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interview: kim cattrall

Kim Cattrall and Ewan McGregor star in Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer.Photo: Guy Farrandis

She hasn't given up her role as uber-cougar - this summer, she'll reprise the part of Samantha in a second Sex and the City film. But Kim Cattrall isn't just a pop princess. She's currently getting raves for her performance in Noel Coward's Private Lives on stage in London's West End. And then there's her turn as what she describes as a "Hitchcockian icy blonde" in The Ghost Writer.

Adapted from Robert Harris's novel The Ghost, the film follows a biographer (Ewan McGregor) given the unenviable task of penning the memoirs of a disgraced former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) after the mysterious death of the original ghostwriter. Cattrall plays Amelia Bly, the pol's dutiful secretary and alleged mistress.

She has fond memories of working on the film - despite the arrest of director Roman Polanski during post-production.

Apprehended on a 32-year-old U.S. warrant for fleeing after being convicted of having sex with a 13-year-old in 1977, Polanski completed The Ghost Writer under house arrest in Gstaad, Switzerland. In February, the Berlin Film Festival awarded Polanski best director for the film.

Cattrall talked to The Globe about her role in The Ghost Writer, and what it was like working with the notorious Polanski.

Did you have to audition for Roman Polanski?

Yes I did. I was sent the script by my agent. I was actually in London. They asked me if I would take a train to Paris to meet Roman, because [he]wanted me to do this part of Amelia Bly in the Robert Harris novel, The Ghost. So I got on the train, and I went to lunch with him. We had a lovely lunch; and at the end of it, he said, "I'd love you to do it."

Ewan McGregor and Olivia Williams replaced Nicolas Cage and Tilda Swinton from the original cast. Did you get to keep the same role?

Yes. I think Roman really cast very specifically. He doesn't do anything on a whim. He'll see or feel something is right. When I think about him, I think about his nose - because he smells something that's right and true, and he won't let go of it until he achieves it. I think that's what was happening with the casting as well.

What was Polanski like on the set?

Doing a scene, I remember I had to open up a closet door. And he said, "Cut." He said there's nothing in this closet this character would wear. This is a character you never meet in the film.

This is a high level of detail that you're working with, with a man like this. You have to take all of this away. This was like the very late hours of the night that we were shooting into. Roman was literally on his hands and feet. He was taking out the shirts; and he was putting in the right shirts, the right socks and the right ties that this character would wear.

Everything was about details. It was a huge lesson in the truth, really.

Was Polanski specific about what he wanted from your performance, or were you able to inject your own take on this character?

Because Roman had written this with Robert Harris, he knew exactly what he wanted. He'd like some ideas if you could bring something in that he felt rang true to the music that he could hear in his head - and by music I mean dialogue, and the way it was being photographed.

I remember the first scene that I shot was a scene where I was smoking a cigarette. We literally had 40 minutes to shoot that because that was the magic hour. The light was fading. It was cold. It was freezing cold. I remember I was just blue after we finished it. And I just remember him saying to me, "Faster."

That's all he wanted me to do in the scene … Everything that I was doing he loved. He just wanted it faster. And I just felt, well, "Why?" And he said, "Because that's the way I wrote it."

Have you been in touch with Polanski since his arrest?

I sent him an e-mail congratulating him on being named best director at the Berlin Film Festival, and he wrote me back a very, very, very Roman e-mail which basically said, "It's your fault, too" - meaning we all did this. We all were part of it. He would never say that in any kind of sentimental way. That's just who he is. I read it and I just broke out into a smile, because that's so him. But he seems to be in relatively good spirits.

Special to The Globe and Mail