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Orange County Interview with Geraldine Somerville


Geraldine Somerville does tour de force turn in `Cracker: Brotherly Love'
By Kinney Littlefield, Orange Country Register


Eyes like daggers, jaw like a fist, mouth like a wound that won't heal. In Cracker: Brotherly Love Detective Sgt. Jane Penhaligon (Geraldine Somerville) is dangerously numb and full of rage following her terrifying rape, probably by colleague Det. Sgt. Jimmy Beck (Lorcan Cranitch), in the earlier Cracker movie Men Should Weep.Yet before Somerville's Penhaligon implodes she explodes in a remarkable television moment. Sitting on the edge of a high-rise rooftop after she watches two men fall to their deaths, Somerville howls with grief, fear and rage. It's a terrible wail, extending eerily through the film's final credits as she's cradled by Robbie Coltrane, who plays ace forensic psychologist Dr. Eddie 'Fitz' Fitzgerald. "I was really nervous," Somerville said recently of her primal yowl from London, where she was starring on stage in Blue Remembered Hills'' at the National Theatre."Director Roy Battersby told me `This is the moment she starts to recover. I want you to let it all out.' And I said 'But how,how do you find that, so deep inside?' Then on the second take, my legs actually went, like having an enormous orgasm, and it was such a relief.'' Added Coltrane of Penhaligon's rooftop crisis, "Geraldine went into it so deeply I thought she would die.'' 


Still, preparing for the role of rape victim was a more intellectual than emotional experience for Somerville. "I do know someone who was raped, and we talked a bit, but it seemed kind of voyeuristic to use someone else's horrific experience, so most of my research was through books,'' she said. "Penhaligon's hairstyle (drawn back in a brutally tight French braid) helped a lot in achieving tension. We wanted a complete denial of her femininity, the hair, the clothes (like dark, anonymous prison garb), the trainers (athletic shoes) so she can run. "She's half-dead, not dealing with it. And she's kind of happy with that, and she thinks she can cope. But obviously no one can really deal with rape that way.'' Later, Penhaligon must go undercover as a prostitute. All tarted up in tight leather skirt and thick lipstick, she confronts Beck at a squad meeting. The effect is enormously unsettling. But Somerville still shivers over the birthday card scene, when Beck bends closely over Penhaligon, forcing her to sign a card for the widow of their murdered boss. It's a prime Hitchcock moment. "They way they lit the scene it was so dark we couldn't even see the crew. The feeling Roy (Battersby) gave it was that she's working, working, working, and suddenly she knows she's not alone. She feels danger and looks around - and it's him. She feels his presence, she knows he's invading her.'


The Unofficial Guide To Cracker 1999-2006