Andrea Riseborough on delving into the IRA for ‘Shadow Dancer’

Andrea Riseborough plays a woman who works for the IRA in "Shadow Dancer" Credit: Jason LaVeris/Getty Images
Andrea Riseborough plays a woman who works for the IRA in “Shadow Dancer”
Credit: Jason LaVeris/Getty Images

Andrea Riseborough is poised to become the latest major British export. Though most Americans will recognize her as Tom Cruise’s partner/lover in “Oblivion,” the English actress has had many high profile homeland roles for big directors: She was one of Sally Hawkins’ friends in Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky,” the gullible girlfriend in “Brighton Rock” and Wallis Simpson in Madonna’s “W.E.” In the new “Shadow Dancer,” in theaters now, she plays a Northern Ireland woman in 1993 caught up with the IRA and forced by an MI5 officer (Clive Owen) to turn snitch on her family.

You were a teenager during the events depicted in the film. What were your own experiences with the Irish Troubles?
That and the first Iraq War were the two main fears I had as a child — that my dad could be conscripted, or a bomb could go off on the tube. As formative as those were, they were only peripheral, really. As soon as I started researching this, I realized what I knew was just the tip of an iceberg, and very biased. Political journalists had their hands tied and really weren’t allowed to report on any informer activity, because it put so many lives in danger.

What were some things you discovered about people living it directly as you prepped for the film?
They were born into it. This didn’t begin in 1922, of course. It goes back to the 1000s. The island’s been in so much turmoil for such a long time. But they got through it. How they got through it, I discovered, was all the women were on pills and all the men were drinking vodka. It was a situation in which you’d say goodbye to your kids on their way to school in the morning, and you had no idea whether they were going to return at the end of the day. And I’m really not sure how people get through that, other than just living it.

There aren’t many films on the Troubles that focus on women.
Our industry seems to have grossly misrepresented female involvement in the Troubles. There were so many strong women — and weak women — involved in the struggle. Or course, it’s a no-brainer. Who are you going to put on the tube with a bomb? Are you going to put someone who looks horribly conspicuous in a black leather jacket, a skinhead, a big guy? Or are you going to use someone easy to overlook?

Your character rarely speaks. What are the difficulties in conveying her inner turmoil through silence?
She didn’t start out that way. She spoke more. Silence is her strength, truly. And at that time of paranoia, deep paranoia, when you couldn’t trust family members, let alone friends, it just seemed very authentic to us to have her not talk much. We had a responsibility to be authentic, because there were so many people hurt and affected by this conflict. It was a challenge, but that’s why I love my job. It’s always a challenge. It was certainly heartbreaking, talking to people on the ground in Belfast.

What was it like working with director James Marsh, who also makes documentaries like “Man on Wire?”
I trust his taste more than anything. I once got this note to sleep prettier. You sometimes get the most ridiculous notes given to you. She’s asleep! She’s just f—ing sleeping. James trusted us. With him there is nothing but a feeling every day that you’re searching for the truth.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Gunther from 'Friends' talks Central Perk

We spoke with Gunther (James Michael Tyler) at the preview for new pop-up Central Perk, based on the cafe in "Friends."

Local

Central Perk opens in SoHo

Central Perk, of "Friends" fame, is giving out free coffee in SoHo through Oct. 18.

National

Beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch reproaches NFL over domestic abuse

Anheuser-Busch chastised the NFL for its handling of domestic violence cases, making it the first major advertiser to put pressure on the league.

Local

Sen. Krueger dishes on prospect of legal marijuana…

New Yorkers may see the legalization of recreational marijuana use as early as 2015 if State Senator Liz Krueger (D) gets her way. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act will…

Music

FREEMAN makes Freeman a free man from Ween

For nearly 30 years, Aaron Freeman was known endearingly to his listeners as Gene Ween. But with "FREEMAN," he makes it clear that he's gone somewhere else.

Television

'Outlander' recap: Season 1, Episode 6: 'The Garrison…

Whipping, punching, kicking and a marriage contract. "Outlander" is not for the faint of heart this week with "The Garrison Commander."

The Word

The Word: Hey girl, it's a girl for…

It's a girl for Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, who reportedly welcomed a daughter last Friday, according to Us Weekly. The super-private couple managed to…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 16: 'New Girl,'…

Check out the season premiere of "New Girl," as Jess competes with Jessica Biel for a guy's attentions.

MLB

5 top contenders for NL Rookie of the…

The outing rekindled award talk for deGrom, who appears to hold the top spot for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Metro breaks down a few other contenders.

College

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

NFL

Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.

NFL

Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.

Style

Rachel Zoe: New York Fashion Week Spring 15

Rachel Zoe goes 'Glam bohemia' for Spring.

Food

Where to find SweeTango apples

Introduced in 2009, SweeTango — a hybrid of Honeycrisp and Zestar — is a sweet apple with plenty of crunch.

Style

London Fashion Week recap

London Fashion week gets in on the action with politics, heritage and summertime living.

Food

Padma Lakshmi's recipe for green mango curry

Padma Lakshmi shares her recipe for green mango curry in UNICEF's new book, "UNICHEF."