The following article by John Millar appeared in a November 2001 issue of The Sunday Express newspaper...
Playing Anna Friel's mum in a new movie proved an emotional experience for Trudie Styler...
Trudie Styler, looking svelte and sexy in a Seventies turquoise jump-suit, stretches out on a sofa and pauses for a moment before explaining why the film she's been shooting on the Isle of Man has been her most emotional screen experience.
Trudie, wife of pop superstar Sting, has teamed up with Anna Friel and Dawson's Creek star Michelle Williams in 'Me Without You', a buddy girl movie which follows two best friends from the early Seventies into adulthood. The actress, who is 47 but could easily pass for mid-30s, plays Anna Friel's flighty mother, Linda.
During the course of the action she has to age from 39 to 54 years old and it was this transformation that had such a tearful impact.
When she was made up to appear older, Trudie looked in the mirror and saw her mother - who died of Alzheimer's in 1984 - gazing back at her. "When I'm made up to be older, I just see my mum in me, " she says. "I was expecting it to be horrible, but then I thought, 'Oh, Mum's back'.
But it was emotional. This whole thing has been emotional. I have shed a few tears, which is good."
She goes on to say that the previous day on the film set had been a particular test of her emotions because almost everything with which she came into contact brought memories of Mum surging back.
"Yesterday we went back to 1974 and I was doing a scene in the bedroom with the kids. There was a box of Black Magic chocolates, which were my mother's favourites. . . just to smell those chocolates. Then I did a recce of the bathroom and there was Tweed talcum powder - that smell also made me think of Mum. Smell is a very strong sense for me. It conjured up my mum completely."
Trudie has talked before of how her mother - a school dinner lady - was devoted to her. "I loved her more than anyone in the world, " she says.
The pain of losing her was made even more acute last year when her father, who worked in a lampshade factory, died of fibrosis of the lung.
"He worked in dust all his life.
His lungs had just given up. So now I don't have either. There is a big difference between losing one parent and losing both. You really become a grown-up. I watched my dad die and it was the most natural thing in the world. I said to myself, 'I must remember this moment and remind myself of it when I get fearful about death'. As I witnessed Dad go it was as if he left his body and it was the easiest thing." She's happy that memories of her parents are so vivid.
"I think it is important to keep them present, " says Trudie.
The girl from Stoke Prior, Worcestershire, has been a credit to her parents. Some might have been content to live the life of luxury funded by the millions of a pop star husband, lazing around their sumptuous homes in Wiltshire, Tuscany, New York and Malibu. But Trudie has been determined to prove that she's much more than Mrs Sting.
Apart from her CV as an actress and work for charity - she has raised millions for the Rainforest Foundation - she has been building up an impressive catalogue of work as a producer.
She was executive producer on the hit 'Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels' - it was she who played cupid between the film's director, Guy Ritchie, and Madonna - and produced 'Greenfingers', a comedy about gardening convicts that starred Clive Owen and Helen Mirren.
Acting, which she describes as her first love, takes up far less time than producing a movie. One of her recent roles has been in 'Confessions Of An Ugly Step Sister', co-starring Stockard Channing. That was filmed in Luxembourg and only required nine days of her time. 'Making Me Without You' was a 16-day job for Trudie.
"This is not as onerous as producing a film and nursing it along like a baby every day, " she says. "My love is for acting. Producing is a worry and a hassle and keeps me awake at night.
I sleep so good when I am putting on my costume and wig and becoming Linda. I love being with actors, they are such a jolly lot. At the end, it is thankless being a producer. If the movie is successful it is courtesy of the director and if it's a flop it's your fault."
She has had bitter experience of seeing projects fail. About five years ago 'The Grotesque', in which Trudie appeared with Sting and Alan Bates, flopped. "I think if we did The Grotesque now, we would have a better shot with it. Independent films are having a better time now."
She also came up against criticism for having co-starred with her husband in that film. "They were very intolerant. They beat us up about that, " she says. "For me, it was a big learning curve. I could give you a list of things I wouldn't do again, like working in Norfolk in February.
Making an independent movie is still hard, but four years ago it was harder."
Despite all that, Trudie states that something wonderful came out of the experience of making 'The Grotesque'. "The best aspect of 'The Grotesque' is that I got pregnant, " she says. "Giacomo was a wrap party baby and now he's coming up for five."
While she has learned about film-making in Britain the hard way, Trudie has also proved capable of creating more serious film work, like the documentary 'Moving The Mountain', about the Tiananmen Square massacre. That took her five years to complete.
Trudie has spent almost as long on 'The Sweatbox', which follows the convoluted and sometimes controversial path of the Walt Disney cartoon, 'The Emperor's New Groove'. "They asked me because Sting was very involved with the music and I had this great access to him, and that's what you need as a documentary-maker, " she says. She adds that the nature of the documentary changed dramatically during the course of filming.
"When I was first approached, I had the idea that I would be making quite a dry documentary and there wouldn't be much juice going."
Which just goes to show how wrong you can be. Initially the film was titled 'The Kingdom Of The Sun' and was a far more serious story about the Incas. Instead, it became a comedy that involved a prince who was turned into a llama.
"It has been through the most extraordinary changes, " says Trudie.
"The original director was let go, the storyline changed, six of Sting's songs won't be heard. It hasn't been without its tears - songs that had been lovingly created have now not been used."
All this talk of music brings us back to 'Me Without You' and the different elements of nostalgia that Trudie has experienced during filming.
She says that pop songs are a strong conduit to memories of her past.
"Which boyfriend were you snogging during a certain song - oh yes, I do remember, " she says with a smile.
She describes Linda, her character in 'Me Without You', as "a survivor with a bit of a lust for life" and says she was attracted to the part because it meant playing a woman through a couple of decades.
"That's a fantastic challenge and great fun because the costumes and the looks are eras that I remember very well, " she says. "I wear a mini with lots of fringes and, of course, a halter-neck. She always has a cleavage and fake tan. The costumes are fantastic, because Linda is a head-turner in the early days and as she gets older she still wants that effect. So she is dressed over-the-top."
There is a tinkle of laughter when I wonder whether these outfits in 'Me Without You' in any way reflect the fashions Trudie dabbled with in her youth. "Luminous green platform boots up to here, " she says, indicating her thigh. "And very, very short skirts. It's a wonder we weren't arrested."
'Me Without You' is now on release.
© The Sunday Express