You starred as Karen Wright, a schoolmistress accused of having a lesbian affair with another schoolmistress, in a 2011 West End revival of Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour. What did you take away from the experience?
Audiences were very moved, and I felt quite stupid for not knowing it was such a seminal piece that meant so much to the gay community. It was a privilege to be a part of it.
It’s too bad that you and costar Elisabeth Moss couldn’t bring the production to Broadway.
We tried to make it happen, but our scheduling didn’t work out. Neither of us wanted to do it without the other. It was a real shame, because it would be great doing it on Broadway.
Your films Never Let Me Go and The Edge of Love also explore sexual tension between girlfriends. Are you drawn to those complicated relationships?
Well, female friendships are fucking extraordinary. They don’t have to be sexual to be intense love affairs. A breakup with a female friend can be more traumatic than a breakup with a lover. I’ve always been attracted to stories that look at the love-hate complexity of close female friendships. It’s ripe for drama. Did you see Frances Ha? That portrayed a female friendship I really understood.
In Never Let Me Go you played Ruth, a vindictive clone who seems more in love with her friend Kathy, a clone played by Carey Mulligan, than with the guy who comes between them.
Part of Ruth’s jealousy stems from that love, which she can’t express or understand. When she sees that the attention she needs from Kathy is going in another direction, she decides to destroy it. Yeah, it had nothing to do with the guy.
The Edge of Love got a lot of buzz for your intimate bathtub scene with Sienna Miller. No wonder you were rumored to have a sex scene with Chloë Grace Moretz in your upcoming film Laggies.
That happens literally every time I’m in a film with another woman. I don’t think it has anything to do with my past work. The media uses the idea of two women having sex because it sells. It’s funny, isn’t it, that you can’t have a movie about a female relationship without people assuming there’s going to be a hot love scene. It’s slightly derogatory, really.
You’ve worked with some of the most beautiful actresses in the world. Who’s your girl crush?
I just watched The Punk Singer, the documentary about Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill, so I actually have to go with her. She might be my top girl crush of all time, really. I love a riot grrrl.