Abbie Cornish Reflects on Bright Star and Looks Ahead to Sucker Punch

With awards season in full swing, Movieline is launching a new recurring feature called "For Your Reconsideration," where we speak to the talented people whose contributions to the year in film are worthy of a second look. First up: Abbie Cornish from Bright Star.

There's something about the women in Jane Campion's films: They can say so much without saying anything at all. Bright Star's Abbie Cornish certainly gets to talk more than Holly Hunter did in The Piano, but as her Fanny Brawne falls in love with Ben Whishaw's John Keats, her quiet fortitude conveys intelligence, emotion, and deep passion. It's one of the year's most striking performances.

Now that Cornish has been able to carve out some spare time from shooting Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch, the actress talked to Movieline about clothes, chemistry, and the one thing Campion and Snyder have in common.

One of the things that really struck me when I first saw the film was how Fanny's wardrobe seems so important to her. What do you think she's using her clothes to say when we first meet her?

I think clothes, for her, are an expression of self because there wasn't any other way to express who she was. Her creative arts...well, I don't want to say they were limited, but they weren't as available as they are today as a young woman. In that day and age, too, women wouldn't make their own clothes, they'd have someone else make their clothes for them. I think it meant a lot to her to express herself in that way, and I think that's where her appreciation of Keats's poetry came from, from her understanding of what it was to think of something creative and bring it to life.

Does her relationship with fashion change over the course of the movie?

I do think it's a big part of her journey. When she fell in love with Keats, whatever was on the exterior became so much less important -- it was so much more about the way she felt and what was going on inside her. She found someone who loved her for who she was, regardless of whether she was wearing a potato sack or a beautiful ball gown. There was something so pure and honest about their love that I think she was swept away by it, and that became her connection to the world. It's interesting that at the beginning of the film, she's sewing a white dress with white thread, and at the end, she's sewing a black dress with black thread. That's a big journey, with all the colors in between.

You know, her time and her interests were consumed by love. As difficult as that love was, with all the trials and tribulations, I think it was one of the most incredible things that happened in her life. After Keats passed away, she was in mourning for a really long time, and she eventually remarried and had a couple of kids. She'd kept all of Keats's letters and she showed them to her children, but not her husband. She told them of this amazing love that she'd had with this gorgeous young poet, and I think that really carried through her life, you know? Even in all its craziness, there's something I think was very liberating about that time in her life. It's such a deep love that they had for each other, and she would have done anything for him, gone anywhere for him.

When I talked to Ben, he said that you hadn't even met each other before you were cast. How could that not scare you to death when so much of the film rests on your chemistry?

We didn't even meet each other until the first day of rehearsals. I had such trust in Jane -- she's such an insightful person and so good at what she does that, to be honest, I never even questioned it. I was a fan of Ben's work, and a friend of mine had worked with him and said I'd really enjoy him. It was very instant, the relationship between us. From Day 1, it was an open, honest relationship, and it was a joy. I can't imagine it any other way.

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