Rebecca Ferguson: ‘I do worry that I am going to mess things up for my son... we always make mistakes’
Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson, current star of The Snowman, is no Snow Queen, writes Anne Marie Scanlon, who finds the young mum has a Northern Ireland grandmother.
Interviewing celebrities for a living isn’t exactly spending 10 hours down a pit hacking away at the coalface. There are times though and people who make you think that perhaps a shift in the colliery would be preferable to trying to get them to talk to you like a normal person.
Before I met Rebecca Ferguson (the Swedish actress, rather than The X Factor runner-up), I had some preconceived notions. I expected Ferguson to be enviably slim. She is. I thought she would be ridiculously beautiful. She is. I was convinced, for no good reason, that she would behave in the detached way that some northern Europeans do. I was hoping for, at best, a polite distance while imagining the worst-case scenario of chilly disdain. Boy when I’m wrong, I’m really wrong.
Rebecca Ferguson is not aloof; in fact, she’s the best of craic — a right good laugh. She is fun and funny — despite her ‘Ice Queen’ good looks and a cut-glass accent that even the Queen herself would find posh, she has no front.
“My mother is English,” Ferguson tells me explaining the accent. We’re meeting in a fancy hotel in London’s Soho — one so hip they hide the toilets and never light the public areas with anything over 40 watts. When I attempt to get a glass of water Ferguson hops up and brings back two bottles, one still, one sparkling and a glass — all three items in the one hand, like a practised partier.
The star, whose CV includes the BBC drama The White Queen, Mission Impossible — Rogue Nation and The Girl on the Train laments that we don’t have any vodka.
Ferguson is wearing a simple black sweater, black wide-leg linen trousers and a fabulous eye-catching pair of gold platform sandals. When I ask the designer’s name, she replies: “I’ll tell you!” before struggling to name the brand. “Oh God, I’m really annoyed. I should know these things,” she says laughing, “so you can write ‘Rebecca knew exactly what it was’.”
Giving up trying to recall, she takes off her sandal and checks inside. “Giuseppe Zanotti,” she reads slowly, squinting to see the name. “I should have known that,” she says putting her sandal back on, “because they make the most fantastically comfortable shoes for people with quite broad feet”. She goes on to say that the gold sandals, beautiful as they are, are “work shoes”. Ferguson lives in a fishing village in Sweden where there is little call for heels.
Various sources state that Ferguson began her career at the age of 13. “People say it,” she says. “But no, I would say that’s a lie. I was signed up to a modelling agency, couldn’t stand it, turned down every job, I took one job and that was that. I didn’t like being photographed. And I wasn’t a model. I was in the ‘people’ section because I was too short and probably too fat!” “Were you fat?” I blurt out, because the possibility seems as likely as the DUP campaigning for a 32-county Republic. “Well, it’s modelling isn’t it,” Ferguson says dismissively. “I was a normal person”.
Ferguson began her acting career at 15 and had her son Isaac, almost 11, in her early 20s. It turns out that Isaac is two days older than my own son and we both enter ‘Mammy’ mode discussing how tall our respective babies are.
“They grow so fast,” Ferguson says with a mixture of pride and regret that mothers everywhere will recognise. The star tells me that she tries “to normalise the job I do”, for her son’s sake. “He comes to the set, I go off and leave him with the stunt guys and I come in and he’s hanging off a harness somewhere. He loves it but I don’t think he would like to act.”
In her latest film, The Snowman, based on the book by Jo Nesbo, Ferguson stars opposite Michael Fassbender, who plays Harry Hole. “I love him,” Ferguson declares. “He’s just the coolest guy ever. He’s funny. And he sings. He sings Irish folk songs. He is wonderful and he is fun to work with. It’s nice to work with someone where you can just kick off your shoes and tell stories.”
Ferguson is also trying to pin down her own Irish roots. “God my family is big. My grandfather (Ferguson) was Scottish and my grandmother Northern Irish, her name was Martin.”
The Snowman has many themes including how the influence of both mothers and fathers, or the lack of them, can affect the adults that children become. Ferguson grew up in Sweden where her father is a lawyer. She tells me that her parents “met through an interesting way”, but then refuses to tell me how, batting back the question with “how did your parents meet?” Ferguson’s parents never married. “Marriage isn’t a big thing in Sweden, I think we’re quite open to everyone’s ideas and visions which is quite lovely.”
I reply that they also have lovely furniture and Ferguson says: “Well Denmark does! Sweden does, too, but I’m a fan of Danish design. I’m renovating two houses and spending a lot of time in Denmark going ‘I can’t afford that, I can’t afford that, I can’t afford that’,’’ as she mimes pointing at various items of imaginary furniture. “How expensive is Denmark?” I wonder, considering the Giuseppe Zanotti shoes retail at just under £600.
“Very!” Ferguson replies laughing. “But it’s very beautiful and it’s quality,” she adds drawing out the last word slowly.
When I remark that, unlike her character, she appears to have a healthy relationship with her parents, she replies: “But I don’t know what a healthy relationship with parents is. What’s interesting is when we get to a point where we are making our own decisions and when we cut the umbilical cord.
“Sometimes having a fantastic relationship (with a parent or parents) can be a bad thing.”
As a parent herself, she says: “I do worry that I’m going to mess it up for my son, we usually do, don’t we? We always make mistakes. I think we look at our backgrounds and I think, what didn’t I like about myself and what can I change?”
Swedish actors like Stellan Skarsgard and his sons Alexander and Bill, and her co-star’s girlfriend Alicia Vikander, are huge in Hollywood at the moment. Why are Swedish thespians so popular? “Because we’re just awesome,” Ferguson replies before laughing out loud “just because we are fantastic!”
She’ll get no argument here.
- The Snowman is in cinemas now