SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
In the new film "Disobedience," Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams play women who were childhood friends until one of them, Ronit, played by Rachel Weisz, is turned out of their Orthodox Jewish community in London. She returned years later at the death of her father, the rabbi who was the community's spiritual leader, and still feels shunned. But she also rediscovers her feelings for Esti, played by Rachel McAdams, the childhood friend who's now married to the rabbi who became her father's spiritual disciple. They take a walk and talk about Esti's marriage.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DISOBEDIENCE")
RACHEL MCADAMS: (As Esti Kuperman) It hasn't been a complete disaster.
RACHEL WEISZ: (As Ronit Krushka) And that's enough? Do you have to have sex every Friday?
MCADAMS: (As Esti Kuperman) It's expected.
WEISZ: (As Ronit Krushka) It's medieval.
MCADAMS: (As Esti Kuperman) It's not mandatory. Nobody gets beaten if they don't feel like it.
WEISZ: (As Ronit Krushka) What happened to you?
MCADAMS: (As Esti Kuperman) Nothing. You happened to me.
SIMON: "Disobedience" is taken from a novel by Naomi Alderman. It's directed by Sebastian Lelio. And Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams join us now from New York. Thank you both very much for being with us.
MCADAMS: Thank you for having us.
WEISZ: Thank you.
SIMON: Why did you want to make this film?
WEISZ: Well, I was looking for a story to tell where a woman could be in relationship to another woman. I think almost every story I've ever told I've been in a relationship with a man. And I discovered this novel. It seemed to be something very contemporary but set within a community that was just up the road from where I grew up in North London, where being gay, being homosexual, being a lesbian is taboo.
SIMON: I mean, to state the obvious, Rachel McAdams, it's a long way from "Mean Girls." Isn't it?
MCADAMS: (Laughter) Yes, yes. Very much so - and my Protestant upbringing. But, you know, that's what I love about my job the most - is diving into worlds that, you know, I would never otherwise be privy to. And this one is particularly insular at times. So to be invited into it by so many members of the Orthodox community, in both Los Angeles and London, where I did, you know, the bulk of the research, was just a really extraordinary experience.
SIMON: Rachel Weisz, you grew up in a Jewish home in London but not an orthodox Jewish home. I wonder if it was important to you that this community not be portrayed as a stereotype.
WEISZ: I mean, yeah. I grew up, you know, very non-religious - I would say more like culturally Jewish. But it was clear from the novel that this film wasn't pitting orthodoxy or religion against sexual freedom. It was just saying this is a huge existential conundrum. What do you do if you're orthodox, and you want to express your gay sexuality? So Sebastian Lelio likes to say the antagonist is within, you know. So he doesn't tell stories where you can locate wrongdoing in any one character.
SIMON: I have to ask you about that six-minute scene that a lot of people are talking about.
MCADAMS: The synagogue?
SIMON: (Laughter) I was thinking of the hotel room but...
MCADAMS: (Laughter) Right, of course.
SIMON: It's vivid and intimate and moving.
MCADAMS: So often as an actor, you're trying to ask yourself when the sex scene comes along, you know, is this in the script? Is this gratuitous? Why does this need to be here? And how do we make it matter - or at least make it original? And this had both. Sebastian, he talked to us a lot about this scene. And he sort of choreographed it like it was a dance really. I mean, he even storyboarded it. And it was important to him that we felt the history between these two characters through this scene. So he made, you know, the moves we did very particular to these characters. Nothing was frivolous.
WEISZ: And for both of them, it's such an emotional scene. They've been waiting so long to reunite. And, you know, it's - the whole scene is symbolic of Rachel McAdams's character's emancipation and release into existential freedom. I mean, you know, there are sex scenes in films which can be meaningless. And I think this is one of the more meaningful scenes in the film and definitely the most meaningful sex scene I've ever done. There's actually no nudity. I'm sorry to let the listeners down.
MCADAMS: Yeah, it's true.
SIMON: Rachel McAdams, what does Ronit's return set off in Esti beyond the chemical attraction we've noted?
MCADAMS: It's really the catalyst for her whole life changing and challenging everything she's tried to suppress. I think she thought she was just going to get through life and love her rabbi husband and, you know, obey all the rules. But, you know, she just can't go on like that. She really is kind of dying inside. And so I think reaching out to Ronit is like reaching out for life - embracing the life preserver.
SIMON: Rachel Weisz, you started modeling at the age of 14. How did that happen?
WEISZ: I mean, I was in London, and I think I got, you know, scouted by someone. Yeah, and they used to dress me up in makeup and make me look like I was 30 years old, and I was 15. And I would say that I definitely experienced objectification firsthand in that period. But in this story, what's extraordinary about Sebastian Lelio as a director is the way he subjectifies women and people. Did you like my segue from modeling to "Disobedience"?
SIMON: I'm not even going to try and dangle a question about, you know, figure skating to Rachel McAdams.
WEISZ: You'll always be my figure skater though - you know that, right?
MCADAMS: (Laughter) Aw.
WEISZ: Because her life would have been a different light - your life would have been a different life.
MCADAMS: Very different, yes. My knees were always knocking on the ice and yet somehow the stage wasn't as terrifying.
WEISZ: Just all that practice after school - no, I mean, a hard life.
MCADAMS: Yeah, those morning practices - (laughter) a real killer, yeah.
WEISZ: It's that thing when you watch someone go onto the ice, and you're just praying that they won't fall. And sometimes you just see something. And you think, oh, no, they're nervous, and something's going to happen. It's terrifying to watch.
MCADAMS: Oh, no, I had a really hard time watching the Olympics. I still get like sweaty palms, and I...
SIMON: Hi, there. Hi, my name's Scott. I'm your interviewer.
WEISZ: Sorry. We haven't seen each other for a little while, so it's lovely to see Rachel.
SIMON: All right. It's delightful. I was asking about earlier life experiences just to - if I could get you both to tell us when it occurred to you that you try and make a life in the theater.
WEISZ: It's funny that you mention like being a teenager because in a way this film for both these characters is - there is this sort of element of time travel where they - you know, it's first love. And they're both adults and children at the same - and teenagers if you like. And that was an extraordinary thing.
MCADAMS: Well, it's funny because I remember us talking about you doing avant-garde theater. And I just loved getting a glimpse into that part of your life - that chapter.
WEISZ: Yeah, it's like how our lives would have been different had - what? - had you become a figure skater - just different life paths, which is what the film is about - how a certain incident can change the whole course of your life.
MCADAMS: Or a person.
WEISZ: Or a person, yeah.
SIMON: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams - their film, "Disobedience." Thanks so much for being with us.
WEISZ: Thank you for having us.
MCADAMS: Thank you for having us.
WEISZ: Oh, actually we should add though - the story of the film is about - it's important to be disobedient - probably too late now, but I've told you anyway.
MCADAMS: (Laughter) You've got time.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: Never too late.
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