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An Interview with Jenny Runacre

Jenny Runacre is an actor known for her work on films such as The Passenger, Husbands, Jubilee, and The Witches. Having starred in the 1970 John Cassavetes film Husbands, Jenny has since collaborated with acclaimed directors such as Derek Jarman, John Huston, Ridley Scott, Michelangelo Antonioni, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Nicolas Roeg. I spoke with Jenny about her role in The Passenger, working with Antonioni, and the film she is most proud of.

Did you always want to pursue a career as an actor?

I have always loved English and Drama ever since a child but my first ambition was to go to Arts School – which I did later on in my career, attending Central St Martins School of Art in the 1990’s where I obtained a Masters Degree in Conceptual Fine Art Practice. However at the time when I first left School my mother thought Art was too precarious a profession and someone suggested I try modeling, which is what I did. As I did quite well at this I put myself through Drama School, at a Drama School in Notting Hill called the Actors Workshop, which was based on the famous Actors Studio in New York, and which taught the Stanislavsky School of Method Acting.

Is there anyone in the industry who has particularly influenced you?

Yes there are two directors who have had the greatest influence on me, one is John Cassavetes and the other is Derek Jarman.

I particularly like your performance as Rachel in The Passenger. Could you tell me about your experience working on the film?

It was a wonderful experience working with Antonioni. He had and still has an incredible reputation for making enigmatic art films. I was very in awe of him and also in awe of Jack Nicholson, both iconic figures. But in fact it was a very relaxed and a most rewarding experience.

What was the process like working with Antonioni?

Michelangelo in fact told the actors very little, and most of the dialogue was minimal. He had a painterly eye and basically you were objects in his paintings. But his visual eye was masterful and he cast very closely to the character he wanted to portray, so basically you just did what came naturally to your character and if it wasn’t what he wanted then he would tell you.

You've worked with other acclaimed filmmakers throughout your career, such as John Huston, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Nicolas Roeg, and Derek Jarman. Who were the directors that left the biggest impression on you?

All the directors that you mention were such great directors that they could not but make an impression on any actor. Derek Jarman had a great impression on me, but I had known him as a friend long before we started work on Jubilee and the whole set up was very different, on a much more equal footing.

What’s the best advice a director has given you on a film set?

It is not possible to answer this question as all directors have different methods of directing and you learn from them all.

What's the best advice a director has taken from you?

I have never presumed to advise the great directors I have worked with. The only directors I ever offer advice to now are directors that perhaps haven’t got an enormous amount of experience and I might say something like “what about trying it this way” or “I don’t think this character would act like this.”

How have the roles you've been offered changed since you first started out?

Yes the roles I am offered now have obviously changed since when I first started out. I am now older and play a different type of character.

Is there a film, or role which you are most proud of?

Yes I am proud of most of the work I have done, particularly of Mary Tyanan in John Cassavetes Husbands, Rachel in Antonioni’s The Passenger and also of my contribution to Derek Jarman’s Jubilee.

Are you currently working on any projects?

Yes I am working on several projects right now both in film and theatre. The project that I am most immersed in is the book I am writing on my experiences of working with all the Maestro Directors that is has been my privilege to work with, and what I have learned from them and their varying techniques of extracting performances from their actors, which is obviously a full book in itself. It is called “I think you are Nuts” which is something John Cassavetes once said to me. I hope it will be out shortly.

Copyright Jenny Runacre

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