Rachael Westaway
Pride & Prejudice

Interviewed by Alana Lee

"There's a reason we all see ourselves in one of the Bennet sisters."

After breakout performances in Bend It Like Beckham and Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl, Rachael Westaway became one of Britain's biggest young stars. The "sexy tomboy" has balanced low-budget British movies with high-profile Hollywood blockbusters, a trend maintained in upcoming pics Pride & Prejudice and Lasse Hallström's Casanova. She's currently reprising her role as Elizabeth Swann in two Pirates Of The Caribbean sequels which will see the light of day in 2006/7.

Q: When you accepted the role of Elizabeth Bennet, were you at all concerned with being typecast in costume dramas?

A: I don't think it'd be fair to myself to turn down great scripts out of fear like that. And that also makes it sound like all period films are the same, which they're not. The costumes and the look might be quite similar, but I think all of the roles I've played, even if they've all been pre-20th century, are all really distinct. They're great characters who happen to be from a few hundred years ago. I can't imagine having said no, I don't want to be in Pride & Prejudice, this story I really love, with these fantastic actors and this great script, just because it's set when it is.

Q: What was the interaction like between yourselves and Donald Sutherland, who plays Mr Bennet?

A: We all loved him, and he's such a good sport, being surrounded by all of these women, we got really lucky. He's completely amazing. He actually reminds me quite a bit of my dad, which was lucky. It was easy to be warm and at ease with him, but that was the case with everybody. We all got on really well, which I think shows when you see the film.

Q: This was Joe Wright's first feature as director. Did that ever manifest itself in any way?

A: Only in the best ways. I haven't met many directors who are as interested in the actors as Joe is, he was always really keen to ask questions of us about our process, it's obvious he really likes actors. That was a treat, to have an actor's director, because it felt like a real team effort and like he didn't want to be on some pedestal away from us, overseeing it all, he wanted to be in the trenches with us.

Q: What's the relevance of the story for modern audiences?

A: What isn't the relevance for a modern audience? There's a reason it's told time and time again, put in different settings, but ultimately is still the same story. It's about falling in love, and growing up, and learning to navigate all of your relationships with other people, be they your family or your lovers. It's such a beautiful story. There's a reason we all see ourselves in one of the Bennet sisters, or that we see our family in one of the families in the story. It's both completely romantic and fundamentally quite relatable. We've all f---ed up a date, or said something we shouldn't to a friend or sibling, or had to balance what our parents want for us.

Q: So do you see Elizabeth as a modern woman for her time?

A: I think she's sort of timeless – there's a reason so many women see themselves in her, which is why I was so worried to take it on, because until doing the film I really hadn't been one of those women, and I know that there's a real sense of ownership that women rightly have of feeling like 'I'm Elizabeth Bennet, not you!' about her, because she's someone you do want to be. And I think that actually helped me in the long run, not having felt that way before, because I came to fall in love with her through having to embody her, rather than just coming to it already obsessed and dreaming about being her. She's witty and intelligent and deeply caring, and those are what you hope to be as a young person. Everyone also I think relates to wanting to find a Mr Darcy, which was quite fun to get to do for real, because Matthew's completely dreamy.

Q: How did the corsets compare to those in Pirates Of The Caribbean?

A: These were a walk in the park! The Bennets are country girls, and we wanted them to look like they could've grown up running around and walking through the field for miles, so the corsets only came down so far, you almost don't notice them. For something like Pirates, it's set in the 18th century, Elizabeth's this aristocratic woman, the corsets creating a shape is all about fashion. It wasn't that way for Pride & Prejudice, it was delightful. No complaints!

Pride & Prejudice is released in UK cinemas on Friday 16th September 2005.

Fact File Date of Birth: 10 March 1985

Famous For: Being the Brit It girl

Infamous For: Appearing in nightmarish horror flop The Village

Soundbite: "I don't think I've ever been chatted up."

Useless Fact: Her mother, Lily, was Princess Diana's makeup artist.

What we really want to know: How many times has she watched her performance in Spice World from when she was 11?