English actor, Caroline Goodall, has had an astounding career, starring in films from Hook to Schindler’s List. For her latest project, however, she has put pen to paper in adapting Lisa St Aubin de Taran’s classic tale of family secrecy, The Bay of Silence. We were fortunate enough to catch up with her during her busy schedule to talk about the film and her transition to the world behind the camera…
Looking back at all of the films you have done, you have clocked up a hugely impressive acting resume. What made you decide to turn your hand to writing and producing?
Actors, I think, are storytellers, and writing is the other side of the coin. Performing and writing are one and the same thing. I studied English and Drama at Bristol University, and really we were supposed to go off and be arts administrators, or writers, or producers, or something… We weren’t necessarily meant to be actors! And I remember one professor, he came up to me and said sadly “You know, Caroline, you’re really going to be an actor, aren’t you?” And I said “Well, yes, I’d like to!” (laughs) and he said, “I’ve got one piece of advice; get a very large safety pin and make sure you put all your receipts on it, and at the end of the month, take them all off and put them in an envelope and write them all down, because you’re really, REALLY going to have to know how to do your taxes!” (laughs) And I have to say, it was brilliant advice because traditionally actors tend to be so thrilled that we get any money at all, it always ends up getting spent! But I do it religiously, and I think that formed the producer brain in me.
As for the writing, it was always there, and I think secretly I always wanted to be a writer but felt I didn’t really have anything to say that was different or new. Being an actor meant I could interpret other people’s words and get away with it! I’ve always written though. When I first went to Hollywood, I had actually written a script, and I was asked to adapt a book called “Dreams of Leaving” that sadly never got made, and my agents were rather excited that suddenly this nobody from England had landed a writing deal. But then I landed Hook, and they never put me up for a writing deal again because you can make more money as an actor! Meeting Steven (Spielberg) and all these amazing people, I decided that it was churlish not to grab those horns and try to have an acting career. I’d been in the Royal Shakespeare Company (that’s where I’d met Brian Cox), and I came to Hollywood quite late; I was thirty, so I had no illusions, which was probably a good thing! But I always felt that writing doesn’t go off, and now is a good time. Changes have happened; people are more open to women writers, women producers, women directors. I look back on the all the film and television I’ve done, which is about eighty-four projects, and only six percent were written by women. With the current dialogue of BAME, BLM, and Me Too, we are getting a lot more voices who, maybe subconsciously, may have been stifled at the gate.
So what drew you to The Bay of Silence?
It’s a very visual and emotional book. It was written in the mid-eighties, but it seems even more relevant today. The Bay of Silence is two hours from my home in Italy, so I actually read it in the Bay, and that said something to me. The plot turns on a shocking event in the discovery of the death of a man’s baby son on a beach in a foreign land, where he doesn’t speak the language. His wife and daughters appear to be too traumatised to tell him what happened. So, unable to believe his wife is culpable, he secretly buries his son and fabricates a car accident in order to protect her. But by burying his son, he’s buried the truth, so he has to climb out of this metaphorical hole, and be able to unravel everything which is threatening his whole family. I’ve always been drawn to psychological thrillers. The Vanishing, which is a cross-border story like this is, Don’t Look Now… These are commercial thrillers with an arthouse heart. They are about deep fundamental choices that we have to make, and that’s the kind of storytelling I like. It’s so character-driven, there’s a Hitchcockian element to it, and I believed that it would attract actors. As an actor myself, I really try to write roles that actors would want to play, and make them as three-dimensional and deep as I could.
Having written the screenplay, but also acting in the film, were you more critical of your lines as you were performing them?
It was really hard to say my own lines! I had to ADR over and over again, and I kept saying “Sorry guys! I gave you mouthfuls of words and you did them so well!”. I didn’t actually intend to be in the film, and I originally wrote that character as a man, but Paula (van der Oest) felt there should be more women in authority figures, and also as his friend, so she asked me to play the part, and I’m certainly not going to turn down a couple of scenes with Claes Bang ever! He’s so much fun to work with. There was one day when the second AD said “Caroline, your call is at seven; what time would you like your car?” and I thought, as a producer, I have to get myself in, but as an actor, oh my god, I get a trailer to sit in, I’d forgotten what this was like! (laughs)
Signature Entertainment presents The Bay of Silence on DVD & Digital HD 28th September