Weisz & Virtue
She's the thinking woman's movie star, true. But that doesn't mean Rachel Weisz doesn't have very-very-strong opinions about footwear.
We're chatting about nothing terribly consequential, Rachel Weisz and I. But even so, her responses are considered; she has an intelligent, searching gaze that brings to mind the phrase "The eyes are windows to the soul." But the phrase would be wrong, you see. It's not the eyes. It's the shoes. At least according to Weisz, who is cheerfully explaining to me how shoes have defined her character in many of the parts she's played.
"Shoes can turn you into someone else in an instant," Weisz begins, sipping green tea at the aggressively fabulous Bowery Hotel. She's not feeling well today (tragic, as it means I drink alone), but she still looks smashing in that disheveled, terribly English way-a lovely brunette you'd never recognize in jeans, a T-shirt and not a whit of makeup. (She claims she's never recognized on the streets: "This is New York, where everyone is a star in their own movie; no one gives a fuck.") "I did a film called The Brothers Bloom, and I wore really clunky boots—and I was this eccentric weirdo," she tells me. "And then in The Whistleblower"—an independent film released this August, where she plays a cop who exposes a European sex trafficking ring—"I wore police boots that made me walk tough." And there's her latest: Dream House, a thriller opening in September. "I am a wife redoing a home we just bought, and I wear a lot of light sneakers that are all cute and homey and make me feel kind of doo-doo-doo, I'm domestic and painting."
In real life, Weisz, 41, can recall events based on the shoes she was wearing. Like the three summers she can conjure up just based on a pair of blue Marc Jacobs cutout sandals that were in high rotation. To this day, she admits she thinks about footwear more than the average fashion-conscious woman. "I've had this conversation with a girlfriend for 15 years that is kind of a joke, and kind of deathly serious, about finding the perfect pair of shoes," Weisz continues. "I always want to feel like I can take off if I have to—the British expression is, 'shoes that let you run for the bus'—but I love high heels too." So for a woman who loves comfort, what's the allure of the eff-me heels? Is it sexiness, or is it something more? Weisz thinks for a minute. The daughter of a psychotherapist, she believes that sometimes a shoe is not just a shoe. Indeed, she finds interesting the struggle fashion can represent between our desire for freedom and our desire for restriction-the restrictions we feel in, say, work and love. "Yes, that's the thing! Sometimes it's fun wearing very high heels and feeling needy ... needy is great, because you feel you need to rely on someone."
That someone, as it turns out, is a man whom Weisz will, just a few days after this interview, marry: Daniel Craig, the sixth (and, I believe history will judge, best) James Bond in the 49-year-old movie franchise. They had known each other casually for years but became close when filming Dream House, in which they play husband and wife. Both were recently single (Craig was previously married in the early '90s and had just broken up with a long-term girlfriend; Weisz has a five-year-old son, Henry, with Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky), and by June they were married, in a tiny ceremony in upstate New York that included only their children and two close friends as witnesses. Whatever else they may share—and Weisz is extremely circumspect about the relationship—there is a mutual fondness for fashion: A few months ago the two were spotted shopping at Louis Vuitton in London's Mayfair.
Indeed, Weisz, who enjoys playing dress-up for a role, is as likely to deconstruct clothing as she is the motivations of characters in her films. Narciso Rodriguez is a favorite, but she's fascinated by designer Alexander McQueen, who committed suicide last year. "His pieces are works of art, but he had such a bizarre relationship to his own body ...he was always on diets and ...well, my perception is that his clothes were almost like torture instruments." In her day-to-day life Weisz dresses down in what she calls "good quality city street wear": Today it's a simple white T-shirt plus jeans and brown high-heeled canvas boots from American label Rag & Bone. "These may be the perfect boots, actually," she says, waving her foot in my direction. "I can walk all day in them." Most recently, though, in what is perhaps a nod to her altered domestic status, Weisz has spent less time shopping for clothes and more time cruising high-end cooking stores. "I do appreciate a good pan and a good knife," she says.
Not to say that domesticity has always come naturally to Weisz; indeed, we both take perverse pleasure in the theme behind her latest movie: namely, that if you move to a suburb for a better life, you die. "Right?" says Weisz, who grew up a tree-climbing tomboy (her words) in Hampstead Garden Suburb in North West London (Elizabeth Taylor's childhood home). Her mother was a teacher turned psychotherapist and her father a Hungarian-born engineer and inventor of a type of respirator. Her suburb was, she says, "a very freaky place" with no shops or pubs (the woman who designed the area was a teetotaler, and it was in the original deed to the area that no alcohol could be sold there); the only place people could gather was the church. "I don't know if the houses are haunted, but I think the suburbs are where bad things happen because it's the place where people try to live out bourgeois values and ...well, if you don't let out what you really are, it's gonna come out in weird ways. You know? I think weird shit happens in the suburbs."
Like, say, if you're a little girl with a shrink for a mother, you start to collect weird stuff? "I used to collect Pierrots and harlequin clown dolls," Weisz says. Obviously, Weisz's clever way to get over a child's unrelenting but entirely understandable fear of clowns. By collecting them, you have control over them, and control over your fears. Right?
"Um, no, I wasn't doing any kind of cognitive behavioral therapy on myself there ...it was the clothes. I just really liked their little diamond outfits," she says evenly. Okay then! Perhaps only one of us has clown issues.
Weisz studied at an all-girls private school where she never thought about acting as a career. "Actually, I wanted to be a detective. And a paleontologist. I was really into fossils. Though perhaps I was just trying to impress adults that I knew that word." Despite being an indifferent student until she was a teenager, Weisz went on to study English at Cambridge University, where she cofounded the theatrical troupe Cambridge Talking Tongues. Professional success followed pretty soon after graduation; she first gained international fame as the hot librarian (is there any other kind in Hollywood?) in 1999's The Mummy and won an Academy Award in 2006 for her role as a murdered activist in The Constant Gardener.
Eventually, the conversation rolls back around to family, and I can't help wondering: Does she plan to have any more children? She smiles. "Oh, I wouldn't make one just for the sake of giving my son a sibling. But ...you never know." She smiles again, nervously, proclaims her fondness for Baby Gap and then-an interesting thought in passing, considering the azure peepers of her new husband: "There's nothing like a blue-eyed boy in a stripy blue shirt."
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