Alongside Philip Glenister and Alexander Siddig, Friel stars in a new audiobook for the Alien franchise, 'Rivers Of Pain'. Chronologically arriving between the franchise's first two films, she talks about how the film fits in the Alien canon and the experience of recording the terrifying story.
Are you a fan of the Alien franchise?
“Yeah. Sigourney Weaver, Ridley Scott, and I really like the recent one as well. The original is amazing. It was so brave at that time – we had ET saying ‘this is what aliens could be like’ and Alien turning it completely on its head, going, ‘no, they could be huge, big scary motherfuckers’. In the world today I think it’s really arrogant to think that there isn’t something else. I’m fascinated, I’m always looking up what they’ve found on Mars. ‘Is it a spoon? Is it an alien?’ Maybe the world needs something right now to remind us we’re not the only things in this universe.”
Have you discovered any secrets about the Alien universe during this project?
“You understand how Newt [a child in Aliens] got there – we always like a story before the story and now it’s like the story before the story before the story. You discover Newt’s backstory.”
Was it an arduous task to record an audiobook?
“No, it was, like, two days. I’ve probably been the voice of many things you wouldn’t even know about. I was the voice of Marks & Spencers for ages [puts on seductive advert voice] talking about food and making it all sound really nice. I loved that – maybe it’s the frustrated singer in me, I get to use my voice. I’m about to go and start a big new job and it’s all in American so it’s nice to be able to exercise that for a few days beforehand. One of the boxes I long to tick is to be a voice of one of the Pixar or Disney films, I’d love to do that. You don’t have to care about what you look like, it’s all about the voice. It’s quite an artform, if you watch people who’ve been doing it for ages, to have a voice that people like, it’s quite a feat. Most people listen to a recording of themselves on the answering machine and go ‘I hate my voice’ but it is an instrument, something you can work on. I really enjoy it, I sometimes think maybe I should do radio.”
Was it tough to imagine you’re battling imaginary xenomorphs?
“You suspend disbelief. You’re helped out a lot by the transformation that happens in the edit, when they add all the sound effects. The director is a really cool, calm director and he would say ‘could you just ramp it up a bit because there is a big alien at the door trying to get in and you could die’ and you go ‘oh yeah!’.”
Did anybody dress up?
“No-one dressed up!”
Are audiobooks becoming a big deal for actors?
“They’ve been a bigger thing here in England for a while, it’s America that’s catching on. I love reading, it’s when no-one can get me and I can escape into some magical, wonderful world, but I’ve not really listened to entire novels. It might be something I’ll get into because I’ve so enjoyed podcasts and I think ‘I’d probably prefer a story’. They’ve found a new Peter Rabbit story recently – Helen Mirren read it and I did all of the Peter Rabbit series and that was great.”
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Are spin-offs the future?
“I think people run out of ideas. I hope people start to give us new sci-fi. If you look back at what people created all these years ago, a world that exists that isn’t just grey and concrete, can we have new versions of what we think aliens are going to be, and a robotic world, and survival of the fittest and how robots take over everything and what does our TV turn into. I’d really like to see a new future imagined instead of always going backwards. Although I can’t wait to see Rogue One!”
What other projects are you working on?
“I’m just about to start Soderberg’s series Girlfriend Experience, so it’s the first time since Brookside I’ve played a lesbian. There was one series last year and Elvis’ goddaughter Riley Keo (check) was up for the Golden Globe for it. They recast and I start shooting that in three weeks in Toronto, Washington and New York. It’s set in the political world – I’m the head financier of a super pack, so I’ve been studying how the monetary system and politics work in America. It’s so complicated – there’s two Senators to each state and the Attorney General and all of that. And in her private life, I have a call girl. Then I’m executive producing a documentary in Borneo about trying to save the orangutang. We released five into the wild to bring attention to the public the crisis that is palm oil. There are 300 football pitches knocked down every hour. Orangutangs are 97 per cent of the same DNA as a human being – you hold their hands and the markings are the same. Then I go straight into Marcella 2. That was good because everybody got to see it. Even though I’ve benefited from every single job I’ve ever done, if people don’t get to see it you think ‘oh, they think I’m not doing anything’. If you look at my body of work it’s ever changing.”
Any news about a revival of your cult series Pushing Daisies?
“I wish there was! It was so ahead of its time, it’s been ripped off to be honest. Maybe it was too much too soon, but it’d be nice to go back to it because it’s such a switch-off, it’s something so beautiful and happy. How can you be in love and not touch?”
Anna Friel stars alongside Colin Salmon, William Hope, Alexander Siddig and Philip Glenister in Audible’s Alien: River Of Pain. Available to preorder now at Audible.co.uk/riverofpain