Photographs by Alexandra Nataf. Fashion by Natalie Brewster. Words by Marisa Meltzer.
Robin Wright wears a suit with the ease of a pair of pyjamas. The actress is in a photo studio in downtown Manhattan trying on this season’s trousers and trenches – call it ‘intelligent’ tailoring – which suits her strong but mellow demeanour.
It’s a soft kind of power that imbues all of her most famous roles, whether it’s the damsel in the classic The Princess Bride (which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year); or the troubled Maureen in John and Nick Cassavete’s She’s So Lovely (‘my favourite role to play, and the most challenging,’ she says); or Jenny in Forrest Gump; or steely Claire Underwood in the Netflix series House Of Cards; or the Amazonian warrior Antiope in last summer’s Wonder Woman. The strength that connects those roles, however diverse, is coming from her own personality. ‘The core of you is in every character, which doesn’t mean you have to assimilate the character. But there are recurring themes in that they’re all really strong in their own way. But I would play a wimpy woman,’ she says with a loud and throaty laugh. She could, but it might be a stretch.
She’s with her best friend Karen Fowler, with whom she co-founded the sleepwear line Pour Les Femmes. Besides being gossamer-thin and so soft you want to bury your face in them, the line has an activist mission to help raise up women of the Democratic Republic of Congo through charity and entrepreneurship. ‘Years ago Robin had these pyjamas that were super soft and she gave them to all her girlfriends and we all wore them until they were shredded,’ says Fowler, who met Wright close to 25 years ago and is a designer by trade. ‘Robin would say, let’s do something together. And we decided to launch the line and give all the money to charity for the first 30 days.’
The label launched in late 2014, and now they make everything from sleepwear to kaftans for the beach to halter tops for evening. Wright puts on a crisp, white top that can be slept in, or worn – as she does – tucked into jeans. ‘It’s European cotton,’ she says with a lick of her lips and a little roll of her head. She shows a picture to Karen on her phone. Fowler whispers something in her ear and Wright laughs and slyly smiles at her. ‘Oh, you’re the worst.’
The two met through mutual friends in Los Angeles just after Wright had filmed Forrest Gump, but grew close when they both moved north to the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1990s — Fowler to work at Ralph Lauren, and Wright to raise her children Dylan and Hopper with her former husband Sean Penn. The breaking point in LA was when ‘I got carjacked with my little kids in their car seats in the back and I was just like, “Get me out of here”,’ she recalls. They lived in the luxe but bohemian Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco for 16 years. ‘It was a simple life – we never locked our doors.’ But she’s now bicoastal and Dylan and Hopper are both in the entertainment industry. ‘I give them advice all the time. Do they take it? Not often,’ she says.
Wright has an actor’s awareness of how to work with the light and the camera. As she and Fowler get ready to film a video segment, she asks where the bottom of the frame of the shot will be and crosses and uncrosses her legs to angle her body the best. Sometimes she will casually break out into a pitch-perfect English accent, saying, ‘I caaaahhhhhn’t hear you,’ just to make everyone on set laugh.
She has recently wrapped filming of the final season of House Of Cards, where she will retire the sheath dresses and severe hair of Lady Macbeth-on-steroids Claire Underwood. ‘Truthfully, politics bores the s*** out of me, it’s so corrupt and it’s all theatre. That’s what our show is about,’ she says. ‘Research for the role has nothing to do with reading about the senate or congress. It has to do with the art of war, so I read that book.’
It has been a turbulent final season, to say the least. The show’s lead, Kevin Spacey, who played her husband, was dismissed after sexual harassment allegations, which she has declined to publicly comment on. She will say she’s glad they decided to go forward with the truncated season of eight episodes. ‘The crew were panicked about losing their jobs. They have children and mortgages and it was great they decided to continue,’ she says.
How the show will address Spacey’s absence or wrap up its tumultuous plot remains secret. ‘We will go out with a bang,’ she says. And it may be the last role she’s in for a while. ‘I would not do another TV thing. I say that today when I’ve been working on this show for five straight years. But I’m ready to take a break or direct a movie. There is a movie I would love to direct and am hoping it happens.’
Some people speak in lines; Robin Wright, when she gets heated, speaks in paragraphs. ‘I really don’t want to act any more. All of that is in the backseat. I have been acting my whole life. It’s like you taste a new dessert and want to go back to that restaurant,’ she notes. ‘It’s such a soloist act to be an actor – you do your work yourself. I’m ready for a collaboration.’
So don’t worry about Wright: she’s confident and content and in a good place. Which may have to do with one more piece of news. She’s madly in love with a man whose identity she’s trying to keep away from the prying eyes of Hollywood. ‘I couldn’t be happier in my personal life to have met my true love,’ she smiles. ‘It took me long enough.’
Alexandra Nataf – Photographer
Natalie Brewster – Fashion Editor/Stylist
David Colvin – Hair Stylist
Laura Stiassni – Makeup ArtistÇ
Tomasina Lebus – Casting Director
Natalie Pavloski – Manicurist