Why Ruth Wilson is having an identity crisis

From BBC - February 22, 2018

Actress Ruth Wilson is something of an enigma.

As a critically acclaimed star of TV's Luther and The Affair, and multiple Broadway and West End shows, she's no stranger to success.

Saving Mr Banks and Suite Francaise are just two films on her CV. And she's been thought cool enough for pieces in Vogue and Vanity Fair.

Yet, for many, Wilson's face is still more recognisable than her name.

In fact she's probably better known as either Alice or Alison, the (bizarrely) recurring character names she's often given on screen.

With this comes the blessing of not being "papped" - photographed by paparazzi - says Wilson. And overall, her attitude to this relative anonymity is sanguine.

"People know my characters like Alice Morgan in Luther or Alison Bailey from The Affair. For me that's a compliment, a kind of joy," she says.

"But me as me is not really known, I do not have a persona in the public's knowledge.

"There's a sense most notably with my movies that for people to turn up, and make them big, you have to have a celebrity status. But it's not a choice I have made. It comes to you."

Wilson says she chooses her films for artistic merit rather than their action-packed bums-on-seats credentials - which means they are mostly small independents.

"It's frustrating. But it's about where you position these independent films to find an audience.

"The whole film industry has changed so much that few people are turning up for this stuff. Kids and adults want more to go to Marvel movies."

True to type, her latest venture is Dark River, a title taken from a Ted Hughes poem.

It's dark by name and dark by nature. She's previously joked that it is a British version of The Revenant. And again, Wilson's character is called Alice.

"I am being haunted!" she exclaims.

But there's nothing to joke about here. "Haunted" is apt for the story of violent sibling rivalry, child sex abuse and financial struggle, all set amid the farming world of the imposing but often hostile North Yorkshire hills.

With her father's death, Alice returns to claim the tenancy on the family farm she has not seen in 15 years.

Her brother's been struggling to keep the crumbling farm, sheep business and their sick dad alive.

Alice's return ignites a seething cauldron of anger and resentment between the siblings, each with conflicting ideas about how the farm should be run.

Adding to the fire are the tormenting memories of the father's abuse of the young Alice. They lurk behind every corner.

Working life on the farm is as hostile as the terrain. We see the physical and mental strength Alice exerts - to eat, she has to kill, skin and gut her catch (a skill Wilson learned on YouTube).

Wilson experienced the realities of rural life for herself - the six-week location shoot followed three weeks living with a farming family.

"It was grim, but you just get on with it. People do live like that," she says. "But I do not mind physical stuff - I quite like it and being out in the elements."

Alice's strength tips into aggression and there's no mistaking the underlying desperation.

"Alice ca not express herself," Wilson explains. "She does not really have a voice. She's keeping her trauma and rage over the damage done to her wrapped within. It's in her physicality that she's able to get some of it out."


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