For Rachel Weisz, playing the mother of a murdered girl in Peter Jackson's film of The Lovely Bones meant a mix of pain and pleasure.
"Initially my character, Abigail, is very strong, but she falls apart at the seams when her daughter is murdered. She's not heroic, she's like an antihero, and she is trying to figure her life out," says Weisz, who won a best supporting actress Oscar and Golden Globe for The Constant Gardener in 2006.
"It was a very intense place to go to in your imagination. But as an actor you develop a skill of being able to go somewhere and to come back again. It hurts during action and cut, but afterwards it's not real any more."
The Lovely Bones began filming in Philadelphia and was Jackson's first movie shot in America - though some of the filming, including the stunning landscape scenes of the Inbetween place Susie finds herself in, was shot in New Zealand.
"I was only there for a few weeks but I had a great, great, great time," Weisz says, suddenly springing to life.
"It's such a beautiful country. The foooood!" she squeals, "I've never eaten such good food in my life! The fish, I've never eaten anything like it! I saw nature a little bit when I went to stay in Pete and Fran's country house. It's just ridiculously beautiful."
Getting to know her director personally helped her understand his way of working even more.
"I think Peter is the man for the job to describe something visual on film. He has such a vivid imagination."
Of course it must have been disconcerting to have Ryan Gosling, 28, who was playing her husband, be replaced by Mark Wahlberg, 38, after a week of shooting.
"It was definitely unusual," she says, "but Mark made a really good husband and father to my children in the film. It probably helped that in real life he is a doting parent like me."
The fact that Weisz has an American accent in the film makes her seem less like the well-spoken, Cambridge-educated Brit we have come to know. Though she has lived in New York since she met her partner, director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler), she now says: "I have a kind of American version of me."
She loves the culture there and is able to live a normal life. "I think New Yorkers are either too busy or too cool to bother with celebrities. I'm not sure why, but I don't get hassled."
This year she returned to London to play Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse and delivered what has been described as "a soul-baring three-hour performance".
"It had been eight years since I'd done a play and I was nervous, but it was great to be back on stage again," she says.
In films, Weisz has developed a reputation for working with cinematic auteurs. She doesn't mind working with first-timers and will soon appear in the directing debut of actress Madeleine Stowe, titled Unbound Captives.
Again, Weisz plays a mother, who has her two children abducted by Comanche indians - one of them played by Robert Pattinson.
Millions of teenage girls may be envious, but Weisz only has eyes for Hugh Jackman, her co-star in the film. She says Jackman will be the first actor she will co-star with twice in two different roles - she was the librarian to Brendan Fraser's archaeological explorer in the first two Mummy films.
The Australian hunk previously appeared with her in Aronofsky's esoteric odyssey, The Fountain.
"I love Hugh, and I'm not using that word lightly," she says. "He's a real human being. We have a lot in common - we don't believe the hype."
Who: Rachel Weisz
Born: March 7, 1970, London, England
Key Films: Chain Reaction (1996), Stealing Beauty (1996), The Land Girls (1998), The Mummy (1999), Sunshine (1999), Beautiful Creatures (2000), The Mummy Returns (2001), Enemy at the Gates (2001), About a Boy (2002), Constantine (2005), The Constant Gardener (2005), The Fountain (2006), Fred Claus (2007), Definitely, Maybe (2008).
Latest: The Lovely Bones has its New Zealand premiere on Monday and opens on Boxing Day.