She’s got a Cambridge degree, stunning starlet looks, an Oscar, a Globe, and two buzzy upcoming films on her résumé. But at age 45, actress Rachel Weisz is just getting started.
Styled By Alicia Lombardini
Hair By Ben Skervin
Photography By Ben Hassett
Written By Laura Antonia Jordan
Nails By Alicia Torello
Makeup By Violette

Rachel Weisz, actress / photography by Ben Hassett

“I like that feeling of being scared, of thinking, I don’t know if I can do this: it’s too hard, it’s too complicated, it’s too unknowable,” says Rachel Weisz. She has just dropped off her 9-year-old son, Henry, at school, and is now on the phone explaining the uncanny allure of fear. From where the Academy sits, Weisz has little to be afraid of. She has an irresistible mix of talent (an Oscar and a Golden Globe for 2005’s The Constant Gardener and a Laurence Olivier Award for her excellent Blanche DuBois are just a few of her laurels), brains (she’s a Cambridge graduate), and beauty (those bee-stung lips are legendary)—and a made-for-the-movies marriage to James Bond actor Daniel Craig. But Weisz insists that self-doubt is, in fact, among her chief assets as an actress, and one that keeps her unwaveringly on course.

It’s this kind of candor that lends Weisz’s fierce intellect an approachable warmth. In conversation, she darts nimbly from topic to cultural topic, referencing everything from Romantic poetry (“I’m crazy for Wordsworth”) to Polish theater director Tadeusz Kantor. Yet her dialogue is peppered with conspiratorial giggles and she is disarmingly curious. Although she’s meant to be the one interviewed, Weisz asks just as many questions as she answers (“How old are you?” “Are you an academic?” “Who do you call when you want to have fun?” and so on).

A few answers on Weisz’s backstory: She was born in North London in 1970 to a Viennese psychoanalyst mother and a Hungarian inventor father. As a teen, she made the rounds of clubs and warehouse parties, defying her parents at every opportunity. “It was 1985, the beginning of the rave scene, and it was pretty amazing,” Weisz recalls. Later, she landed a spot at Cambridge, where she studied English Literature and founded an absurdist theater group. She was not, she says, a big deal in the drama community on campus. “I was a bit shy, really, and terrible at auditioning,” Weisz notes. In fact, “there was a moment when I thought I would do some kind of Ph.D.,” she says. But her troupe garnered attention from the right people and acting beckoned—first in the form of cameos in British shows and made-for-TV movies, then in film and theater, and finally, in 1999, her Hollywood breakthrough with a role in The Mummy.

It took me a long time to get to that place where you park all self-consciousness and judgment at the door. You have to be willing to make a real arse out of yourself.

— rachel weisz

Weisz has come a long way from the kitschy horror of that first big-budget break. This season sees her inhabit complex, taking-it-there roles in two poignantly eccentric movies. First up is Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, which Weisz describes as a meditation on “all those big things—life and loss and death and birth.” She plays the heartbroken daughter-slash-assistant to Michael Caine’s celebrated orchestra conductor, himself contemplating his mortality in a glossy Swiss health resort. She delivers one of the film’s most profound moments, a blistering monologue in which she furiously attacks Caine’s character for his failures as a father. A testament to Weisz’s stamina and determination, the rant was filmed in a single shot at 3 a.m. as she and Caine lay prone and mud-slathered on massage tables. “I didn’t know [Sorrentino] was going to shoot it in one shot and I thought that was interesting—to be that angry and not be able to move, covered in mud like a prehistoric creature,” she says.

Her other forthcoming project, Yorgos Lanthimos’ science-fiction dramedy, The Lobster (which hits stateside in March), already snagged the 2015 Jury Prize at Cannes, and allowed Weisz to revisit her love of the absurd. The film, which co-stars Colin Farrell, is set in a dystopian reality where one must either find a life partner or be transformed into an animal. “It was pure instinct, pure imagination,” she says of Lanthimos’ directives. “It was absolutely terrifying.”
The After-Midnight Look
As for Weisz’s own plot twist? Her latest crop of creative projects comes at an age when many actresses bemoan the lack of exciting, interesting roles—even roles, period. At 45 (yes, really), she’s neither slowing down nor plateauing, but rather hitting her stride. “It took me a long time to get to that place where you park all self-consciousness and judgment at the door. You have to be willing to make a real arse of yourself,” she says with a laugh.

When she’s not acting, Weisz moonlights as a producer (her first passion project, completed last year, was the micro-budget British film Radiator) and also revels in “incredibly normal, soothing, domestic things: hanging out with my son and husband, cooking [stir-fried shrimp is her signature], watching movies, going for walks, going to the theater.” She says she manages to live relatively anonymously in New York—“no makeup and a pair of a jeans and I can go anywhere I like”—and loved the absence of hair and makeup on The Lobster. “All mucky, covered in mud in the forest; it was heaven,” she laughs. Today, as Weisz is off duty, she plans to stroll home through the Manhattan streets. “I really love people-watching, just walking around not having a plan,” she says. Aimless, however, she certainly is not. “I don’t think I’ve ticked all the boxes at all!” she insists, when pressed on the subject of her prosperous life and career. “I really feel that I’m just getting going.”


Rachel WEisz answers the Violet files’ questionnaire
The After-Midnight Look
What’s the last thing that made you laugh?
High Maintenance, the Vimeo web series.
What’s your beauty secret weapon?
Ideal hostess gift to give and be given?
Peonies and Montrachet wine.
Go-to designer?
I collect Ossie Clark. I have an Ossie Clark dress that is my go-to for parties.
Who’s a woman you would steal a feature from if you could?
I don’t want to steal, but I admire Catherine Deneuve’s hair in the Polanski film Repulsion, and I love everything she wears. But I so don’t look like her; she’s so far away from me.
Book that changed your life?
There are so many books that changed my life at different times, but I guess the earliest was The Member of the Wedding, by Carson McCullers.
What’s your star sign?
Pisces—very emotional and contradictory. And I get on very well with other Pisces.
High maintenance or low?
Who would you have paint your portrait?
My son.
  • STYLING BY alicia lombardini
  • (RIGHT)
What’s your signature beauty look?
Mascara. Black, splotchy mascara.
What’s your cocktail of choice?
I do like martinis. Vodka martinis.
Signature scent?
For Her by Narciso Rodriguez.
What’s your favorite thing about riding the subway?
There are often guys who drum on, like, plastic cans—it transforms the ride. I’ve got a real thing for drummers.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
I love, love, love Wordsworth but I’m not sure I’d want him at the dinner. Maybe I’d get him round for tea.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Ben Hassett @ Management Artists
SUBJECT: Rachel Weisz
MAKEUP ARTIST: Violette @ Management Artists
HAIR STYLIST: Ben Skervin @ Streeters
NAIL ARTIST: Alicia Torello @ The Wall Group
STYLIST: Alicia Lombardini @ Walter Schupfer Management
LOCATION: New York Transit Museum, Brooklyn


Youth with Rachel Weisz; in cinemas December 4, 2015. 


Makeup artist Violette explains how to achieve the actress’s dark-lipped mystique.