Rosamund Pike talks about 'Barney's Version' and inching into the spotlight
Friday, January 28, 2011; 10:01 AM
The actress Rosamund Pike - British, blond and effortlessly chic in skinny black trousers and a blue-black jacket - cooly contemplates the tines of a fork. "Look at all the little teeth marks," she muses before ordering lunch at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown. "Think of all the mouths that have bitten into it. Do you see that?"
A concerned server appears and discreetly inquires whether there's anything wrong.
"No, no, no it's fine," Pike says, her voice a creamy purr. "I was just sort of commenting on the life of a fork."
With any other actor on the publicity trail, it would be easy to dismiss the episode as carefully calculated eccentricity. But Pike's inquiry into the existential implications of cutlery aptly illustrates the spirit of alertness and curiosity that has often made her the best thing about every movie she's in.
Since making her big-screen debut as a Bond Girl in 2002's "Die Another Day," Pike - who just turned 32 a few days ago - has become something of a best-kept secret among discerning viewers. General audiences may not know her name, but they may well have found themselves captivated by her un-showy but indelible supporting performances in "The Libertine," "Pride & Prejudice," "Fracture," "An Education" and, more recently, "Made in Dagenham."
In "Barney's Version," which opened Friday, Pike once again finds herself in a supporting role, albeit a juicy one. The film, based on Mordechai Richler's novel, stars Paul Giamatti as the title character, a Montreal TV producer who becomes obsessed with the woman of his dreams at the reception of his own wedding (to another woman). Pike plays Miriam, the object of Barney's passion, who eventually succumbs to his dogged pursuit. Donning an auburn wig and wire-frame glasses, Pike breathes welcome warmth and life into Miriam, a paragon of wisdom, self-possession and inaccessible sex appeal.
"I was often angling to give her more bite," Pike says, recalling a scene in which Miriam takes a walk with Barney by the East River in Manhattan, where he has come to woo her. "I wanted it to be messy. I wanted to be eating a piece of pizza and I wanted to see Miriam get a bit grubby - you know, have tomato sauce under her fingernails."
She pauses wistfully. "But the perfect woman doesn't have that."
As it happens, Pike has ordered a bowl of tomato soup for lunch, and while the perfect woman may not have sauce under her fingernails, the actress who plays her isn't afraid to dunk pieces of French bread into the bowl, the better to lustily enjoy every drop.
The daughter of classical musicians, Pike joined Britain's National Youth Theatre and won the coveted leading role in "Romeo and Juliet" at 18 (when Kate Winslet's little sister Beth dropped out). Upon graduating from Oxford, she quickly landed the Bond film, in which she played the "ice queen" Miranda Frost.
She made it all look so easy, despite being a "frightened little ex-student" inside. "Especially in Britain, people want to limit you," she says. "So how dare you be so lucky to get a Bond film right out of university? You're obviously not a real actress."