[IMG:L]Venus certainly had filmgoers falling in love with Peter O'Toole all over again – at 75 the legendary actor earned critical praise yet another Oscar nomination for his portrayal of an old British actor who lusts for a teenage girl – but audiences were also besotted newcomer Jodie Whittaker, the actress portraying the unfocused teen who stokes the desires of O'Toole’s aging thespian in ways both inappropriate and sublime.
With the film now available on DVD, even more audiences can discover Whittaker. From her home in London one rainy evening, Whittaker crossed the eight hour time difference to Los Angeles via phone to share stories about her breakthrough experience.
Hollywood.com: What doors has Venus opened for you?
Jodie Whittaker: Oh, fantastic ones really. It's weird because when you finish a film, like I finished it in February of last year, and so essentially when the film first finishes, it's something on your CV [resume] but no one really knows what it is yet. But when it came out in January in England, it had a fantastic response from the industry I think. It makes you quite proud for the British Film Industry to have such an amazing year of This is England, The Queen, Red Road. It was a great year for film and I think I'm really proud to have been a part of that. The auditions were so exciting and different. I thought maybe it opened doors for a lot of similar roles really, working class modern girls, but I was lucky and I've had a varied year since doing it. I've been prancing around in a corset and playing Russian aristocracy. I'm now playing a member of the Nazi party. I'm just playing a secretary at a school so it's just been fantastic and it's such a joy to have done.
HW: Was it uncomfortable doing any of the sexual scenes in the film?
JW: I think they were uncomfortable and they're always uncomfortable. They're meant to be as well. When the story does go quite dark and when it addresses certain patterns of behavior, I think it was meant for the audience to see the darker side of humans and that we're not all sugar coated and we don't always behave in a very nice way. They were as uncomfortable to film as they are I think for people to watch as well, which I think is the right thing. It was a fantastic atmosphere on set. We were all completely supported. It was a great dynamic really. Yeah, they are difficult but I think they should have been as well. That helps create the atmosphere that wanted to be created when people watched it.
HW: What was the mood when they said cut?
JW: I felt uncomfortable for a bit. Whenever you know you've completed a scene, it is a huge relief whether that scene's funny, they're really emotionally draining or they're dark or whatever. I mean, the feeling that you've completed it, it's just unique every time. Sometimes you're just like, "Aw, sh*t, I really want to do it again because I think I'm rubbish." Or sometimes it's just such a relief to think, "Wow, that's done now. I want to move on with the story." The final cut of the whole film, I just cried. It was really, really sad to think that you're saying goodbye to a character that you've just basically lived with for two and a half months. It's such an odd job, isn't it, being an actor. It's just hard to talk about it when I think about what we actually do. It's so strange.
[IMG:R]HW: Would you talk about acting with Peter O'Toole?
JW: Yeah, God, asked him about 100 questions all the time. I was really nosy. I had a three month master class with Peter, Leslie [Phillips], Richard [Griffiths], Vanessa [Redgrave]. It was amazing and I milked it for everything. He was fantastic. Anything I asked him, he was great. They have such different methods of acting and I have no idea what my method is because I haven't gotten much experience so it was just great to see how different people work and their attitude towards different things and the generation thing as well. I went to drama school now where Peter went to RADA in the '50s. I went to Guildhall, he went to RADA, those are completely different schools anyway. But the 50 year gap between that kind of style, like the way we're taught, it's just amazing. That was fascinating. We were completely friendly but we'd have arguments and I'd be like, "Well, I did that." "Why are they teaching you that?" It was fascinating to hear the things he was taught when he was younger and what I was taught and if you're obviously as amazing as Peter, you watch some films and you know that that performance wouldn't work now because acting has changed. Whereas people like you watch A Streetcar Named Desire and Marlon Brando, he could do that now. That is an absolutely phenomenal performance that works as well then as it would do now. I think that's how amazing Peter is. His performances were right from when he was in Lawrence of Arabia then in that different style into now when we do more naturalistic theater and cinema.
HW: What part of that will you take into future work?
JW: I think the main thing that I learned from everyone on Venus, from the director to the DoP to all the actors was the fact that no matter how successful your career is or how much work you do over the years, whatever stage you're at, you still work your ass off. You still really commit 150 percent to whatever you're doing. That's so inspiring. Leslie and Peter are 75 and 85 and they've worked so hard. You just think, "Oh, that's great, to still be challenging yourself at that point in your career." To still want to learn and just develop your skills and to develop your craft, that's the main thing I think I took away from it.
HW: What other famous actors did you meet on Venus’ awards show circuit tour last winter?
JW: I didn't really. I'm nervous. I just sat with my friends or my boyfriend or other people I knew. I'm not that good at going and talking to people. I had an absolutely wonderful chat with Jim Broadbent who he's phenomenal. I sat next to him at a dinner and I kind of gabbed in his ear for about an hour. I got to meet Helen Mirren, which was great. I think she's amazing. I met lots of really lovely people but I'm not really good with celebs I don't think. I'm too scared. I wouldn't know what to say.