In "Disobedience," which is based on the 2006 novel of the same name and opens in theaters on April 27, 2018, Rachel Weisz stars as Ronit, the black sheep of a London-based Orthodox Jewish community who is forced to confront her past when her father — a revered rabbi who exiled her after he caught her in a moment of passion with a female friend, Rachel McAdams' Esti — passes away before they've had a chance to reconnect. The passionate reunion between Ronit and Esti — who is now married to Alessandro Nivola's Dovid, Ronit's other childhood friend and the late rabbi's protégé — has been hailed as one of the most passionate (yet least exploitative) love scenes between two women on the big screen. But pulling it off was no small feat: The Oscar-winning actress, who developed the project as a starring vehicle for herself as part of her burgeoning career as a producer, told Wonderwall.com that in spite of ample preparation, shooting the explicitly choreographed scene was still plenty "scary." Keep reading to see what else she told us about bringing "Disobedience," which currently has a 95 percent fresh rating with critics on Rotten Tomatoes, to the big screen…
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Rachel Weisz on the positive early reaction to "Disobedience":
"I actually don't read [reviews]. … I try to [avoid them]. If you believe the good ones, you have to believe the bad ones. … But I'm very excited for it to come out into the world and see what people make of it. I optioned the book just over three years ago, so it's been a kind of three-year journey. It's not just a job to me — it's like a baby. So I'm very excited to bring it to the world."
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Rachel Weisz on how she discovered Naomi Alderman's 2006 novel "Disobedience," from which the film is adapted:
"I was looking for a good part for a woman — me — to play, and then I thought, 'How cool would it be to have two female roles?' So I was exploring books about female friendship and then female love and then lesbian novels — I read a lot of those. This one really struck me because it's from my home country and it's set just up the road from where I grew up but it's a community that I didn't really have access to or know anything about, and it's set in a world where certain things aren't allowed — like being gay. So it makes for a very interesting drama when there are things that are taboo and someone has to be disobedient to express themselves."
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Rachel Weisz on what drove her to start developing "Disobedience" as a project for herself:
"I don't know if you have to [find things for yourself]. I also love just getting a job and doing it. There are interesting roles [for women] out there. I just really enjoy the development process — adapting the book into a screenplay. I enjoyed using a really different part of my brain to my acting-brain. It's so much the opposite of your acting-brain — finding a part that really interests me and just seeing the process and collaborating with a group of people, the producers and the director. It was just lovely to be part of a community and collaborate."
Rachel Weisz on what made this the right time in her career to start producing films:
"Some producers asked me about 10 years ago if I wanted to start a production company with them. They asked what kind of stories I wanted to tell, and to be honest, I just didn't know. I didn't know the answer — I couldn't think of anything. So I think I just got to a point where I lived long enough to figure out what kind of stories I did want to tell. Now I know what kind of stories interest me, so I've got six or seven projects in development. … They'll all have a woman for me to play — front and center. They're all about the experience and the subjectivity of what it means to be a woman. Not all of them are written by women — a few of them are. And hopefully I can find women directors to tell the stories. They're all different genres."
Rachel Weisz on scouting the cast and crew to bring "Disobedience" to life:
"Sebastián [Lelio] was the first person I [reached out to] who read the book — and he said yes, so there was no struggle in looking for another director. I was involved in casting. At the end of the day, I wanted to differ to Sebastián, but obviously for the lead characters, he and I collaborated. We were thrilled that Rachel McAdams and Alessandro [Nivola] wanted to play those lead roles. … She's a really incredibly talented actress with great soul and depth, and I'd be happy to work with her in anything. She also just really connected with the material and really wanted to play Esti. She made it clear that she felt incredibly connected to Esti, and that's the most valuable thing: when an actor just really wants to tell the story. It's a low-budget movie and a difficult story to tell, so you want your passion met with someone else's passion. And she certainly had that."
Rachel Weisz on starring opposite Alessandro Nivola 20 years after they co-starred in 1998's "I Want You":
"We have known each other for 20 years, so we had that history and that sense which the characters have. The characters grew up together. We didn't quite grow up together, but we met in our 20s, so we had a history. Again, he just really connected with the role. There was some part of him that really identified with Dovid in some very deep way, so it was really wonderful working with him."
Rachel Weisz on the scenes of passion between her character and Rachel McAdams' character in "Disobedience":
"They were actually storyboarded by Sebastián. He drew every scene and said, 'This is the frame. You're not gonna see body parts. You're just going to see the woman's face, the desire and them being turned on.' The other woman is outside the frame, and you have to sort of imagine where she is. So we were given the musical notes or the coordinates, which we had to follow and fill up as actors with desire and emotion and vulnerability and passion. Oftentimes, I think, actresses ask about sex scenes, is this scene really necessary to the story? And in this instance, absolutely, for all of us, we knew it was kind of the center of the film, the heart of the film, this moment where they could be together and be abandoned and be adolescents again. It was very vulnerable making it — and scary. I think our hearts were beating pretty hard. It was a very emotional sex scene. … It was serious, but I think Rachel and I work in a really similar way that neither of us like to really sit and analyze, 'Well, what are we going to do and what just happened?' So we would definitely make jokes in between takes to break the ice. We definitely joked around."
Rachel Weisz on the responsibility to portray the Orthodox Jewish community fairly in "Disobedience":
"Naomi Alderman, who wrote the novel, grew up in this community and then left — like [my character] Ronit — and went to live in New York. So we had a first-person, first-hand account of what the details were like from her. I didn't really have to deeply study it because my character's abandoned that world. It was really Alessandro and Rachel who had to become Jewish and become Orthodox. There were many advisors that they worked with in America and then in London. Sebastián had some advisors. He had to go deep, deep down into exploring this community. It's extraordinary because he comes from Latin America, and he's Catholic and comes from such a different culture. But I think sometimes when you come from something very other and different, you can maybe see something with clarity. … I think the novel and the film are very respectful of the nourishing spirituality of being part of a community. There are beautiful things about it. I don't think [the film is] judgmental of religion. It's just the conundrum of what do you do if you're gay and you can't have both [religion and sexuality]. That's Esti's conundrum: She is deeply religious and she's gay and she has to find a loophole, which she does in the end when she figures out that she can be disobedient and that God will still love her. But she has the right to disobey. I think it's pretty respectful of Judaism."
Rachel Weisz on why it's important to be disobedient:
"I think disobedience is a good thing — a necessary, beautiful thing. One has to be disobedient in the right place and the right time. Ronit can be a little much. She's just kind of reflexively disobedient — that's her go-to thing. But I think well-thought-out disobedience is a very beautiful thing."