BY DENNIS KING
NEW YORK – Rebecca Hall said she likes playing “flawed” women, and so she relished essaying the role in “Closed Circuit” of an upright British lawyer with a dark secret in her past that not only puts her case at risk but her life as well.
As prim and brainy barrister Claudia Simmons-Howe in director john Crowley’s complex legal thriller, Hall (daughter of celebrated English theater director Peter Hall) sinks her teeth into the role of a woman who is both flawed and noble at once.
“Closed Circuit” concerns a high-profile terrorism case that unexpectedly binds together two ex-lovers on the defense team – testing the limits of their loyalties and placing their lives in jeopardy.
Appointed a “special advocate” in defense of an immigrant accused of engineering a London terrorist bombing, Hall’s character is deeply immersed in a rigid system of British jurisprudence but is willing to deceive her bosses and cut corners in order to mount a vigorous defense of her client. That includes covering up an affair she previously had with her hunky co-counsel (played by Eric Bana).
During press interviews for the film, hosted by Focus Features, Hall explained that she dislikes roles that paint women as one-dimensional or too virtuous.
“We need to be villains sometimes, too,” the actress said. “We need to be messy and sloppy and three-dimensional and complicated. That’s what goes into writing a strong woman character. I like that this woman was making mistakes and was compromised.”
In order to prepare for the role, Hall said she spent a lot of time researching the arcane ins and outs of the British legal system.
“I became a bit of a courtroom junkie,” she said. “I’m always interested in people watching. And it’s rare that I have something this concrete and a profession that’s entirely new for me to watch.”
Her approach to creating a full-blooded, complex character, she said, goes beyond the words in the script.
“I don’t really believe in the (Stanislavski) Method, but I believe in a method,” she said, “and my method is different for every job. It’s a combination of things – saturation in the world of the script and finding the daily life of the character. I’ll do weird, nerdy things like make a (musical) playlist or find each character’s own perfume. There are levels of going down the rabbit hole. And there are jobs I’ve gone far, far down and I don’t know how I’m going to get out.”
Hall admitted this flawed character might just be a tune-up for another role to come. Later this year, she will appear on Broadway a long-forgotten 1928 play titled “Machinal.”
“It’s a story based on a true murder case,” she said, “the one that inspired ‘Double Indemnity’ and ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ It centers on a woman who had an affair with a younger man and kills her husband.”