Rebecca Hall (3 May 1982 -)
With her tall, slim frame and features that can appear both angled and smooth, Rebecca Hall – daughter of renowned English theatre director Sir Peter Hall – has made a career out of playing strong-willed yet vulnerable women, and in a variety of genres. She made her debut in the TV series The Camomile Lawn (1992), but it wasn’t until 2006 that she made her debut on the big screen in Starter for 10. Since then she’s worked solidly, releasing two or three movies each year, and working with directors of the calibre of Christopher Nolan, Ron Howard, Patrice Leconte, and Woody Allen. She’s often a reassuring presence in her movies, providing audiences with a sympathetic character to relate to and root for. She once said that she “always look[s] for contradiction in a character”, and this shows in her choice of roles over the years, even in something as unsuccessful as Lay the Favorite (2012). Later this year she can be seen in Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, yet another high-profile movie that sits comfortably within the mix of Hollywood and indie movies that make up her career so far. Before then, it’s worth checking out the five movies listed below, all of which feature Hall giving strong, impressive performances.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) – Character: Vicky
In Woody Allen’s romantic comedy/drama, Hall is the practical friend to Scarlett Johansson’s more extrovert Cristina, but while she appears to be more strait-laced in comparison, it’s Vicky that falls for Javier Bardem’s lusty artist, Juan Antonio. Hall gives a layered, intelligent performance that allows the audience to believe that Vicky could be so certain about her future, and yet so unsure once she meets Juan Antonio, and the feelings of confusion and remorse she exhibits in the wake of their affair. Juggling these feelings with the need to appear satisfied and content with her recent marriage, Hall ensures Vicky is a recognisable and understandable character, and one that you feel you could probably get to know very well in real life.
A Promise (2013) – Character: Charlotte “Lotte” Hoffmeister
A period drama set in Germany in 1912 – and directed by Patrice Leconte – A Promise features Hall as the young wife of an aging tycoon (played by Alan Rickman) who falls in love with an engineer (played by Richard Madden) who works for her husband. It’s a tale of unrequited love on both sides, adapted from a novel by Stefan Zweig, and features a beautifully constructed and affecting performance from Hall that is a pleasure to watch. As Lotte struggles against her ingrained sense of duty, Hall shows the personal sacrifice she has to make in order to retain her own sense of self-worth, until circumstances (namely, World War I) intrude and make her efforts seem ill-advised.
Frost/Nixon (2008) – Character: Caroline Cushing
As the new girlfriend of David Frost (played by Michael Sheen), Hall’s character finds herself involved in the tense run-up to Frost’s televised interviews with disgraced US President Richard Nixon (played by Frank Langella). (In reality, Cushing and Frost had been together for five years at this point.) Hall has a supporting role here, and isn’t on screen for much of the movie’s running time, but when she is she still grabs the viewer’s attention, and there’s an obvious chemistry between Hall and Sheen that adds to the dynamic of Cushing and Frost’s relationship.
Everything Must Go (2010) – Character: Samantha
Although Everything Must Go is very much Will Ferrell’s movie, Hall once again shows she can match anyone when it comes to giving a natural, honest performance, and she does so here effortlessly, playing a pregnant, put-upon neighbour who does her best to help Ferrell’s depressed, alcoholic ex-salesman get over the loss of his job and his wife, and despite having enough problems of her own. It’s a surprisingly substantial role, and Hall teases out every nuance and shading of the character, making Samantha a much more rounded (and grounded) person than may be expected, and entirely sympathetic to boot.
Iron Man 3 (2013) – Character: Maya Hansen
Hall once said, “One of the great things about the ‘Iron Man‘ franchise is that they employ fascinating actors who don’t necessarily do action movies.” Well, Hall is certainly a fascinating actor, and as the geneticist whose work ultimately is used for immoral and illegal purposes by Guy Pearce’s chief villain, she adds another string to her bow by appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She still gives her role due sincerity, and makes Hansen as credible as any other character she’s played. It’s a tribute to Hall that she doesn’t look or feel out of place in an Iron Man movie; a shame then that her character probably won’t be returning any time soon.