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The Fretts on Film Interview: Abbie Cornish

December 14, 2012

I’d never paid Abbie Cornish much attention in films like Seven Psychopaths, Sucker Punch or W.E., but her impressively lived-in performance in the indie drama The Girl made me sit up and take notice. When I interviewed her for today’s New York Daily News, I was also struck by her level of commitment to project, which casts the Aussie actress as a Texan who befriends an illegal immigrant orphan (the remarkable Maritza Santiago Hernandez). Here’s more of our chat about making The Girl, working with Robert De Niro and playing “Mrs. RoboCop.”

What interested you in taking on the challenge of this film?

Many things. First I think that both the political nature of the story and the study of the two cultures, but also the intimacy of the story as well. I just thought it was really interesting that a lot of bigger ideas and issue that are very relevant today were being explored in the story. I just love that. And also, the exploration of motherhood—as a woman, motherhood has always fascinated me. I don’t have kids, but I’m looking forward to that one day. I like that journey from darkness to light. I like the journey of learning to love oneself and understanding what it is to be a mother. And just the observation and insight into Mexican culture because I think Mexico is such an incredibly vibrant and beautiful, dynamic country.

How was working with Maritza? It seemed like you had a real connection on-screen. Off-screen as well?

Yeah, from the very first moment we met. She’s such a sweetheart and comes from a very different background than I know. It was really sweet to see. She came from a lower-income family. This was the first time she ever slept in a real bed,. She was in the hotel and had never been in an elevator. Oh my gosh, what a different way of life. She’s an amazing young girl, very instinctual. [Writer-director] David [Riker] worked hard, hard, hard with her, but at the end of her day, it was all her heart. David trained her to be able to shoot long days and stay focused and understand the story and her journey but at the end of the day, it’s her little soul that brought that character to life. She’s an interesting young girl—kind of hard, but very soft on the inside. She and I were best buddies.

THE-GIRL---official-one-sheet-exclusive-playlistHow did making the film affect you?

I wasn’t myself for those 3 1/2 months, I can tell you that much. I was incredibly present and felt connected. That film changed my life. I came back to America a different person. But I didn’t have any social life. My poor parents—I got back and my mom was like, ‘I haven’t spoken to you in 3 months!’ And I’m like, ‘Mom, don’t worry. Nobody has! Don’t worry Mom, I love you so much. If I could speak to anyone, it would be you.’ It was really incredible like that. A rare experience in film. And when I have them, I know they’re rare and I always go, ‘I don’t even know if that will happen again,’ so it’s sweet to have that experience.  

Do you get intimidated working with legends like Robert De Niro on Limitless?

The anxiety of sitting next to Robert De Niro in a script reading, all of that exists, but it makes you just so happy. You mean I’m not only alive, but I get to do this too? So much fun.

You’re costarring in the upcoming RoboCop reboot. Had you seen the original?

When I was a kid, I remember we bought it on VHS. I was probably 6. My older brother played that a lot so I actually saw it a few times as a kid.

How does it feel to be a part of it now?

It’s amazing. The most excited phone call that I had was with all my male friends between the ages of 30 and early/mid-40’s. They were like, ‘Wait. Mrs. Robocop?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ And then a couple of my friends started calling me Mrs. Robocop, and it’s really sweet. I love that feeling, it’s very nostalgic and very sweet. It’s the movie that my older brother’s been most interested in my career so that’s fun.

In terms of The Girl, what are your hopes for the film? Obviously it’s a small film, but they’re trying to position it for Oscars. What are your expectations for how many people this is going to be able to reach?

I hope that it reaches as many people as it can because I think it has a really beautiful message. I don’t think it’s about making money, it’s not that sort of film. It’s a film that has a beautiful message and has something to offer, and so I hope that people see it for that reason. I hope it affects people. If it affects people that watch it five percent of the way it affected me making it, then I would be so happy.

Are you an Abbie Cornish fan? Post a comment!

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