In “Dune”, in theaters on September 15, Rebecca Ferguson embodies power and vulnerability as she takes on the iconic role of Lady Jessica. After having thrilled us in “Doctor Sleep” and saved the world in the last “Mission Impossible”, here is the Swedish member of a sorority feared by the whole universe. Interview of an actress who subscribes to roles that thrill.
Dune enjoys the luxury of being the most anticipated cinema release of the year thanks to a cast as dazzling as its production, signed Denis Villeneuve. On the bill, therefore: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Javier Bardem, Charlotte Rampling, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa … and Rebecca Ferguson. It is the latter that interests us. After sucking the shining of innocent children into Doctor Sleep, helped Tom Cruise complete his impossible missions in Fall Out and Rogue Nation or discovered a tough alien in Life: Unknown Origin, the Swede lands on Arrakis and lands the supporting role of the most popular of science fiction blockbusters.
Revealed to the world thanks to The White Queen – British series on queen consort Elizabeth Woodville – Rebecca Ferguson started her career at 16. She was then starring in a successful Swedish soap, New Times. Since the industry saw her as a sovereign, she drags her cold beauty on the biggest film sets (The Greastest Showman, La Fille du Train, Men in Black : International).
In Dune, Rebecca Ferguson plays the mother of Paul Atréides, son of the duke and possible prophet long awaited on the sandy planet, colonized for its precious spice. We talked with her about her character, these witch roles that seem to pursue her and her blockbuster career.
Who is Lady Jessica?
Rebecca Ferguson : Lady Jessica belongs to the women’s organization of Bene Gesserit. They are very powerful. They can manipulate minds, thoughts and connect to their ancestral history, without having access to phones or any other form of technology since they are from another world. My character’s destiny is to reproduce in order to have a daughter and thus colonize other families. She rebels and creates chaos by having a boy with Duke Atreides, whom she is in love with. From that moment on, she must protect her son from the consequences she has engendered …
She is torn between her role as a mother and that of Bene Gesserit. How did you deal with this personal conflict?
Rebecca Ferguson : Thanks to my conversations with Denis Villeneuve. I did not immediately identify Jessica. Without having the power of the Bene Gesserit, I was able to rely on the love I have for my children. To grasp the conflict in her, you have to understand faith. I’m not a Christian, I don’t believe in any religion, but I like to hug the trees and be kind. I reached a state of mind that made me realize that belief can be as strong as love for your children. This is where Jessica’s conflict arises.
It seems that you hesitated when Denis Villeneuve offered you the role because you were tired of playing strong women who know how to fight …
Rebecca Ferguson : I’ll tell you what really happened. When Denis introduced me to Jessica, he told me about her strength, her power, the fact that she is a mother, a concubine and a soldier. I was like “hey, that sounds like something I’ve done before …” but I never would have turned down the part. If Denis had asked me to play a queen, I would have played a queen. It is not the extreme emotions that interests him. He wants to know how we go from one to the other, how we become imposing without having to stand on tiptoe, without barricading his emotions. How to be powerful and cry with fear? This is the real subject.
After Doctor Sleep and Alex, the fate of a king, here you are again in the role of a witch. How do you explain that casting directors and directors see you like this?
Rebecca Ferguson : I like it. I wonder if people who say I play strong, independent, intense characters connect it to witchcraft. They were strong, weren’t they? They clung to their beliefs. Strength can be compared to resistance to social norms. Besides, one should dissect the word “force” because it is a word which encompasses a lot of things. I find it in the same way as the fragility in all my characters.
Do you feel like you are being cataloged?
Rebecca Ferguson : It’s also my job to bring other things. I hope that seeing Dune, people will understand the complexity with which I played Jessica. I hope they realize how much it cost me to create vulnerability and fear in this woman and I’m not just talking about the close-ups where I cry. Finally, I hope they will understand the depth of the agony she is going through and how impacted she is by the events. There is a reversal with the character of Paul. Her child takes over. Yes, there are roles that I would like to play, but there are so many actors … I sometimes feel like I’m being cataloged, but most of the time I mostly feel very lucky to be working . It’s a balance.
“I’m not too worried about the consequences”
What power have you developed over time?
Rebecca Ferguson : I do not know if it is a power, but I am very raw, very honest with the others. I’m not too worried about the consequences. I try to be respectful, I listen and I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I am proud to stand my ground. I’m afraid people sometimes think I’m a diva … These are issues I always feel like working on. On a larger scale, I would protect people if I thought they were mistreated and I would defend myself if I felt disrespected. I no longer worry if someone gets on my nerves because I stood up to them. It’s okay, I’ll find another movie. It is my power: to be able to trust myself, to convince myself that everything will be fine.
Denis Villeneuve is known for creating stunning visual universes. Don’t we lose the magic when we play in it?
Rebecca Ferguson : Denis Villeneuve is an image artist. I see how being on the set can encroach on that magic, but the scenery and sets were so amazing … What I see and feel as I stand on a rock in Abu Dhabi with Timothée Chalamet n ‘ is not what I experience when the camera moves to film me from all angles. I’m totally locked into my thinking process as Jessica at this time. I managed to separate the movie I read, the movie I shot and the movie you see. There is this shot seen from above of a hovering ship moving through shadows to the clouds. It’s steampunk, cool, with something Around the world in 80 days. I remember saying to myself “my God what an adventure to be part of this!” and then “ah but yes, it’s true, I’m in it!“For the first time in my life, I had forgotten.
How does a young Swede who does television become a Hollywood star?
Rebecca Ferguson : I am not ambitious. In Sweden, we say elbows. I never had this urgency to become an actress. I just made up with what I was offered. My mom did a fabulous job showing me all the options available to me on a set, pushing me a little beyond my limits. I started playing and it worked. She never forced me, that was the path I had to take. Sometimes I feel like it’s wrong to say that, because I know the number of people who are struggling to do this job. It is a difficult and unfair environment. I feel very lucky at the same time and I also know that I worked very hard to make it happen.
What does it mean to you to be successful?
Rebecca Ferguson : Success is doing what you love. Our jobs become our identity, that’s what we do for most of our lives. I hate meeting people who haven’t had the opportunity to access a job that brings them fulfillment. Too many people have no choice but to have a job that is just income. They can find success elsewhere, of course, but for me it’s loving my job, being able to take my family with me on my travels … I love my life and enjoy it.