ROSAMUND PIKE wasn’t sure she could finish filming her new movie.
In A Private War she plays the late war correspondent Marie Colvin who reported back from countless combat zones.
The tough Colvin was no stranger to danger.
A rocket-propelled grenade attack in Sri Lanka left her with an eye patch and PTSD, and she was killed by Syrian shelling during the siege of Homs in 2012.
In one scene from the film, Jordan stands in for Syria and Pike had to act alongside a real-life Syrian refugee whose nephew had been shot from his shoulders during a rally in Homs.
The script called for the man to react to a dead child in the war zone while Colvin looked on.
“The upswell of grief from this man was so painful,” Pike says. “It was totally difficult to be in the room with.
“I had such a confusion of emotion, deep compassion, and some sort of unnamed feeling of anger at the tragedy of the loss.
“And I was confused about where the line was in what we were doing. What right did I have to be there?”
She took a break from the set for several days and reveals: “I said to the director, ‘I don’t know what to do with my feelings. I don’t know how to process them. I don’t know if what we’re doing is OK.’”
Pike sees her latest role as just another stage of the career shift that took place with Gone Girl, the smash hit in which she played a seemingly innocent victim who was in fact a devious, ruthless manipulator that transformed her into an ambitious leading woman.
“It gave me a sort of drive to be provocative, to play characters that make people re-evaluate their opinions and turn them on a dime,” says the mother-of-two who turned 40 last month.
“Marie is like that. She’s a heroine but she’s not flawless. She’s a complicated woman who’s part myth and part troubled soul.
“She’s got this intense power coupled with an intense vulnerability that she keeps hidden.
“There was this detail in the article which inspired the film, about how her wedding presents from her first marriage were still wrapped up in the cupboard up the stairs, and I thought, ‘I know who this person is.’”
She thinks Colvin could deal with war zones but not everyday life, adding: “That feeling of, ‘If I unpack the toaster, there’s an acceptance of domesticity’ but also not feeling entitled to that safe domesticity – shove them under the stairs and probably don’t write thank you notes for any of them.
“I just felt I knew that person, who nonetheless wanted the big romance and wanted the wedding.
“I think her life was pretty chaotic but then you go to a place that is by definition chaotic. It’s in a war and you feel quite calm, you’re calmed. You have a purpose and a simplicity.”
Pike’s co-star Jamie Dornan plays the war photographer Paul Conroy who survived the attack that killed Colvin.
Conroy ended up staying on set to advise the director and Pike obviously did a good job of portraying Colvin as she says: “Paul said afterwards, ‘I got my mate back for a bit there.’”
A Private War (15) is in cinemas from Friday February 15.