Presenting Kelly Reilly

By Donna Freydkin, USA TODAY, 2nd January 2006

NEW YORK — Though her latest role requires her to keep still, the feisty and funny Kelly Reilly prefers action.

The Irish actress plays one of several gorgeous but immobile starlets who appeared nude in a ’30s London theater revue in Mrs. Henderson Presents, now in theaters. The showgirls weren’t allowed to move so the show could get past the censors.

However, during a brief stop-over in Manhattan, all Reilly can think about is the three-week solo jaunt she just completed through Arizona. She rode horses, worked on a cattle ranch and drove to the Grand Canyon.

The beaten-up brown hiking boots and cowboy hat piled on the hotel room floor are reminders of what she calls a need “to take myself off. After all the press and the publicity stuff, it is quite healthy to be away on your own and get some space. I’d get up at 6 in the morning and go get the horses and work with the wranglers.”

Now, Reilly, 28, with her delicately freckled face and red hair piled on her head, is trying to get her “work brain on again.” She certainly has had a busy year, sharing a bed with Johnny Depp in The Libertine, showing her haughty and manipulative side as Caroline Bingley in Pride & Prejudice and now baring her body in Mrs. Henderson.

“I’m not a great exhibitionist,” says Reilly, who is single and lives in London.

To stay true to the World War II era, director Stephen Frears discouraged his actresses from hitting the gym “and turning up with bodies like Elle Macpherson,” Reilly says. “I thought it was important that we weren’t made to not look real.”

Reilly says her parents are “very proud. They came to the (London Mrs. Henderson) premiere with me.” Reilly was there, sitting with her father — along with 600 people, who would see her nude. Afterward, she says, “I took him to the bar and gave him a stiff drink. He was absolutely fine.”

Reilly, a stage veteran, is performing in the play Piano/Forte in September to mark the 50th anniversary of London’s Royal Court Theatre and entertaining several movie offers. Her off-screen role model happens to be her Mrs. Henderson co-star, the legendary Judi Dench, who plays the titular theater owner in the film.

“At press junkets, I’m sitting there going ‘I’m tired,’ but twice as many people want to talk to her. She’d give everybody her undivided attention,” Reilly says. “She was so open and fun and kind and warm, sort of magical. She has these naughty eyes.”

One of Reilly’s remaining ambitions? To star on Broadway.

“When it comes to my work, I’m fearless,” she says. “I go with my gut.”

(From USAToday)