PARK CITY, Utah, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Andrea Riseborough never shied away from daring material, but her new role had her representatives calling her "mental." Riseborough squeezed Luxor between her TV series ZeroZeroZero and the film Possessor. Both Luxor and Possessor premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
"There were four weeks off, and I spoke to Zeina [Durra], director of Luxor," Riseborough told UPI at the festival. "We FaceTimed and I called my team and said, 'I'm just going to quickly do a film in Egypt in between these two things.' They were like, 'You are insane. You're mental.' I couldn't resist it. It was such a beautiful script."
Working back to back is nothing new for Riseborough. Two movies at this year's Sundance pale in comparison to 2018, when she attended the festival on behalf of Mandy, Nancy, Burden and The Death of Stalin.
"It's a little more manageable," Riseborough said of her 2020 commitments. "That was really intense. We had four in three days."
To squeeze a new movie into four weeks wasn't as simple as traveling to Egypt, where Luxor filmed on location. Riseborough still had to prepare to be her character.
"As hard as it was imagining where she'd been mentally flushing through my mind, there was a lot of levity in the way that Zeina writes," Riseborough said. "That's how you get through life, isn't it? With levity."
In Luxor, Riseborough plays Hana, a British aid worker who visits the ancient city after attending to Syrian war victims in a Ramtha clinic. There, she reconnects with an archaeologist (Karim Saleh) she'd loved before.
"It's about somebody who's literally piecing back people, human beings," Riseborough said. "She's been piecing human beings back together in a war-torn area. This is the calm after the storm. It's a moment of respite and reflection."
The gentleness of Luxor may have been exactly what Riseborough needed to take on her subsequent role in Possessor. She plays assassin Tasya Vos (Riseborough), who can use a technology to possess another person's body and use it to commit murder.
"Vos is endlessly lost in the addiction of escapism, and she's not looking to be tethered to anything," Riseborough said. "Being tethered actively terrifies her. She's got a taste for blood and the thing that Hana in Luxor is trying to forget is that -- the horror before."
When Vos possesses another body, another actor essentially takes over as Vos until she returns to Riseborough's body. The out-of-body acting experience reminded her of other mental acting exercises during her drama school days.
"At drama school or film school, you often have the experience where three people are playing the same role because it's big and there are too many people in the class," Riseborough said. "So you're in your early 20s, sharing this huge role in society, whether it's Shylock or whichever character it is, and there's six of you playing it and you're trying to find some sort of through line."
Possessor brought back that mental exercise in a new way.
"[In class] there's a self-preserving quality there where everyone's trying to do their best," Riseborough said. "They're all trying to give their best Shylock or whatever it is. So it's a really, really unusual experience to be both playing both psyches at times."