NEW YORK (AP) — Many of the world’s top movie, TV and theater stars live in cities like New York, Los Angeles or London. Janet McTeer, the Tony winner and Oscar nominee, chose a tiny town in eastern Maine.
“I have a really uncomfortable relationship, like a lot of actors do I think, with being known. I like to be unknown,” says the English-born actress. “I like going down to the store and people just know me as the women who lives down the road.”
McTeer, who has called in Maine home for the past seven years, tries to be as normal as possible. She walks the dog, gardens, cooks and perhaps goes fishing with her husband. There’s no bubble around her.
“I keep all that wild stuff for the stage or film,” she says. “I can be more dangerous in many ways because I have more to draw from. And being dangerous as an actress is something that appeals to me greatly.”
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McTeer is certainly tapping into her dangerous side this month as she treads into a fraught world of 18th century decadent French aristocracy in the Broadway revival of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses .”
She plays the Marquise de Merteuil, who together with an old lover, Valmont, plots intrigues and machinations. They’re a mutual admiration society that manipulates the downfall of two pure, if naive, women.
“Its essential themes are love, damage, sex, control, manipulation — all of those things are kind of universal and ageless. It’s also about not being found out,” she says. “So that has certain political ties, does it not, in the current climate in America?”
McTeer is revisiting the role that got her an Olivier nomination when she performed Christopher Hampton’s play in London last year. She’s the only actor who made the trip to Broadway, and now has Liev Schreiber as her co-star.
“She’s a great captain,” says Josie Rourke, the artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse who directs McTeer again. “She’s an incredibly witty and generous and wise actor with other actors. I’ve seen her derive real energy from encountering the play with a new group of people.”
McTeer remembers seeing the original production of the play — she thinks she saw it three times, standing in the back — starring Lindsay Duncan in her role. She also saw the film version starring Glenn Close. Getting both those women’s’ performances out of her head has been hard. “You just go, ‘Oh my God, OK, start again.'”
Her new role is typical for an actress who likes strong women. McTeer played the grief-stricken mother alongside Daniel Radcliffe in the gothic horror film “The Woman in Black” and played a single mom from the deep South in “Tumbleweeds.” On Broadway, she played the title role in “Mary Stuart” and then as woman passing as a man in the film “Albert Nobbs.”
“I want to play strong female roles in our world because I can,” she says. “To be able to stand up and be counted as a strong woman in what I do, which is as an actor, that pleases me. I feel like I’m doing my bit for women.”
To play her manipulative aristocrat, McTeer listens to baroque music and works out — usually spinning or yoga. “I believe that you have to be fitter than the show you’re doing,” she says.
She also admits that playing a vain, corset-wearing pampered French noblewoman has teased out her own vanity, prompting her to get her nails manicured routinely, and made her focus her attention to her face.
“I put under-eye makeup on and all that sort of stuff. And I look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘Oh God, you look knackered. Better put a bit spackle under the old eyes and put on lipstick,'” she says. “Merteuil is definitely more high-maintenance.”
Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits