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Actress Julia Ormond returns to spotlight

 British actress Julia Ormond gestures as she poses during a photocall to promote her film
British actress Julia Ormond gestures as she poses during a photocall to promote her film 'La Conjura de El Escorial' in Madrid September 4, 2008. REUTERS/Sergio Perez
— image credit: Reuters

By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - You might have missed Julia Ormond among the high-tech wizardry and Brad Pitt buzz in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" last year, but the British actress isn't complaining.

The movie, in which Ormond plays the journal-reading grown daughter of Pitt and a dying Cate Blanchett, was one of a slew of movies last year that marked something of a comeback for the actress who was catapulted to Hollywood fame 15 years ago only to find herself in box-office flops like "Sabrina" and "First Knight" soon after.

After lowering her profile and working on anti-slavery and trafficking causes, fans are seeing more of Ormond, 44, on U.S. television and with the May 1 DVD release of "Benjamin Button".

Ormond, who is currently playing Deputy Inspector Gillian Whitford on "CSI:NY", talked to Reuters about returning to the celebrity spotlight.

Q; What was it like for you doing "Benjamin Button", given the fact you were not part of mainstream plot.

A: "I was isolated. We did two weeks shooting at the end of the film with Cate and director David Fincher. But it was appropriate for the role. When we did the publicity and I was interacting more with the cast, it was like seeing these characters coming out of a book and walking around in real life. It was like a kid's experience of going to Disneyland."

Q: Were you disappointed that the movie did not do so well in the awards seasons despite all the nominations.

A: "No I wasn't. You hope that if people are nominated they are going to win but I don't think anybody I encountered expected to win. The presumption around buzz is that the people who the buzz is about have the same expectations. That is not actually the case! The real thing you take away is the experience of making the film, and then what happens is that for years people will come up and say 'That movie really moved me.' There is lots of long-term payoff for me."

Q: People have talked about "Benjamin Button", and three other 2008 movies ("Che", "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" and "Surveillance") as your comeback. Is that how you see it?

A: "How I see it is that there was a point in time when I felt I needed to step away and then it's three years that I've been working more intensely. I balk at the term comeback. For me, an actor's life is something where you're going to have highs and lows, and you just hope to continue working. I see it as more of a continuation. The way movies work is that you don't have any control over when they are going to come out."

Q:You are now doing "CSI:NY" on television and have signed on as the lead in a CBS medical pilot "Three Rivers". Are you enjoying being back in the public eye?

A:"I am completely and utterly hopeless at the red carpet stuff. I dread it. But I love to work. I think it helps having come through the British system doing a mix of theater, film and TV. I always (seek) work that I think is satisfying, and I have been lucky in my career in being allowed to do that."

Q: You were made a United Nations goodwill ambassador in 2005 with a focus on modern slavery and human trafficking. Why did those issues catch your attention?

A: "I had done a lot of work at the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s in eastern Europe and particularly Russia and it was very obvious what was going on in terms of human trafficking.

"Taking on the UN role has taken me on a journey around the world that has exposed the degree to which enslavement is very much part of our world and is more prolific than ever. It is in agriculture, cotton, fishing and a lot of products that come into our world. It has been quite a horrific revelation for me. I recently founded the nonprofit Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking (www.assetcampaign.org)."

Q: You were born and raised in England and you are now living and working in the United States. Do you consider yourself American?

A: "I am still a UK citizen but I married an American and I live here. I don't think you ever lose your roots. I don't know that I will forever stay in America, but this is where I am now."

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