Ronit
Stephen Colbert and Rachel Weisz. COURTESY MONTCLAIR FILM

By PATRICIA CONOVER
For Montclair Local

Most of the children who watched “National Velvet” on television decided that they wanted a horse, Stephen Colbert observed.

But not Rachel Weisz.

When Colbert asked Weisz when she first realized that she wanted to be an actress, Weisz recalled watching Elizabeth Taylor’s star turn in National Velvet.

“When I watched Taylor’s storytelling power, I decided that I wanted to tell stories just like her.” Weisz said.

Colbert interviewed Weisz on Saturday, April 28, at Buzz Aldrin Middle School. Weisz’ film “Disobedience” was screened that same day at Montclair Kimberley Academy. The movie premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

At her conversation with Colbert, Weisz, self-possessed and confident in a long pink maternity dress, admitted that she kept her dream of acting to herself.

“I was a shy child and I didn’t tell anyone right away,” she said. “People who are quiet take the time to observe what’s happening around them and they often make good actors. I waited.”

Weisz first began acting at Cambridge University, where she majored in English.

“Everyone was making plays,” she said. “I started a theatre company called Talking Tongues with Rose Garnett. I applied to the best acting school, but I didn’t get accepted.”

She hoped to win a grant from the Arts Council, but she got an agent and a role on television. She’s been acting ever since. 

Colbert made a connection with the film and Weisz’ parents, who immigrated to England in 1939. Her mother was from Vienna and her father was from Budapest.

“Both your parents were from central Europe,” Colbert said. “Did they encourage your acting dreams?”

Weisz laughed. “They wanted me to be both an actress and a lawyer at the same time.”

Colbert compared “Disobedience” to an Ingmar Bergman film — complete with long lingering shots and interior suspense.

For Weisz, whose character Ronit Krushka leaves her Orthodox Jewish community in Hendon, North London for a different life in New York, the story of three people in the throes of change resonated.

In the film, Ronit returns to England to sit Shiva and attend her rabbi father’s funeral. Rachel McAdams plays Esti, a close childhood friend who is still religious. Esti is married to Dovid, played by Alessandro Nivola. Dovid is the heir apparent of Ronit’s father. He is slated to head the Synagogue. All three characters undergo a dramatic transformation.

“It’s the story of every person who doesn’t fit into their parents’ expectations,” Weisz said. “Every person has to make a choice about the life they are living. Who is choosing? Make sure that your choice is your own.”