Some time ago, actress and activist Vanessa Redgrave talked about the U.S. Constitution, singing and what upsets her for Time Magazine.
Vanessa Redgrave needs very little introduction. Her new movie is called Unfinished Song and she’s here to talk about it and other stuff with us. Miss Redgrave, welcome.
You’re a pig. You are going to take me to singing.
So Unfinished Song is what I would call like a four-handkerchief weeping. What drew you to it?
Here’s a couple who lived very ordinary humble lives. They both working during retirement, and they have really deep, deep love and respect for each other. Nobody else sees why she loves and respects him but she does and she sings a song about it.
Do you like to sing? Was it part of the reason that you were drawn to the movie?
I always love singing because we used to sing around the piano when my father, he’s a brilliant pianist, he loved American musicals. So it was a very short step from loving that to loving to be trained by a train professional coach.
One of the poignant things for me about the movie was that as Marion gets, she seems to care so much less about her dignity than the people around her seem to care about it. Was that a contrast choice on your part?
Well, some people have an innate dignity. They don’t need to be thinking about it, I guess.
Having done all the work that you’ve done and known what you know now, is there anything you would go back and say to yourself in your youth?
Would you like to be getting in a business now? I think your granddaughter is in a film. So, this will be the fourth generation of Redgraves.
No, it will be the sixth generation.
Sixth? That’s a dynasty ….
It’s not a dynasty. It’s a hard-working lot of people and loving this entire fantastic world by which we discover ourselves.
Do you have any advice then for Daisy?
No, I’ll give advice. I was given a lot of advice when I was young and I didn’t always appreciate it but later I came to appreciate it.
What’s the one piece that stands out in your mind?
My singing teacher said you’re listening to yourself. You’re trying to control the sound that you’re making. And he said, you’ve got to think of yourself, your body and mind as a lot of little poodles you’ve got on a leash. And if you keep the leash tight all the time, they’ll be very obedient, they’ll do what you keep telling to do. But if you undo the leash, and say go and run, they’ll outperform what you expect of them.
You live half the time I understand here in America and half the time in Britain. Is there one American habit you wish the British would adopt or vice versa? Like is there one…
No, I don’t think there’s any habit except I’ve always thought the British should have a constitution, there’s a lot to admire, of course, but since you asked for specifics, that’s what I can think of right now.
What do you think then of Obama?
No, I’m not going to say.
No, I’m a British citizen. I don’t have the right to vote too.
You have a right to your opinion, though.
Yeah, but we’re not discussing that, at least I’m not.
Apparently not. As somebody who then was a very early person who used whatever fame they had to speak out about the issues they cared about, are you pleased with what celebrity activism has become in its current interaction or disappointed?
I don’t see life that way. I was brought up to think that I had responsibilities to think about these things and become somebody who would work for these rights in some shape or form, nothing to do with being famous or not.
In this movie, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that you pass away. Do you think about death?
Are you afraid of it? What do you imagine?
That’s undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.
Anything that’s not from Hamlet that you imagine?
No, I’m rather embedded in Shakespeare. His mind was somewhat greater than mine.
Miss Redgrave, thanks very much.