If the shoe (or role) fits, Sally Hawkins will wear it.
MADE IN DAGENHAM directed by Nigel Cole, written by William Ivory, with Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson and Bob Hoskins. 113 minutes. A Maple release. Opens Friday (November 26). For venues, trailers and times, see Movies.
I sometimes get the impression that for female film stars, it's all about the shoes.
Amanda Seyfried teetered into an interview for Dear John, sank into her chair and almost wept with relief when she could finally remove her 6-inch heels. Fourteen-year-old Trust star Liana Liberato's heels were so high she just never bothered to stand up.
While waiting for Made In Dagenham star Sally Hawkins to arrive at the Intercontinental, I am informed that she's caught in a traffic jam and can't get here from the Four Seasons.
"Why doesn't she just walk over?" I grumble.
I find out when I get a gander at her footwear: another pair of 6-inch-high wonders.
"How are you managing in those?" I ask.
"With difficulty," she says. "I don't have to walk - I'm being carried."
It's an ironic beginning to a conversation about her role in Made In Dagenham, in which she plays the Ford Motors machinist Rita O'Grady, who leads her female co-workers' charge for equal pay in 1968. Though the costumes are vintage 60s, Rita is no fashion plate.
"What I got from talking to the real women who worked at Ford (Rita's a composite character, but the GM strike actually took place) was that they spoke with no frills and were down-to-earth."
Hawkins is plainly a gifted actor. On film, she can breeze through dialogue. But in conversation, the gangly, almost gawky woman speaks in fits and starts, gulping constantly as she struggles to release a sentence.
She's best known to audiences as the bright, irresistible Poppy in Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky, for which she won a Golden Globe, beating out Meryl Streep. Poppy knows herself, is completely irrepressible and has no problem imprinting on every situation around her.
Rita's completely different. She doesn't see herself as an ordinary woman who can do the extraordinary. She's full of self-doubt and has to learn to lead.
"It was quite important to me that she found her voice," Hawkins explains. "She isn't a political animal. She doesn't have that language at the end of her tongue."
But once Rita gets on a roll, there's no stopping her.
"That's what I love about her. When somebody says something so incredibly dismissive and undermining and belittling and outrageous, she stops and grabs it by the throat. She shook Ford to the core."
Riveting in the role, Hawkins is generating early Oscar buzz. Her co-star, Miranda Richardson, who gives a blistering performance as Barbara Castle, the cabinet minister who supports the women workers, says part of what makes Hawkins successful is her nerve.
"In Britain, there's a very workmanlike attitude on film sets," says Richardson in a separate interview (wearing really hot Betty Jackson shoes, by the way). "Time and money constraints are much more obvious than over here. [There's pressure] to nail it in one take.
"Sally, on the other hand, refuses to let something go. So she'll say, ‘No, I think I can do something better,' taking the time, having the courage to do that."
Hawkins is gearing up to star in The Roaring Girl, the Bernadette Devlin biopic.
"Another amazing woman," Hawkins enthuses, "and another weighty responsibility. She was a ferocious, brilliant, political animal. I love playing great women."