Rachel Weisz is on the lookout for roles she hasn't played before, and so far she's having a fair amount of success. After years of playing opposite a male love interest, in her new film, "Disobedience," she plays a lesbian. In an upcoming movie, she'll play a man (sort of).
Weisz was searching for stories she wanted to tell when she came across the novel, “Disobedience," written by Naomi Alderman. It's a lesbian love story set in an Orthodox Jewish suburb of London. Weisz optioned the book for a film adaptation and serves as a producer on the film.
"I was expressly looking for a film that would have two female leads," Weisz told The Frame's John Horn. Weisz says she was interested in making a film with "women front and center, and really exploring their subjectivity, their complexities, their appetites and their longings."
The story begins as Weisz’s character, Ronit, who’s been living in New York for years, hears of the death of her father, a respected rabbi, and returns home. Weisz stars opposite Rachel McAdams in the film. Their characters reconnect first as friends and then embark upon a forbidden romance.
On what inspired her to tell this story:
I was looking for material. I had been asked by people, What story would you like to tell? And I'd been asked that for many years. I never really knew the answer. So I just started reading and thinking and was really interested in the idea of a woman being in a relationship with another woman. It could've been a story about friendship, which this is. It's the story about friendship since childhood which then developed into a sexual love affair. I feel like I've told a lot of stories where I'm in relation to a man and a man is in relation to me. It seemed like an expression of freedom somehow to have two women relating to one another.
On her upcoming role as the surgeon Dr. James Miranda Barry:
As a woman [in the mid-1800s], you could not only not become a surgeon but you couldn't go to medical school. You couldn't even go to university. So she disguised herself as a boy, became educated in Scotland, became a surgeon, became the chief medical officer in Capetown when it was a British colony. And she lived her whole life as a doctor and a very fine surgeon. There was some scandal between herself and Lord Somerset, who was the governor there. It was called the "sodomy scandal" because everyone assumed that they were two men together. And she – he — was very colorful, a dandy. That was the fashion at the time, always challenging people to duels and didn't really lie low and quietly.
On her affinity for characters who don't play by the rules:
I suppose I like stories where certain things aren't possible. And people are transgressive. So in the case of Dr. Barry, she was transgressive by becoming a man and a doctor. In the case of this story – it's disobedience! It's all about disobedience. They're all disobedient characters. And I think disobedience can be a very beautiful, healthy, extremely necessary thing. And certainly in storytelling. Bring it on.
On the lack of opportunities for female directors and why it matters:
I always get kind of overwhelmed with a sense of the absurd talking about women in film — which is really a serious issue and something I have to do — because I always feel like, well, we're not some weird outlying endangered species. We're just half the planet! We're half the human race. It's so odd. But we do have to have the conversation. I've seen thousands of films from a male point-of-view, written by a male and directed by men, that I cherish and will take with me to the grave. I do think women have a really different point-of-view and tell stories differently. And I just am keen and hungry to see more of them.
"Disobedience" opens in theaters on April 27.