Meet the Membership: Sally Hawkins

Sally Hawkins needed Equity’s help when she was injured on a film set and the insurance company refused to pay. Here, she recalls the incident and also reflects on the positive side of the movie business

What projects are you currently working on?

I am about to fly to NYC to start filming Lucky Dog. Phil Morrison (Junebug) is directing with Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd also starring. It’s a beautiful and funny script. I am very excited, if a little nervous.

Do you think the Oscars got it right this year?

I would have loved to have seen Tyrannosaur directed by Paddy Considine up there, along with Olivia Coleman for Best Actress. Also Lynne Ramsay for We Need to Talk About Kevin with Tilda Swinton for Best Actress. Such precious gems are always overlooked by the Oscars. But then we know what’s what!

Is there a difference between acting for stage and screen?

Yes, the technique is different. For film, an actor doesn’t have to ‘project’ so much as the camera does that for you. The audience is allowed in to see your thoughts in close-up, whereas with theatre you have to ‘throw’ it out to the audience. But the thoughts and the roots of the thoughts are the same.

What’s your view on 3D?

I have only seen one film in 3D and that was Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams and I loved it, as it was a beautiful film and the 3D aspect didn’t dominate. Herzog used it sparingly to illustrate and brought these beautiful ancient paintings to life, it was quite magical. He used it like an artist, as if he was intrigued by the possibility of adding an extra dimension to film. I think if it’s used cleverly it can add an extra dimension but I think if 3D is the main attraction then it’s a bit dull.

Can you tell me how the accident on set occurred?

It was  comic scene ‘fight’ between me and the male lead. I ended up on my colleague’s back and then had to get ‘thrown off’ as he pretended to strike me in the side of the head. I was in a wedding dress and high heels at the time. We repeated the scene many times on unsteady ground. They were covering many angles in many different shots. And the last time I fell was obviously one too many. I felt the crack in my collar bone and can almost still hear it as I remember the fall in slow motion. Oh, it still makes my stomach turn thinking about it even now!

How did you feel about the film company’s insurance firm’s refusal to accept responsibility?

It was upsetting and frustrating. You go through it emotionally as well as physically. It did drain me. When an entire insurance company disputes something you have personally experienced it makes you question yourself. But it can affect everything. When it was all over I felt a weight immediately lift. It was quite extraordinary. Something went from me that I had obviously been carrying around for a few years.

Were you pleased to have the backing of Equity?

I don’t know where I would be without Equity. They were fantastic. They were immediately there as this huge support to lean on. I am forever grateful to Equity for the help I received. I really could not have done it without their backing. I was introduced to a wonderful lawyer Simon Wilson, who is employed by Equity to deal with such cases. He was diligent and worked so incredibly hard on my behalf, collecting all evidence, witness statements, medical reports. He was in close contact with me over the years it took. I never thought we would get there. But he never gave it up. It was very inspiring and I learnt a lot from the whole experience.

What UK theatre show are you keen to see?

I will be booking to see Mark Rylance in Richard III at The Globe. He is such a special theatre performer. He has a kind of magic and it’s a gift to watch him.

Is there anybody you would particularly like to work with?

Yes, so many! I would love to work with Philip Seymour Hoffman (both as an actor and as director), Tilda Swinton, Samantha Morton (she is extraordinary), Paul Thomas Anderson, Andrea Arnold just to name a few… oh and Robert De Niro please. Yes, that would be most lovely.

If you were not an actor, what would you be?

Not sure how good an artist I would have been, but I still like to paint. Even if it’s just for me, I find it relaxing and messy! I’m bit of a hoarder so probably could open a little shop full of treasure and shiny, girly stuff. It would be selling the stuff on I’d find difficult. There’d be a few fights with customers.

You can find out more about the legal support Equity offers here