British actress Thandie Newton has always been a worldly type. Now she gets to tap into her inner American in a new film that had tongues wagging at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Newton plays American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the new Oliver Stone biopic on George W. Bush called "W." The London-based actress recently told the UK's Times Online, what it took to get the teeth, hair and composure of one of the world's most powerful women just right.
And that took some doing because the only thing Newton really knew about Rice was what she did for a living.
"I knew she was secretary of state and that was about it." But the script was on point, she said, which led her to accept the offer. "I decided to close my eyes and leap. I wanted to take the risk."
To prepare for the role she read biographies, studied tape and newspaper clippings on the Bush administration.
"You name it, I read it," she says. "I had two things going on: reading about this young woman, and the incredible story of the Bush administration. This gigantic beast, this machine and how it was cranking toward war. I wanted to become drunk with knowledge."
The film, which comes out on Oct. 17, was shot in Louisiana. Newton said by the time she got there she was starting to have doubts.
"I was thinking, 'F***, have I made a mistake?'" The make-up team told her that prosthetics were out of the question because they would melt in the heat. "That was a bit of a blow," she said. "They told me they would do a 'feel-alike' rather than a lookalike, and I knew that was going to be a real problem for me."
But after adjusting her accent and adding some makeup to make her skin and some false teeth, Newton started to tap into her inner Condi.
"I was still terrified, but now I had the equipment," she said.
Was she the right woman for the role? Time will tell.