Actress steps up, speaks for absent 'Ghost Writer' director
BY DENNIS KING
NEW YORK — The stark winter weather that hangs like a pall over Roman Polanski’s new political thriller, “The Ghost Writer,” has nothing on the storm raging outside the posh midtown hotel as British actress Olivia Williams showed up for a round of recent press interviews.
The storm outside was literal and figurative. The literal storm dumped 20 inches of gloppy confetti snow on the city and caused canceled airline flights that left co-stars Ewan
McGregor and Pierce Brosnan unable to attend the media gathering hosted by Summit Entertainment.
The figurative storm was the one swirling around Polanski, 76, the Oscar-winning director who is under house arrest in Switzerland awaiting court action on a 1977 case charging him with having unlawful sex with a minor. The legal controversy has left Polanski effectively mute in the process of launching his movie.
In the face of both storms, the slender, elegant Williams, best known to U.S. audiences for roles in M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense” and Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore,” stepped up gamely to carry the new film’s banner and talk up its merits.
Perhaps paradoxically, she’s cast in the seemingly thankless but deceptively calculating role of political wife in the script based on a novel (originally titled “The Ghost”) by Robert Harris, a longtime British journalist and Tony Blair confidante.
“The Ghost Writer” stars McGregor as a writer-for-hire who is brought in to finish the memoirs of a suave, former British prime minister very much in the mold of Blair. As he begins work on an isolated island off the wintry coast of New England, the writer is confronted with a web of sordid secrets and even murder that leads him on a dangerous quest for the truth.
Williams, as she will be all day, is immediately confronted with a question about Polanski’s off-screen problems and their effects on the movie. Clearly, she’s prepared as she deftly deflects discussion of legal issues and turns the talk instead to Polanski’s artistry and her own multilayered role as Ruth Lang, wife of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang, played with starchy allure by Brosnan.
“I read the novel first, and my first reaction was, ‘I hope they don’t want me to do an impersonation of Cherie Blair,’” said Williams in satiny British tones. “And when I spoke to Roman, he told me that’s not what he wanted.
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