Emily Watson and up-and-coming actor Ben Schnetzer star in The Book Thief, the filmic adaptation of Markus Zusak’s best-selling novel of the same name. Both Watson and Schnetzer, who act alongside Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush, sat down with Uinterview to chat about the WWII-era film.

Emily Watson Talks 'The Book Thief'

In The Book Thief, Watson plays Rosa – one half of a German couple that takes in a Jewish refugee who develops a deep bond with their adopted daughter Liesel (Sophie Nélisse). Watson appreciates the predicament that non-Jewish Germans faced – the decision between focusing on saving one’s on skin, or offering protection to a persecuted neighbor. While Rosa seems like someone who’d shut the door, the character is surprisingly compassionate.

”Do you betray your neighbor? Do you keep your mouth shut?” asked Watson. “I thought that was very interesting, for me, playing somebody who, on the outside seems like a very selfish, self-centered character, but when push comes to shove, she's revealed by the circumstances to be of good heart.”

Regardless of Rosa’s humanity, Watson admits she’s otherwise a fairly unattractive character, which was admittedly enjoyable for her to play. “When someone comes along and gives you the chance to play somebody really unpleasant, it's — 'Yes! Finally!' And I loved the whole physical aspect of it, wearing kind of ugly makeup, ugly clothes, ugly hair,” Watson told Uinterview exclusively. “It was immensely liberating. I didn't give a monkey's whatsit about the way that I looked and that was very nice."

Watson Enjoyed Hitting Geoffrey Rush

Schnetzer plays Max, the Jewish boy Rosa and Hanz (Rush) welcome into their home. In order to get into the role, Schnetzer delved back in the history of the Third Reichs’s propaganda. “The weight and the power that words have is such an important message in the film at a time when propaganda and rhetoric were so abused,” Schnetzer said. “It was very interesting trying to get as much of an insight into that as possible.”

While Schnetzer, who graduated from acting school during the filming of The Book Thief, was in awe of working with Watson and enjoyed meeting the book’s author, Watson’s highlight on set was something altogether different. “My favorite moment was undoubtedly getting to hit Geoffrey Rush 'round the head,” she said. “And I got to do it a lot of times.”

The Book Thief is currently in wide release.

– Chelsea Regan

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