Rosamund Pike embraces her despicable, fascinating con artist in ‘I Care a Lot’
Marla Grayson, Rosamund Pike’s character in “I Care a Lot,” is equal parts despicable and fascinating. It’s the sort of onscreen persona that audiences love to hate, but also one that doesn’t often come around for women, which explains why Pike’s unnerving and captivating performance has garnered her a Golden Globe nomination for lead actress in a motion picture, comedy.
When Pike first read the script, from writer-director J Blakeson, she was immediately obsessed and wrote to Blakeson telling him just how much she loved it.
Pike told Blakeson that Marla was the “most exciting character” she’d read in a long time. But “it wasn’t until several months later that it actually came to be a serious conversation about this film.”
She adds, “There is a realm of characters — and Marla is certainly in that group — where however unpleasant and appalling their actions they’re still fun to watch. And I’m very interested in characters like that and trying to deduce where the line is. When do they cross over and become just horrific? And why should we give them any time? I just relished the opportunity to play something in this dark, edgy space and distress people and amuse them at the same time.”
In the satirical thriller, newly released on Netflix, Marla is an ambitious woman who runs a legal guardianship firm that takes financial advantage of elderly people. The plans of this self-described “lioness” hit a snag when she and her life and work partner Fran (Eiza González) con a new client with ties to a Mafia boss, played by Peter Dinklage. For Blakeson, casting the right actress as Marla was essential. He was a longtime fan of Pike, particularly her work in “Gone Girl” and “Hostiles.”
“I needed someone fearless to play Marla, someone who wouldn’t be worried about being unlikable as a character,” the director notes. “And Rosamund was never scared of that. She’s exceptionally smart but also very instinctive as an actor. She really understood what I was trying to do with the film, right from the moment we first spoke.”
To prepare to play Marla, who is willing to do literally whatever it takes to win, Pike did strength training and took her first SoulCycle class to better understand Marla’s obsession with spinning. The actress was especially interested in how Marla uses her physicality to get what she wants.
“The more experience I get, the more the physical dimension of the character is becoming increasingly interesting to me,” says Pike, who cropped her hair in a severe, symmetrical cut for the role. “Marla is playing with height, as many women do, whether she’s stalking the corridors in her stilettos or looking like an easygoing girl next door in her sneakers. She can impose and dominate, or she can seem sweet and unassuming. Similarly, the idea that she is a self-proclaimed lioness I took as a cue for some behaviors — even the slow, predatory scanning of a room, the way she’s always looking for prey at every opportunity.”
Marla is also constantly sucking on a giant vape pen, and Pike took that character trait very seriously. She visited numerous boutique vaping shops around London before flying out to film the movie in Boston in the summer of 2019 and says she “really got under the skin of the vape world.” She and Blakeson spoke extensively about where this sort of woman fits into cinematic history, inspired by films like “To Die For” and “The Last Seduction.” There was almost no rehearsal ahead of the month-long shoot, which meant that Pike was constantly surprised by her fellow actors on set.
“J wrote a really brilliant script, and one of the reasons it’s brilliant is because in every scene every character wants something, usually at odds with the other person in the scene,” Pike says. “Without having a lot of rehearsal, you don’t know how the other actor is going to handle that dialogue. You know what the dialogue is, but you don’t know how they’re going to spin it or how difficult they’re going to make it for you. In a way, it was like having the lyrics but not the music yet. I’ve never had an experience in a film quite like that, with so little idea of how I’m going to get the job done in the scene. We were shooting from the hip, mostly.”
Pike sees Marla as following in the footsteps of Amy Dunne, her character from “Gone Girl” (for which she was nominated for an Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG Award). Although she doesn’t want every role she takes on to be this challenging and unsettling, Pike is aware of the power these unlikable yet watchable women have on audiences.
“I find it a very uncomfortable place to sit in,” she says. “I remember shooting ‘Gone Girl,’ and Amy chilled me being in her skin. Some of those moments were a very uncomfortable place for me. Marla, similarly. We all think we like being made to feel comfortable, but we don’t actually. From the safety of our own living rooms we can enjoy a bit of being made to feel uncomfortable. It’s exciting for me to think of all the fans of Amy Dunne, who really got behind that performance and loved Amy and want to see more women like that. I hope this delivers something of what they’re looking for again. You don’t get a whole lot of characters like Amy and Marla.”
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