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My Cultural Life: Andrea Riseborough

The British actor on what she’s reading, listening to and more

andrea riseborough interview
Jamie McCarthy

British actor Andrea Riseborough is one of our most chameleonic talents. After graduating from RADA, she made waves with her BAFTA-nominated turn as the former prime minister in television film Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk To Finchley – roles followed in everything from Best Picture Oscar-winner Birdman to Black Mirror. She’s taken on heady horror in Mandy and brilliantly biting political satire in The Death Of Stalin. Her latest leading role is in Luxor – in her words, ‘a portrait of the fallout of conflict in the Middle East, and a story of healing’. Directed by Zeina Durra, it’s available to watch on demand from 4 January. modernfilms.com/luxor

At the moment, I’m listening to Oscar Peterson Plays Duke Ellington and Howlin’ Wolf’s Moanin’ In The Moonlight. I’m in Butte, Montana shooting Please Baby Please by Amanda Kramer, which is set in a surreal representation of what might have been the 50s beatnik community in New York. These are some sounds Suze, the character I play, might move to with a glass of cheap red wine.

andrea riseborough interview
Music legend Nina Simone
Getty Images

The record that makes me instantly happy? Ain’t Got No, I Got Life by Nina Simone.

My guilty pleasures include anything featuring Peter Falk, no matter the quality. If pressed to do it (in a life or death situation), I feel I might be able to recite most episodes of Columbo.

The books that have influenced me the most include James Baldwin’s novels and essays, for their honesty, their integrity and their unrivalled eloquence. I read Joan Didion’s Year Of Magical Thinking – amongst others – as a study of grief while preparing for the play A Brief History Of Helen Of Troy at London’s Soho Theatre. It celebrated the fine line between reality and illusion.

andrea riseborough interview
Basic Books

At the moment I’m reading Intercourse by Andrea Dworkin. I have just played Dworkin in My Name is Andrea with Pratibha Parmar directing. Once I started at the beginning of her feminist canon I found myself unable to stop.

Some of my favourite words are from Spike Milligan: ‘Said Hamlet to Ophelia, I’ll draw a sketch of thee. What kind of pencil shall I use? 2B or not 2B?’

My most-loved art museum is the Museo Del Prado in Madrid, and my favourite work within is Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden Of Earthly Delights. In my mid-teens I had one of those £1 picture books – from Woolworths, I think – which contained written elements of his life and images of his work. To see the Earthly Delights in person was an experience I’ll never forget. It was the first art gallery I visited outside of the UK – I was 18, and with my first ‘proper’ boyfriend from Newcastle.

andrea riseborough interview
The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch
Masterpics / Alamy

The last exhibition I saw was From The Douanier Rousseau To Séraphine: The Great Naïve Masters at Paris’ Musée Maillol. It was a revelation. Intimate and not heavily advertised, I felt I’d stumbled upon a gem not to be missed.

My top podcast tip is Dirty Diana. Shana Feste and Demi Moore are the driving forces behind this episodic delight, which is somewhat of an oddity in that it’s a study of female sexuality, by women.

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration February 2020

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