The life of Marie Curie

07 April 2020

Interview with 

Marjane Satrapi, Sam Riley

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Adam Murphy was lucky enough recently to play film critic, getting a sneak peak at “RADIOACTIVE, a new film that tells both the scientific and romantic story of Marie Sklodowska-Curie and her husband Pierre Curie - the couple whose pioneering work led to the discovery of the radioactive element radium - and the reverberations of their discoveries across the 20th Century. Adam got to speak to the director Marjane Satrapi, and the actor who plays Pierre, Sam Riley

Rosamund Pike playing Marie Sklodowska-Curie - Science is changing and the very people who are running science are the people who believe the world was flat, I'm going to prove them wrong.

Adam - Marie Sklodowska-Curie and her husband Pierre Curie are true pioneers in science. Marie remains the only person to have Nobel prizes in different sciences, physics and chemistry for her work on radioactivity and for her discovery of polonium and radium. And she is the subject of an upcoming biography called Radioactive starring Rosamund Pike. And I was lucky enough to get to sit down with director Marjane Satrapi and actor, Sam Riley who plays Pierre to chat about a movie so grounded in science.

Marjane  - The problem, you know, with showing a scientific work in cinema it’s not that the science is not exciting, the science itself is very exciting. But that is like the procedure of creation. Like when I create, you know, if you feel me creating, basically my mouth is half open and I'm, you know, looking into some kind of empty space. So it's nothing really attractive to see, to tell you the truth. And science is a repetitive work most of the time. So you know, to show that I'm making it exciting, it's not this easy. And then you cannot make a movie about two scientists and never talk about science because this is a fraud. So you have to talk about the science. So then you try to be as accurate as possible, you know, show, you know, an atom of a radioactive element as an atom of a radioactive element would look like. Because unlike art where it's, so my personal interpretation, it's something extremely objective and factual about science that makes it so exciting, because there is no place for your personal interpretation.

Adam - So what do you do when you're an actor and you have to step into the role of someone who's real?

Sam - I've played real people before, but I've always been lucky that they weren't contemporary people. You know, because if I was to play Boris Johnson, people know his mannerisms and his gestures and people would be observing whether I'm doing a good impression of somebody. Yeah. And I think at the end of the day, one is trying to find an emotional truth with something. I remember my son telling me that when I'm explaining the science, it would be good if I look like I know what I'm talking about. But the rest of it is human emotion and human feeling. And when you're working with great people like Rosamund, you know, you look at them in a moment and you believe what they're saying and then you're reacting to that. It's a like a reaction in itself, I suppose. And exactly as Marjane expressed, that's what people, when they're watching it understand and can relate to because it feels honest.

Adam - Now having spent all that time deep in the story, what does Marjane think the legacy of radioactivity is?

Marjane - So there's this whole boom going around radium because suddenly as it can cure cancer, it can cure anything. So you have all these different product from, you know, the face powder to the radioactive cigarette, it's incredible what happened. But then 39 years after the death of Pierre Curie and 11 years after the death of Marie Curie, you have the atom bomb, 1945. And this is what has happened. So, you know, can we make a direct link between the scientists that they were and the atom bomb? Obviously not. Because you know, they discover something. They even didn't invent something like Nobel did, you know? Radioactivity exists in the nature. They discovered something that already existed. Is that for this that you know, we can completely reject the idea of the radioactivity? I don't think so because you know, this is always the question of ignorance towards the knowledge. When you're ignorant, you're so sure about all your beliefs because the less you know, the more you're certain that what you know is right. The more you know, the more you understand it’s complex. And then you start having doubts about everything.

Adam - And what about the Curies? What's their place in history?

Marjane - For me, it's like, wow, they're still today, they're the couple of the future.

Sam - That's absolutely true. Yeah.

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