In “Anonymous,” Roland Emmerich’s historical drama about who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays, Joely Richardson shares the role of Queen Elizabeth with her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, with each playing the monarch at different stages in her life. It’s not the first time she’s teamed up with her mom, either, though she now admits playing mother and daughter on “Nip/Tuck” wasn’t such a good time.
Which do you prefer when working with your mother, playing a younger version of her or playing her daughter?
Because “Nip/Tuck” was so particular and because they really didn’t get on — she played a really horrible person on “Nip/Tuck.” Do you know what? Now, in retrospect, I don’t think that really was a fun experience. I could contradict myself in that at the time it was really exciting to act with her, but I look back on that time and I think, Oh no, it was horrible. We’d just scream and shout and say really horrid things to each other. And you know there is a certain thing where it does cross over. I remember once I had to scream in her face, “I hate your guts!” And that’s a horrible thing, a horrible thing. So I’d say I prefer playing the younger version of her. But maybe in the future we’ll get to play mother and daughter where it won’t be that sort of really ugly relationship, and then it might be an absolute joy. My sister played her daughter in “Evening,” and that was a loving relationship, and I think had I played something like that I might choose her daughter.
What’s your own take on the conspiracy about Shakespeare’s authorship explored in the film?
I call it the debate. I think it is genuinely a debate. I don’t think conspiracy is the right word for it. I think it’s a genuine debate that’s been going on for hundreds of years with incredibly learned people who have looked at the facts about an actor whose daughter was illiterate. If you think about it, the greatest playwright of all time would not care if their daughter could write her name? I mean, it’s an odd one. He left nothing in his will. He was a money-lender, he was more interested in lending money and taking chits. How would he have this knowledge of inside court, many, many learned doctrines, the travel — it just really doesn’t add up. And I mean of course, writers use their imagination, but then how can you describe it in such detail if you don’t know it? What I love about it is that it all celebrates what will forever be known as the works of Shakespeare, and as all the great actors and learned scholars say, the more people talk about it and the more people dig, the more it informs the plays and the works. And this film does dash our preconceptions, but that’s exciting too. But again it makes you more interested, not less interested. It’s not saying, “Oh, his plays aren’t good.” It’s like, “God, yeah, how could he have written all of that?” And then who would be the possible other candidate?
How is your Toronto visit going?
Oh, I only got in last night. I like Toronto. I’ve been here quite a few times. I have good memories of Toronto — time spent here, wandering the streets. There’s a sort of European feel to it, so I feel very comfortable here.
Are they allowing you any time to see anything else in the festival?
No. Well, it’s not that they’re not allowing me. It’s that I could stay on but then I’ll miss the last few days before my daughter starts her school again, so I’m going back for those reasons. I think it’s one of the great shames of film festivals — great to participate and be part of it, but really tragic not to see more of other people’s work. It’s not quite right. So I’d love another time to be more a part of it. I was once on the jury for Edinburgh, and that was just amazing, in a week to see two or three a day. That’s really my idea of heaven.