Andrea Riseborough: “I get paid one twentieth of my male co-stars’ fee”

Andrea Riseborough gives her frank views on Hollywood's double-standards, Billie Jean King – and the director she would like "to slap across the face"

THE INDUSTRY

I spent a lot of my working life as a younger woman feeling desperate to be part of anything I was able to be part of. Desperate to be picked. I don’t really want to do anything in my life now that is not for the right reason. I want my actions to be in line with my ideas. There are only two things I have done that I knew were stinkers. You try to make it work, and people around you say, it’s just one film – and fortunately one of them never came out.

But what gets difficult is when male actors, or guys in the world, need to say yes to a money job it’s there for them. It’s not really there for women. People are now speaking up inside of my industry about it. But my industry hasn’t changed yet. I only hope Jodie Whittaker gets paid everything that she should for Doctor Who – she is an extraordinary actress and a wonderful person.

PAY GAP

The reality is I’m still being paid one twentieth of my male co-stars’ fee. In anything. I can’t explain how frustrating it is. Sometimes it makes me think in a previous life I must have been a white heterosexual male. Our industry works on quotes – the highest you have ever been paid is your quote, and that is dictated by how many lead roles you’ve had or by who is writing the script. Is it a man or a woman? Most often a man.

As soon as wrinkles appear, there are only a few women who get work

Women’s careers don’t have the same longevity – because as soon as wrinkles appear, there are only a few women who get work. So male actors have a bigger quote, and so they get paid more. You want to make great films. I would have done Birdman for 50 pence. And, crikey, I have a great life – but sometimes it is so exhausting just to keep your head above water. It is a really stressful component of what I think women face every day in the world.

Andrea Riseborough in The Death Of Stalin
Andrea Riseborough in The Death Of Stalin

THE DEATH OF STALIN

Filming The Death Of Stalin (above) with Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin and everyone was like being around a bunch of hilariously funny luvvies. Lunch was the most fun time. I said I would do it even if there was not much in the script for me. I would rather work with a director who has a backbone – and that can be comprising male or female DNA!

Armando Iannucci is a very sweet guy but has an uncompromising fieriness. A lot of serious movies could be made involving Stalin that would be very classical-score-and-awards-worthy. The reality of it was that they were all flailing around shitting themselves and had no idea what they were doing. They were like massive toddlers in uniform. And it couldn’t be more relevant, with Trump.

DID YOU KNOW…

Vendors buy magazines for £1.25 and sell them for £2.50. They are working and need your custom.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES

The story of Battle of The Sexes is even more relevant now than when we started filming two years ago. Billie Jean King is so vocal and politicised – she really shows up in the world. She is unafraid to take her seat as a human. The film is really interested in the love story between Billie and Marilyn, who I play. In real life, Marilyn met a bitter end. But we focus on the time when they were first falling in love and everything felt fizzy.

Billie told me I was exactly like Marilyn. I was just picking up on the feelings of the time. And Emma Stone is such a great Billie that it emboldened my responses. In the movie, Marilyn is a little more willing to be sexual with Billie than Billie is with Marilyn. But Billie told us: “That is not a historical accuracy!”

Andrea Riseborough and Emma Stone in The Battle Of The Sexes
Andrea Riseborough and Emma Stone in The Battle Of The Sexes

HOLLYWOOD

When you get on a really big Hollywood film, it just feels like: “There are people starving in the world. What the fuck is the point of this shit?” Whatsisname that makes the Transformers films? I fucking hate him. Michael Bay.

If Michael Bay was here right now, I would slap him across the face

If he was here with his pitbulls and his young Miami girlfriend right now I would slap him across the face, I swear to god. The fact that man gets to make films about political issues that are serious, like Benghazi, makes me want to eat my own hand.

Andrea Riseborough
Andrea Riseborough © Nathan Seabrook

SCREENWRITERS

My email response about one script was literally: “Who the fuck is whatshisname? And why did he choose, of all the stories in the world, to tell one about a 30-year-old woman?” It is an interesting question. To me it smacks of something a little fishy. I don’t mean to be totally cynical about it. Women have the same fears, desires, hopes, sexual urges – all that stuff. At the moment there are loads of scripts by women coming through with male directors attached, which kind of makes me want to put my fingers down my throat.

ACTING THE MOTHER

This is a bone of contention as a female actor – always playing mothers and none of us financially secure enough to have kids. Or even have a moment to stop and have sex and be impregnated! Sometimes we are too stressed to even have a period and ovulate, you know? This has been weird for 26 years of my life.

Even as a kid in school plays, I was playing a mother. The characters we get sent are so strangely together, it is like watching robots. “Take a pancake off the griddle”, “gosh, you are always so late for work”, while the men are loved for being flawed.

Lord John Bird with Andrea Riseborough
Lord John Bird with Andrea Riseborough

THE BIG ISSUE

Going to the House of Lords with a bunch of Big Issue vendors (above) was a strange situation. A complete mix of extremes. But it was wonderful. Getting to know somebody isn’t necessarily their history – what about right now? Who are you now? That is what connects people. I was talking with a vendor called Jim about his love of opera.

Battle of The Sexes and The Death of Stalin are in cinemas now. Black Mirror is due for release in December