Rosamund Pike is drawn to play the roles of fierce women — the dreamers (Radioactive), the fighters (Hostiles), the rogues (7 Days in Entebbe), the risk-takers (Gone Girl). While there’s intrinsic bravery in telling those stories, Pike was quick to confess that they fill her with an equal measure of trepidation.
“There’s fear, of course — and there’s fear the more sort of thin-skinned you become,” she told us in a recent interview. “The more you trust the camera, the more you sort of trust your projects, the more you open yourself up and the thinner your skin gets and the more vulnerable you become. So, experience can sometimes mean that you’re freer, and therefore you’re more vulnerable too,”
Regarding the Colvin role, Pike said, “[I was] very, very scared of stepping into her shoes, especially as she was someone who was lost to the world so recently. She was tragically killed in 2012. […] It’s recent memory. It’s very sensitive territory. It’s trying to live up to a lioness of a person.”
In the political thriller Beirut, which releases on April 11, Pike plays CIA field agent Sandy Crowder, one of the film’s few female characters. Directed by Brad Anderson and starring Jon Hamm, the movie has a heavy male slant.
However, Pike said it was, well, fun. “I think we lived very much like these people who are foreign correspondents, the diplomats,” she shared. “They work hard and they play hard, and I think we did too on this movie.” Ultimately, she said shooting was a “great experience.”
This doesn’t mean Pike is inured to sexism. It was something her character experienced in the ‘80s and Pike used that for the role. While it wouldn’t be a stretch to have a female character swoon over Jon Hamm’s male foil, Pike’s Sandy found him to be irksome. “It’s not the sort of normal or stereotypical chemistry that is expected between a female and male lead in a film.” There’s something to be said for that in a broader cultural context.
That sort of role-reversal is key, said Pike, elaborating, “I think the ability to subvert expectations culturally is a great asset for any woman.” So how does that translate into fostering more of a sense of security for women in the industry and beyond?
“We have to start with little girls if we’re to look at women,” Pike said. “It’s how little girls are brought up and educated and given the confidence to be who they are, to shape the world into their own hopes and dreams and not cave to expectations that are placed on them by others or by a male gaze or by anything.”
Pike counts herself fortunate to have grown up with a solid sense of self, for which she credits both her parents. Because Pike grew up with a father whose life philosophy centered on equality, she never felt she was “in any way limited as a woman.” It was arguably that sense of self-worth that carried Pike into her first film experience in Hollywood, one that could very well have gone wrong for a young woman just entering the industry.
Having portrayed Miranda Frost in the Bond film Die Another Day, Pike understands how there could be a certain perception. “My first experience in the film industry was on a Bond set, which one might expect to be a potentially incredibly sexist environment given the history of Bond and the story and the way women are viewed in the novels particularly,” she admitted.
That wasn’t Pike’s experience — thanks to another woman. Producer Barbara Broccoli, Pike revealed, keeps the Bond films to “incredibly fair standards of behavior across the board.”
Despite the fear and anxiety Pike has experienced through the years, she feels one emotion stronger: gratitude. “I feel unbelievably lucky to be playing these women,” she told us. “I feel that they’re truly extraordinary human beings, and I can’t believe at times that I’m able to carry them through these movies. It’s a real privilege to live inside these minds.”
Her newest film, Beirut, hits theaters on April 11, but before you see it in theaters, watch the exclusive featurette about Pike’s role below.