Stirring, fact-based drama Woman in Goldis out now in Cineworld. Helen Mirren stars as Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee living in America who teams up with lawyer Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) to reclaim a painting she believes belongs to her family. Returning to Austria, she is forced to confront the heartrending legacy of World War II.
Director Simon Curtis recently spoke exclusively to Cineworld about making the film and working with the outstanding cast.
Hi Simon. So your new film Woman in Gold tells a really fascinating story. Where did you first hear about it?
I saw a documentary on the BBC that made me think this could be a really interesting film. BBC Films, the Weinstein Company, scriptwriter Alexi Kay Campbell and I then started on the long production journey together.
How much research did you do on the story? Did that fall more to the screenwriter or did you do a lot yourself?
The film’s writer Alexi met the real Randol Schoenberg and did a lot of background research in that area. I subsequently researched a lot of the themes in his script, particularly the journey that Randol and Maria went on, and I also researched the effects of World War II on Vienna.
And did you always intend to use flashbacks? What do you think they lend the story?
Well, it’s all about connecting this modern story with the past. That’s really the theme of the film. It seemed important to experience some of the themes that Maria, Helen Mirren’s character, had experienced. And we found Tatiana Maslany from TV series Orphan Black and she plays Maria in her younger years.
How did you go about getting this incredible cast?
It’s always script-driven, the casting process. No actor in the world will do something unless they like the parts. We all believed in this script. And once you’ve got Helen Mirren, she’s a great magnet for other actors.
During the research of it, did your feelings towards those involved in the story change at all?
No but I do find it very, very moving, the central idea of the film, that Maria, despite living this successful life in California, she had to do that off the back of abandoning her family. And the Jewish community in Vienna was of course shattered by the effect of World War II.
Was Maria alive when you were filming?
She knew we were interested in pursuing it but unfortunately neither Helen nor I met her.
Have you had any feedback from other members of her family?
Yes I met several of them at the New York premiere last week and I was very moved by their reaction. Some of them came to watch the scene shot in the actual bungalow that Maria had lived in, and they were very moved to see Helen embody their mother.