In the film, the two racers abide by very different philosophies. Do you identify more with James’ impulsiveness or Niki’s discipline?
"James Hunt, I think, is probably more like me although I try to be more like Niki Lauda. Hunt had this amazing devil-may-care attitude towards life, he really had an extreme talent, a love for the sport, but he didn’t have the discipline. I’m not undisciplined, but I’m not as organized as I would like to be, and I don’t have all the attentive energy I wish I had."
Did you have an intense rivalry growing up with someone that brought out the best in you?
"No. I was thinking about that, because I’m not really a competitive person. I’ve never had one person that I was trying to overtake in a race in life. I know that for so many people it’s what drives them. The Williams sisters have it for each other, Bird had Magic, Magic had Bird. I don’t have anyone. I never had that mentality. I think it was more myself. I had to dare myself to do what it is I wanted. And, I think also, when I first announced that I wanted to be an actor, people were pessimistic. Not my family — they were always awesome — but people always assume that it’s just a little girl’s dream, and I think I was always trying to prove people wrong."
Do you really think James Hunt slept with 5,000 women? "Yeah, I think he had a kind of sex addiction that came from wanting to fill some sort of void. I think in AA they call it, 'The God Hole'? I think everybody’s got that void, and people fill it with food, they fill it with booze, sex, work — and he filled it with sex. He tried to be married, though, he tried for Suzy."
What was it about Suzy that made him try to settle down?
"She was kind of his match. Suzy was just as successful. She didn’t care that he was famous, or that he was a race car driver. She liked his wit and charm and his adventurous, spontaneous, romantic spirit. They were kindred spirits in that way. They were both just mad, like wild children. I think they also found a similar loneliness in the limelight, surrounded by flashbulbs, and people, and false love, and they formed a connection in the loneliness that’s inherently a part of that."
When you do a period piece like this, how much do you enjoy playing dress up?
"Oh yeah, that’s a big incentive. I’ve been obsessed with seventies fashion and music since I was little, so being able to wear seventies clothes was really fun. The fact that Gucci pulled from their archives and dressed us in new things, and Frida [Giannini] was so cool about creating pieces for the movie to really help us have that glamorous, sexy vibe. I don’t think I really understood who Suzy was, until I put on the clothes. The hat, the boots, the coat — it all really helped."
Do you prefer working on massive movies like Rush, or more intimate films like the recent Drinking Buddies?
"I do enjoy the more intimate set, although this crew was amazing. I got to know them, and the greatest moment was when they were surprised to hear me speak with an American accent, because they thought I was English the whole time."
That’s a great compliment.
"I was like, 'Score!'”
What accent would be the hardest for you to pull off? Is there a dialect coach for every accent?
"Oh yeah. There’s a coach for everything — it’s amazing. I think the best thing is to just go to the place and learn there, but I’m pretty sure I’d have really hard time with Mandarin."
You’ve recently worked with some of the best directors in the world: Joe Swanberg, Ron Howard, and Spike Jonze. What is one quality they all share?
"Confidence. They know what they want. They all know a good thing when they see it. This is all part of confidence. They have a specific style and they believe in it, and they invest in it. All three of them are also very diplomatic, and very good delegators. They surround themselves with people they really respect, and then they let them take the wheel. That takes confidence. If you are an insecure director who doesn’t have control over your actors or your crew, and you don’t really know what you’re making, people can smell it. I always say actors are like horses. They can smell fear. If a horse realizes you’re afraid of it, and suddenly realizes it’s 2,000 lbs. and can crush you, it will! There’s a certain amount of mind control required as a director, and I respect the directors who know what they want and know when they get it."
Finally, you’re not going to New York Fashion week after the festival.
"No, I think I’m going to take it easy this year."
Do you think you’ll have FOMO?
"There’s some shows I’m really sad I’m going to miss out on. Unfortunately I won’t be able to go to the Marchesa show, and I really wanted to see what they’d cooked up, because I’m sure it’s beautiful."