By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—After six seasons of playing the long-suffering wife of a workaholic Miami plastic surgeon on FX’s sexy drama “Nip/Tuck,” Joely Richardson decided it was time to return to her theater roots. Though she, admittedly, was a little afraid of getting back on the boards after nearly two decades of doing mostly film and TV roles, she nonetheless found the experience exhilarating and professionally rewarding.
Her performance in Anton Chekhov’s “Ivanov,” opposite Ethan Hawke, earned her an Outer Critics Circle nomination for Outstanding Actress. She also received a Drama Desk nomination for her performance in “Side Effects.” Having satisfied that live-performance craving, she has returned to the big screen in two very different roles. She plays a vampire queen in the tween fantasy drama “Vampire Academy,” and she plays the more understanding parent of a teenage girl experiencing her first romance in the remake of “Endless Love.” She also is narrates the documentary “Pandas: Back to the Wild,” for the National Geographic Channel.
A young looking 49, the blond, blue-eyed beauty is amused that she has two feature films hitting theaters at nearly the same time, but she chalks it up to the peculiarities of show business. Having grown up in a show business dynasty (her mother is Academy Award winner Vanessa Redgrave (“Julia”) and her father was two-time Oscar winning filmmaker Tony Richardson (“Tom Jones”). Her grandparents were also notable actors: Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson. (Her older sister, actress Natasha Richardson, died in a tragic skiing accident in 2009.)
In “Endless Love,” she plays Anne Butterfield, the loving and more understanding parent of a sheltered teenage girl. When her daughter falls head over heels in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, she does her best to support her, despite her husband’s efforts to keep the youngsters apart. The Shana Feste-directed romantic drama is based on the 1979 Scott Spencer novel.British actors Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde play the starcrossed young lovers.
Richardson, who is divorced from film producer Tim Bevan with whom she has a 21-year-old daughter, spoke about working on the film, her own liberal upbringing, and her life and career post-“Nip/Tuck.”
Q: Where have you been the past few years?
Richardson: I’ve been busy doing theater, which is really exciting to me, after my years on “Nip/Tuck” and then “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and “Anonymous.” I just needed a new challenge. I just felt the need to go back to theater so I did one contemporary role and two classics. That was just so exactly what I needed at the time. It’s quite rare that you want something and it happens, work-wise. It seemed to happen when I was looking for it. In between those, the film roles came up.
Q: You started out in theater…
Richardson: Way back in the day. I did lots of theater to begin with, and then really didn’t do anything after I started doing film and TV. I think I did maybe two plays over a 20-year period. My daughter was growing up and I always felt to not be there for her at bedtime would be wrong. I couldn’t sign on the dotted line for a four-month run, or however long a commitment it would be. Also, I kind of felt it wasn’t my forte. On film, I always felt relaxed and in my comfort zone but on stage, I didn’t. When I did go back and did theater again, I was absolutely terrified but it also was so exciting. An actor’s job is, basically, to communicate a story, and I found that relationship with the audience. It was really exciting and I started to love it again. It also started to feel like it was in my comfort zone. Having done that, it was nice to go do something lighter again and just play a modern day mom.
Q: I’ve been binge-watching “Nip/Tuck.” I’m on Season 4.
Richardson: Oh my God! I’ve never actually seen that, or Season 5 or 6. For some reason, I never watched it.
Q: The episode I’m watching now is the one where you have the baby.
Richardson: They always say in show business never to work with kids and animals and I’ve worked with both and loved it.
Q: That was a long commitment to do that show, wasn’t it?
Richardson: Yeah, but it was a great job. Someone told me back then that working on a TV series was great. It’s popular knowledge now, but then it was one of those best-kept secrets. I realized it was true because to do that many hours week after week was really exciting, particularly at the beginning. By the time it ended, I think we were all ready for it to be over. It felt like it was a natural completion. It wasn’t like, “Oh, we need to do more.” Speaking of binge watching, my daughter and I watched the entire series of “Six Feet Under” before Christmas. As an audience member, I was not ready for that to be over. I wondered what the actors felt like because I could have watched at least two more seasons of that show.
Q: Was it fun to work with your mom (who had a recurring role as your mother) on “Nip/Tuck?”
Richardson: The job was really fun. There were moments when it was fun. It’s a mad comparison but when I was working on “Endless Love,” I felt very protective of Gabriella (Wilde, who plays lovestruck daughter Jade). When I was working on “Nip/Tuck,” I felt very protective of my mom. Television just goes so fast that I remember thinking, “Is she is going to be OK with the pace of this because it’s not like film. There’s no rehearsal time.” But she was perfectly capable of looking after herself.
Q: Was there time in between making these films?
Richardson: I flew to Atlanta (where “Endless Love” was filmed). Then I flew back to England to do “Vampire Academy.” That was a very short commitment. Then I went back to Atlanta. I got to play a vampire queen (Tatiana), so that’s as good as it gets. I have sort of comedic scenes because she’s incredibly pretentious. Before that, I was doing (the Anton Chekhov play) “Ivanov” with Ethan Hawke, where I played his wife. Afterwards, I went to New Orleans to film “Maggie” with Arnold Schwarzenegger. We’re married in that.
Q: You’ve had some great husbands!
Richardson: (She laughs.)
Q: Your daughter, Daisy, also is an actress. What is she up to?
Richardson: She’s just got her first job. She’s going to go to rehearsal shortly.
Q: How do you stay so youthful looking?
Richardson: For many many years, I took it for granted. The last couple of years, I started to eat a bit more than I used to. So I made a pact with my friend, who’s exactly the same age as me, because next year we’ll both hit 50. It wasn’t so much about how we look, because we’re all going to look the way we look. But it was more a decision to be the fittest we’ve ever been. I’m starting to invest in it again. It’s more about getting strong. That’s my goal: to be as strong as possible. Mainly, I find exercise is a great way to deal with stress. I’m one of the few people who enjoys doing physical exercise. I don’t do gyms but I love walking, playing tennis and sprinting. I’m still a novice so I don’t mean to sound like Miss Athlete.
Q: No marathons yet, right?
Richardson: No. And I don’t think I’d ever do one. I apparently have the wrong body type for that. (She laughs.) Life is tough and I just wanted to be as strong as I could and I also realized I no longer was at an age where I could eat what I want and get away with it
Q: Did you grow up like Gabriella—sheltered, wealthy?
Richardson: My life was far from sheltered. As it is famously known, my mother gave away all her earnings. She funded schools. So, no, I did not grow up in a big house. We grew up in a tiny little house. The only reason why I went to private school was because my father paid for it. He insisted we go. He wanted us to learn a second language so that’s why I went to the Le Lycee Francais. I have a half-brother (Carlo Gabriel Nero) whose father is Italian, so we had the whole Italian side influence. I did not grow up at all with a silver spoon in my mouth like (the “Endless Love” family) the Butterfields. My background was creative arts and that’s what I grew up with. As everyone knows, in the creative arts most people don’t have two pennies to rub together so I did not live in a mansion like we have in “Endless Love.”
Q: Were your parents very protective of you from the boys?
Richardson: Not really. We were sort of left to our own devices. Parenting was different on those days.
Q: You weren’t rebellious?
Richardson: No. My parents were so liberal. We had a kind of an honor system: If I respect you, you respect me. That is a system I think works pretty well. If you work with mutual respect, it’s kind of hard for things to get out of hand.