The canvas of Miranda Richardson's beautifully round face lends itself to great colourful transformation onscreen. As a result, it's hard to decide who she is or even what she really looks like. Since her 1985 film debut in Dance with a Stranger, the chameleonlike actress has conned diverse accents and personae for roles in Empire of the Sun, Crying Game, The Apostle and Sleepy Hollow and nabbed Oscar nominations for playing 2 very different betrayed wives, in Damage (1992) and Tom and Viv (1994). Her latest film, Spider, by David Cronenverg (eXistenZ) is only going to aidd to the air of mystery around the 44-year old British actress.
In the psychosexual drama, about a mumbling schizophrenic nicknamed 'Spider' (alph Fiennes) who battles with memories of his parents (Richardson and Gabriel Byrne) after hes dsischarged from a London asylum, Richardson playes three distinct characters. She morphs from Spiders repressed mother into a lewd prostitute named Yvonne and then into Mrs. Wilkinson, the ball-busting proprietor of Spiders halfway hgouse. "of all the actresses I 've worked with", says Byrne, "shes the most enigmatic"
At times it was hard for even Richardson to distinguish among her own characters, "We'd do a couple of takes", she says, "and then it was, 'Mmm, it's a bit too much of Yvonne coming through, try a bit more Mrs Wilkinson. 'Its an organic process that you're finding out as you play from take to take."
Becoming Yvonne involved nearly 2 hours of hair, wardrobe and makeup changes, including the addition of some grungy looking teeth that Richardson juts towards the camera like they're her prize feature. "They're my teeth. I'm not wearing any prosthetic", she says "Its a just an attitude really"
Richardson's gameness came in handy during one scene in which Yvonne manually stimulates Spider's father, then removes her hand from his pants and flicks off the rewards of, well, a job well done. "She fished her hand in down there", says Byrne, who had just met his co-star, "and somewhere between the takes somebody squirted some liquid soap onto her fingers. I remember looking at her and saying 'Oh My God! Where did you get that?'"
Richardson laughs wickedly. "He didn't know he had it in him!" she jokes.
Richardson is dying to do a romantic comedy and is undaunted by the age-old ageist relationship between Hollywood and its leading ladies.
"If a movie needs a forty-something in the script," she says, "its usually detailed as ' 40, still hanging on to beauty somewhere in the lines of her mouth,' and you think, 'Oh, fuck off!"' I object to parameters being given to you. I want to break through them all the time.