As part of BAFTA Selects, celebrating classic film with contemporary artists, Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie joined us at BAFTA to discuss The Piano, a film that this year celebrates its 25th anniversary. Following years of loving director Jane Campion's work from afar, a letter from the actress lead to a starring part in Campion’s series Top of the Lake: China Girl. Here’s what she learned from the film, its director and her (multiple!) rewatches – listen to the full audio below.
Film as comfort
Delving into the film’s history, Christie discusses her experience watching the film for the first time; as a fourteen-year-old, she connected strongly with Campion’s themes of passion and voicelessness. As her career and studies developed, The Piano joined her along the way; she says that she watched the film most evenings after long days at drama school to help her unwind.
It spoke to me so clearly, and consequently I felt heard
The importance of female filmmakers
Discussing the impact of female directors, Christie explores the perspective Campion brings to The Piano’s dark narrative. Valuing the world of female interiority the film presents, she explains that she felt she had a “right to see the world… that didn’t need the rules of cold logic”.
It’s a process that can feel more chaotic but you feel incredibly alive… Jane gave me something really incredible which is to realise that you can be unstoppable.
Complex ways of viewing the world
One thing Christie appreciates about Campion’s work is her ability to incorporate characters and situations that are open-ended and complex. When she worked with the director on Top of the Lake: China Girl, she says that Campion helped her bring this theoretical world and a sense of naturalism to her own work.
I was left completely speechless by this film; it affected me very, very deeply. I thought about it all the time.
About Gwendoline Christie
A graduate of the progressive (and exacting) Central St Martins Drama Centre, Christie was mentored by Shakespearean stage actor Simon Callow. Although warned by college staff and agents she would rarely find acting work due to her stature and appearance, her ambition was revived when she saw Tilda Swinton’s performance in Orlando (1992), leaving her determined to defy predictions. Plying her trade in regional theatre she followed Cheek by Jowl’s Declan Donellan on a world tour as the Queen (opposite a recently graduated Tom Hiddlestone) in the youthful 2007 production of Cymbeline. She drew increasing praise for her subsequent stage roles in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and as Lucifer in Dr Faustus.
Whilst starring in Game of Thrones Christie was still active in experimental film (Ourhouse 2010 – 2016) and other projects, including her role as Lexi in Russell T Davies’ Wizards v Aliens (2012 – 2014). Christie’s on-screen gravitas has since come greatly into demand, seeing her gain key roles in both the Star Wars and Hunger Games franchises. Gwendoline recently appeared in the second season of Jane Campion’s lauded television crime drama Top of the Lake (2017) and is currently filming for Armando Iannucci’s forthcoming adaptation of David Copperfield, alongside her undergraduate inspiration Tilda Swinton.