with prestigious filmmakers like Alejandro Amenabar and Peter Jackson during this time, it wasn’t in either of their best work.
During this time, Weisz was also doing a lot of theater, taking care of her young son after splitting with Aronofsky and transitioning into her new relationship with current husband Daniel Craig. Yet, she kept appearing in films, even a few big ones like Universal’s The Bourne Legacy and Sam Raimi’s The Great and Powerful Oz for Disney.
Weisz is now 47 years old, and there’s no way anyone can hold it against her to want to have a family and more of a domestic life than most actors are allowed, but the last few years, her output has been so spotty and low-key, most people won’t even realize she’s still working.
And that’s crazy to think about when you realize she had three movies in 2016, and probably will have roughly the same this year and next.
Certainly her role in Yorgos Lanthimos’ Oscar-nominated The Lobster was well received but perfectly good films like last year’s The Light Between Oceans and Denial were sorely overlooked. Her two movies this year, My Cousin Rachel and Disobedience, aren’t nearly as good, but few people are going to realize either movie exists. (I was generally bored with Disobedience and walked out of the screening at TIFF to see something else.)
Upcoming, she has The Favorite, another movie with Yorgos Lanthimos, and a sailing movie called The Mercy opposite Colin Firth. She’s also developing another movie that I’ll save for below.
So what can Ms. Weisz do to turn things around? The Career Therapist has a couple ideas.
There’s no denying that Weisz is an amazing actor, one who can switch gears emotionally on a dime, making her a formidable screen and stage actor.
One thing that might make her more interesting as an actor is if she switches gears to get out of her comfort zone. Many of her recent dramas have generally been in the same vein, weepy downers basically. Maybe it’s time for Weisz to try to score a role in a comedy and take the route that Rose Byrne did to revive her own career. Byrne is a little younger but she’s figured a way to balance her films with family, as well, but she’s shown how having a strong acting background can help maintaining a quirky character within a comedy. Maybe Weisz doesn’t feel too comfortable with that, but there are plenty of stage comedies she could tackle to prepare.
The other thing, and this is probably every agent is telling their clients right now, and that’s to do TV. Weisz hasn’t done a television show since her early days as an actor in the ’90s, and these days, there is so much great television being made, even by prominent filmmakers. Weisz has the versatility and ability to take on a television character that she can develop over a number of seasons, and it might be easier to find a show that shoots in New York so she can still have her family life.
The last piece of advice I have for Weisz is for her to keep seeking out auteur filmmakers as she did in the past because making movies with Peter Jackson and Terrence Davies will get her a lot more attention for her acting skills than working with the likes of Roger Michel, Josh Marston and Mick Jackson. They’re all capable filmmakers but for whatever reason, very few people in or out of the industry pay attention to their movies.
But that brings me back to a new movie that Weisz is developing as a co-producer, a movie in which she’ll play Dr. James Miranda Barry, a woman in the 1800s who lived her entire life as a man so she could study and practice medicine in a time when it was unheard of for a woman to be a doctor. Written by Nick Yarborough, this project doesn’t have a director yet, but whomever decides to do the movie, they have a real opportunity to direct Weisz to a second Oscar, because this seems like the type of transformative role with which Weisz could do absolutely amazing things. It also seems very timely and relevant despite being a period piece, and that will help audiences connect to Weisz’s character. Fingers crossed this project happens soon.
Edward Douglas | East Coast Editor