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.