After Ellen: Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams on New Film ‘Disobedience’

After Ellen
Published: April 13, 2018

I went into watching Disobedience with nothing but the trailer as a preview of my experience. I prefer not to watch trailers at all, actually. If the movie is a book adaptation, I’m especially pleased if I haven’t read the book yet–you remember how if you loved Harry Potter, you spent all eight movies writhing in agony, screaming THAT’S NOT HOW IT HAPPENED at an uncaring screen. Reading the book after is better, although then you’re stuck with images of the film coloring in every page. We never come to art without outside influences. But I like surprises. If that’s the kind of movie watcher you are, I would suggest waiting to read these interviews until after you’ve seen the film. There are no spoilers here, but there is some really thoughtful conversation with the actors about the process of making the movie and bringing their characters to life. Of course, I would expect nothing less from artists with the entire range between absurdist comedies and statue-winners. Here is what Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams had to say about their roles in Disobedience.

Interview with Rachel McAdams What drew you to this project?
Rachel McAdams: So many things! It’s very rare to read a script where all the main parts are really rich and everyone has a lot to do, and there was this interesting triangle between my character, Rachel’s and Alessandro’s that I hadn’t really come across before. They were all well-developed. Sometimes it feels like one character falls by the wayside, or a character is just there to be on the arm of another. These characters all had rich individual lives that all intersected beautifully.

And then I had had the pleasure of working with Rachel for ONE day years ago and it was kind of a bit of a tease I guess and I hoped our paths would cross again, because she is such an extraordinary person and actress, so I jumped at the chance to do that, to really dive into something with her this time.

And then Sebastián. I hadn’t seen A Fantastic Woman yet; he was finishing it when we started this film–he’s always busy, so we were lucky we got him for this–but I had seen Gloria, an extraordinary film about a woman who’s middle aged, her children have all left the nest, she’s single, and she needs to figure out who she is now. And often those women play supporting characters on someone’s arm or they’re the granny, and this film was all about her and this time of life we don’t see reflected on film very often. So it was just his sensibility about stories that aren’t told but need to be told. It was very exciting and inspiring.

AE: Esti, Dovid and Ronit are like the three musketeers in their childhood. But Dovid is not as rebellious as her and Ronit. What draws Esti to Dovid?
RM: I think Dovid’s a really good man and both Ronit and Esti were always drawn to his goodness and his affection for them. I think–based on Naomi Alderman’s book–I believe Dovid was always drawn to Esti, and in the film, she’s saying ‘if you have to be with a man why not be with your best friend?’ So it was a combination of him wanting her and her feeling like ‘well this is the next best thing if I can’t be who I am.’ And I think the community really approved of it, and that can’t be taken lightly either. The Rav, Ronit’s father, really approved of Dovid and Esti being together and encouraged and enforced that, and it’s hard for either of them to get away from.

AE: So I asked Ms. Weisz this question and I really wanted to hear your take too. I was really happy with the sex scene for not being too objectifying, and yet at the same time, it’s not trite or just romantic, it was advanced lesbianing. So how did you make sure it wasn’t pornified?
RM: Sebastián was very interested in “the new.” Like–how do you shoot a sex scene that doesn’t feel like an old trope you’ve seen a million times? how do you make it specific to these two people? and how do you make it advance the story rather than just ‘ok pause for the sex scene now’? It was a real plot point in the story, and we couldn’t have advanced without it. It had so much meaning and so many layers to it.

AE: For this role, you did a lot of research and met with Orthodox families [McAdams also learned some Hebrew and there were Orthodox consultants on set]. I wonder if you took away any lessons about self vs. community, modernity vs. tradition from this.
RM: In all religion, there’s a lot of contradiction. Within Judaism, community is so much a part of that religion, and there’s a togetherness that makes it hard to individualize within it. And yet when I got inside of it, I found that that’s not true at all, that’s kind of an outsider’s viewpoint and there’s a lot of contradiction. It was very surprising to me, it seems very different from the outside than when you get inside of it.

For instance, women are revered and the mother is revered in Judaism, and yet women have to sit separately from the men in worship. So I was always confused and interested by all the contradictions and I realized there’s a lot of rules. And you don’t have to follow all of them, but in Orthodoxy you have to follow most of them–but not all of them. I was a little lost in it sometimes, but that kind of helped me understand, it can be all or nothing. You have to take it on, or you reject it entirely in Orthodoxy. There is not a lot of wiggle room, and that’s where Esti lives. She has to be on one path or the other, and yet at the end, she finds middle ground, a loophole, a way to believe in what she believes in, but that God did give her free will, and it’s her choice to disobey. She is still within her religion to disobey.

AE: Now I don’t want you to flirt with any spoilers, but I really want to know how do you feel about the ending? Do you think Esti has what she needs in the end?
I love about the film imagining what happens to these characters after the movie is over, you know Disobedience: the Sequel. I think she’s made the biggest step she needs to make toward self-actualization and being a more fulfilled person. She’s taken the hardest step. But I imagine her world is gonna really open up from there and I think it will be difficult and painful for her but I think she has a much better road ahead. I do think she has what she needs because she was the one holding herself back and she has the courage to face that. And that’s the hardest thing for any of us to do.

© 2018 After Ellen | Written by Jocelyn Macdonald | No copyright infringment intended.

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