Photograph by Todd Cole/CPI
When Emily Mortimer discovered that Woody Harrelson had been cast to play her husband in her latest project, Transsiberian, she felt a little intimidated. "He's sporty, outdoorsy, and healthy," she says. Everything, in other words, that the slight, porcelain-skinned actress is not. "I am pale, I smoke cigarettes, and I'm allergic to physical activity," she says.
But that frailty—often suffused with naïveté, other times neurosis—has been part of the 35-year-old London native's appeal as she's played a series of vulnerable, distressed women: the long-suffering wife in Match Point, the hopeful sister-in-law in Lars and the Real Girl, and the traumatized rape victim in David Mamet's Redbelt, among others.
So you'll be forgiven if you don't recognize Mortimer in Transsiberian, a thriller in which she plays the frosty wife of a cheerful Iowa hardware-store owner who's traveling with him by train from Beijing to Moscow. As the movie unfolds, Mortimer's character turns ruthless as she tries to suppress her past and keep her dealings with shady passengers on the train from both her husband and the Russian police.
To hear Mortimer tell it, the role wasn't a stretch. "Just because I get cast as the sweet innocent doesn't mean that I necessarily am that way," she says. "When I was little, I didn't want to be an actress to delve into another consciousness. I wanted to wear fancy clothes and go to parties." Now that Mortimer is married (to actor Alessandro Nivola) and has a 4-year-old son, however, her perspective is a bit different. "You get to these things," she says, "and it's, 'What the fuck was I thinking?'"
Mortimer had a similar reaction filming the chase scenes in Transsiberian. "The crew kept trying to adjust my run so it would look action-heroine-esque," she says. "I don't look very cool or sexy running. My friends get me to run for a bus to give themselves a good laugh." Kayleen Schaefer
The trailer for Transsiberian