Rebecca Hall is once again in front of the camera, after making her feature directorial debut last year with the critically acclaimed “Passing,” an adaptation of Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel. In writer-director Andrew Semans’s psychological horror film “Resurrection” (available on demand starting Aug. 5), she plays a single mother and successful career woman, Margaret, whose life is upended when a menacing man from her past, David (Tim Roth), shows up to torment her.
Off-screen, the two Brits enjoyed working together. “There was an ease between us,” Hall recently said by Zoom. “Also, we got to be British, which was really nice. … Usually, we’re on sets in America, in American movies, and we’re pretending to be American. Before you know it, thinking about the accent takes up most of your acting.”
Originally from London, Hall first began acting in plays under her father, the late theater director and Royal Shakespeare Company founder Sir Peter Hall. (Her mother is the late American opera star Maria Ewing.) The actress has since starred alongside Ben Affleck in the crime drama “The Town,” stolen scenes as the real superheroine in “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” and gone toe-to-toe with CGI monsters in “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
Q. You’ve done other intriguing films that grapple with horror (see: 2020′s “The Night House”). Where do you see “Resurrection” fitting in with those past works?
A. I like horror films, but I’m not seeking them out. “Resurrection” was a very specific moment in my life where I had just come off directing something where I felt, in many ways, more fulfilled than I’d ever felt in terms of I was really firing on all cylinders. I was being challenged in that way, and I loved it. So, I went into [”Resurrection”] slightly thinking I’d like to take an acting job now, but I would like it to be the Olympic triathlon of acting, the extreme sports version. It’s an examination of the kind of existential terror that comes with being a parent. That is a basic human thing that everyone who has a child has to go through and balance with all the wonderful stuff.
Q. Did you draw on your own experience [as a mother] of having a child in a world that can be out of our control?
A. Oh, of course. I think that where we are right now, the world feels really out of our control. We’re all dealing with unprecedented levels of anxiety. I do think there is something in this movie that gets into that and forces you to have an experience with that, which is not the experience that you’re having in your everyday life. Weirdly, it has a sort of cathartic ending, as wackadoodle as it is.
Q. Early in the film, you give a striking monologue that goes on for seven minutes without cutting away. With your background in theater, where there are no cuts, did that help you?
A. I wasn’t scared of it. I mean, I was, but not in kind of a debilitating way — in a good way. I don’t think I would have felt like I could handle it had I not done theater with this kind of thing. I am trained in this discipline. I did this Expressionistic 1920s play called “Machinal” on Broadway that had a five-minute monologue. It was worse on some level because it was basically incoherent, sort of Expressionistic poetry, so nothing linked; there was no logic to the thing to make you remember. And it kept repeating things, so it almost felt like it was jerry-rigged to force you to mess up. Then add to that that there was a dance routine happening behind me that was cued to the words I was saying, so if I did mess up, then their dance would mess up. After doing that, I was like, with the “Resurrection” monologue, “Oh, I can handle this.”
Q. Did directing a film yourself change how you approached this character?
A. I mean, it must’ve on some level, but I don’t think that I’ve considered myself to be that separate from the director in all the years that I have been an actor. I don’t mean that I’m doing the same job, I mean that there is a proximity to a director on set where you’re witnessing what they’re going through. Part of your job is to, on some level, support their vision and give them the material so that they have the full range of things to do. I’ve always felt that was my responsibility as an actor.
Q. It is an artistic collaboration.
A. Absolutely, yeah.
Q. There was another collaborator you had on this film, and that was Tim Roth. How was it playing out many of the tense scenes with him?
A. He’s someone whose work I had admired forever, and he portrays David in this very non-threatening, British, kind of bumbly, jokey sort of way. I thought that was so brilliantly counterintuitive … this really unlikely person can force what looks like this lioness of a woman who’s got everyone together and is so rigorous and in control to utterly unravel. He’s not obviously threatening in any way. I think Tim recognized that and then really doubled down on that idea. It’s more palpably sociopathic as a result.
Interview was edited and condensed.