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Zoe Wanamaker On 'My Week With Marilyn,' Being Raised In England

Zoe Wanamaker

First Posted: 11/21/11 03:30 PM ET Updated: 11/21/11 04:18 PM ET

The effortlessly versatile Zoe Wanamaker is basically unrecognizable as Marilyn Monroe's acting coach, cheerleader and confidante Paula Strasberg in the upcoming "My Week with Marilyn." The American-born, English-raised actress is well-known for her extensive work in TV and film and on stage, but American audiences probably remember her best for playing Madame Hooch in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

Wanamaker chatted with The Huffington Post about the buzzed-about film, growing up in England and her chance of snagging an Oscar.

What's your take on the relationship between your character, Paula Strasberg, and Marilyn Monroe?

It's a mother-daughter relationship; it's dependence. Paula went on to do a lot of Marilyn's films after that. It was a time when the method -- or at least [Paula's husband; actor, director and acting coach] Lee Strasberg's method -- was prevalent. I think it was something that Marilyn needed as well, it gave her confidence.

But wasn't their relationship mostly just Pula bolstering Marilyn's fragile ego?

It was also dependence. She looked after her and cooked for her. The relationship between the Strasbergs and Marilyn was very strong; Marilyn would stay at their house. It was a very deep friendship and tutelage, I think.

But it was also dysfunctional and creepy.

Yeah, to some extent -- when Lee Strasberg started -- it was dysfunctional. I've watched some of the classes that he gave and I've read some of the writings and speeches he gave and it was slightly psychobabble as well. Some people got off on it and some people didn't. For actors who hadn't really trained, it was one way of using the imagination. Whatever rocks your boat, I think. However you get there, as long as you get there.

Your dad, actor and director Sam Wanamaker, moved to England because he was blacklisted in America due to his ties to the Communist Party. Do you think you've had a richer career in England than you would have back in the States?

Who knows? I can't answer that. You do cross over all mediums in England because it's quite small, comparatively.

You did a "Who Do You Think You Are?" episode about your father. Was it eye-opening?

Yes, it was very eye-opening reading his F.B.I. files. I don't know how to describe it. It was extraordinary because it brought home to me what happened to my parents in a very visceral way because there was evidence.

My parents never really talked about it. The only time we ever really talked about it was when I was an adult doing "The Crucible" at the National Theatre and Arthur Miller was still alive and Dad talked about his experience and the decisions he had made and why he had made them.

A lot of Jewish actors were blacklisted back then. Do you think there was an undercurrent of anti-Semitism?

Yes, I think there was. There was a hatred of the Jews because they were the creative ones. Anybody who seemed to have any kind of liberal leanings was suspect, and Jews were known for it.

Is it a law in England that you can't call yourself an actor unless you were in a "Harry Potter" movie?

(Laughs) Oh no, there is not! It was J.K. Rowling's decision that the parts not be played by Americans because it's set in an English school. I'm glad she insisted; it would have been Americanized and it wouldn't have been the same.

I think you're going to be nominated for an Oscar for your role in "My Week With Marilyn." Do you?

I don't think so. You're very kind, but no, that's OK. There will be others.

I'll make a bet with you, and when you're nominated you're going to have to call me.

I will!

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  • 1948: American film star Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962), born Norma Jean Mortensen in Los Angeles, begins the process of applying her make-up. (Photo by John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)

  • circa 1950: American film star Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962), poses for a photograph taken to promote the 1950 classic 'All About Eve', in which she has a cameo role. (Photo by John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)

  • circa 1947: American film star Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962) reading an LA telephone directory near the Los Angeles city limits. (Photo by John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)

  • circa 1952: Half-length portrait of American actor Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962) laughing, her hand raised to her cheek, wearing a low cut dress trimmed in jewels. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • 1950: Full-length view of American actor Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) reclining in a black cocktail dress, in a promotional portrait for director John Huston's film 'The Asphalt Jungle'. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • 1954: American film star Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962). (Photo by Baron/Getty Images)

  • Norma Jeane Baker, future film star Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962), tries her hand at sand skiing, circa 1943. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • CIRCA 1953: Actress Marilyn Monroe poses for a portrait in circa 1953. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

  • CIRCA 1951: Actress Marilyn Monroe poses for a portrait in circa 1951. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

  • OCTOBER 22: Actress Marilyn Monroe poses for a portrait to publicize the release of the movie 'Ladies Of The Chorus' which was released on October 22, 1948. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

  • MARCH 3: Actress Marilyn Monroe poses for a portrait to publicize the movie 'Love Happy' which was released on March 3, 1950. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

  • CIRCA 1952: Actress Marilyn Monroe poses for a portrait in circa 1952. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

  • CIRCA 1952: Actress Marilyn Monroe poses for a portrait in circa 1952. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

  • American actress Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962) wearing a polka dot bikini, circa 1951. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

  • UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of Marilyn MONROE; Posed portrait of Marilyn Monroe (Photo by John Rodgers/Redferns)

  • LOS ANGELES - 1953: Actress Marilyn Monroe leans on a Singer Automobile as she poses for a portrait on the set of the movie 'How To Marry A Millionaire' which was released in 1953. (Photo by Frank Worth, Courtesy of Emage International/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES - 1949: Actress Marilyn Monroe poses for a portait wearing a bathing suit in high heeled shoes in 1949.. (Photo by Frank Worth, Courtesy of Emage International/Getty Images)

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