“Making a movie is no small feat,” she says, “and there is so little time and you can enter into something being paralyzed by fear or you can just experience it.”
She’s referring to being directed by Madonna in W.E., a film that mixes-and-matches a modern day New York tale with the scandalous 1930s love affair between Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII. “I didn’t know her personally,” she says of the singer-turned-director.
“I went to meet her and was taken aback at her ultimate passion for wanting to tell the story. That was really what ignited me.”
“When she sent me the script I read it and thought it was totally unique in the sense that it existed in the surreal. There are two time frames intertwined with one another and I found that really unique.”
She says as the project started she had only a peripheral idea about Wallis Simpson, the American socialite whose husband, Prince Edward, abdicated his throne to marry her. Wallis was, says the actress, “a still image, unmoving.”
That picture soon started coming to life, but it took some time for both director and actress to flesh a real character out of Wallis’s life. “We were really quite complicit from the outset in terms of who we might discover this woman to be,” Riseborough says.
“Neither of us really knew yet. We knew what we had researched but that really is the suit that you then have to unzip and forget about. (Madonna) talks about trusting the DNA being within you but not being a slave to it.”
The result sheds some light on why the story of the divorcee and the king still resonates with people almost 80 years after the event.
“It’s interesting for us all to question why we find it such a fascination that the king might give up his throne for someone who’s not terribly beautiful,” she says.