Since 2009 Rachel Weisz has been in some very great movies that very few people have seen (“Agora,” “The Whistleblower,” and “The Deep Blue Sea”). But that's likely to change this year, when she appears in two major studio releases: "The Bourne Legacy" and "Oz: The Great and Powerful."
First up is “Bourne,” where she plays a brilliant scientist named Marta Shearling, who says things like “viraling up” and “viraling down” (she also gets to be part of a breathless motorcycle chase).
I spoke to Weisz about what it was like to be a scientist who also gets to kick ass, if she’d be willing to return for future “Bourne” installments, and what her upcoming film, “Oz: The Great and Powerful” has in store for us. (It should be noted that I conducted this interview a day after the tragedy in Aurora, and one of the movie’s big set pieces is a madman with a gun stalking and shooting Weisz’s character’s coworkers in a lab. We talked about the scene a little bit, but there was a palpable sense of unease.)
You've been away from big franchise movies for a little while, and now you're about to return with two big ones: "The Bourne Legacy" and "Oz: the Great and Powerful." What was the thinking behind that?
It wasn't like I specifically thought I wanted to get back into bigger movies. The scripts were just really good and the characters were really interesting. I don't know if I'd seen a character quite like the one in "The Bourne Legacy."
Your character is a brilliant scientist who spouts a lot of technical jargon. Did you look up what, exactly, it was you were saying?
Yeah, of course! I wanted to make sure I knew what I was talking about and not sound terrible at times. I didn't have to do any math or equations but I knew I had to know the concepts behind the science of it all. It took me awhile to understand it. But none of it's sci-fi -- all of it's possible, all of it's doable.
What was it like playing such an intellectual character who also gets involved in some of the action sequences?
Well, it's interesting because she uses her mind for her job, but she's also possessing this amazing strength. I guess everyone's got a mind and a body -- and she uses both.
What was it like shooting that final motorcycle chase?
Terrifying. And I mean genuinely, properly terrifying. I didn't really have to act. I was terrified and so was my character. It was very scary.
But you must have had the best stunt team working on it though, right?
Yeah. But at the end of the day it was me and Jeremy doing it. They tried to make it as safe as possible but it was really Jeremy and myself actually doing it. So I just had to trust Jeremy.
What did you enjoy more as a performer, the more emotional scenes or the more visceral stuff?
It was fun to do both. I love the more intimate emotional scenes with Jeremy and I loved the more physical scenes. It was like a workout for the heart and the mind and the soul and the body.
Has Tony Gilroy talked to you at all about where your character would go in future "Bourne" installments?
No, actually. I have no idea what the future will hold, if there even is a future.
Are you signed on for more?
I think everyone would like to do another one if there is one.
One of the great set pieces in the movie is the sequence in the lab.
It was really meticulous and choreographed and we shot everything piece by piece by piece. I think it was really important that it was not glamorous or sensational and just incredibly realistic. It was a very intense scene to shoot.
Did it surprise you how well it came together in the final product?
Yeah, actually. It was scarily real, I think.
Was there anything that surprised you when you saw the movie? Anything that they took out or added with your character?
You know I loved seeing all the stuff that I wasn't involved in filming. So I loved seeing all the stuff with all the amazing actors I had worked with before and Jeremy up in the cabin in the snow in Calgary. I loved seeing that stuff together. It was so awesome with Jeremy and the wolves. That wolf was so good!
What can you tell us about the upcoming "Oz: the Great and Powerful"?
I play Evanora, the Wicked Witch of the East. Mila Kunis is Theodora, the Wicked Witch of the West. And Michelle Williams is the good witch Glinda, who is oh-so-good.
How was shooting "Oz" compared to shooting "The Bourne Legacy?" I assume there's a lot more practical stuff in "Bourne," and with "Oz" it's more green screen.
I mean, I can't really compare them. "Bourne" is very hyper-realistic and naturalistic and everything is set in the real world (and that's the kind of set-up of the movie, to feel real). And "Oz" is set in the Emerald City and I can fly and shoot lightning out of my fingertips and I'm really evil. They're completely different universes. It was really fun to do and I loved Sam Raimi -- he's just a magical, magical person and a wonderful director. It was a terrific experience and I can't wait to see it.
"The Bourne Legacy" hits theaters on Friday