“Entrepreneurship and acting are very similar. Both require the same kind of energy,” Goop CEO and Academy Award-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow told a crowd during a career retrospective this evening at the Red Sea Film Festival in Saudi Arabia.
Paltrow was among a series of high-profile names, including Halle Berry, Andrew Garfield, and Nic Cage, who were announced as late additions to the festival’s popular ‘In-Conversation’ sidebar in Jeddah. This evening’s talk was brief in length compared to previous Q&A sessions here at Red Sea, with festival co-chief Jomana Alrashid leading the conversation through Paltrow’s early acting career and transition to Goop founder.
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“I just took a chance, and people were really surprised. They didn’t understand what I was doing,” Paltrow said of her transition from Hollywood to wellness brand owner. “I’m really happy I did it because I’ve learned so much through the process of growing this company and working with this team and all of the challenges, whether it be inventory management or Excel. I never thought in a million years I would have to learn how to read a P&L. It’s been so thrilling to build this business and still do what I love to do.”
Back on the topic of acting, Alrashid asked Paltrow, who is perhaps now best known for her central role in the MCU as Iron Man’s companion Pepper Potts but won a leading actress Oscar for John Madden’s Shakespeare in Love, which of her characters and films have stayed with her over the years.
“The Royal Tenenbaums,” she replied. “That film has stayed with people. My daughter’s friends watch it and love it all these years later.”
Paltrow was asked a similar question about the directors she worked with across her career, and she proceeded to cite what she described as a list of some of the best filmmakers she worked with.
“David Fincher. I was so lucky to feature in his first motion picture,” she said. “I was in Paul Thomas Anderson’s first one, which was great. I loved working with Wes. I loved working with Anthony Minghella on The Talented Mr. Ripley. I was very lucky.”
Excluding a run out in Ryan Murphy’s Netflix soap The Politician, Paltrow has largely been on an acting hiatus for most of the last decade. Her last big screen credit was Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, a film she told the audience in Jeddah she’s never actually seen.
“To be honest, I stopped watching them at some point. I’ve never seen End Game. I can’t keep track of who’s what. But I probably should at some point,” she said of the later MCU films.
Breaking down her gradual disillusionment with the MCU, Paltrow said she had been persuaded, after a strong protest, to star in the first Iron Man film, alongside Robert Downey Jr after receiving assurances that despite all of the film’s superhero trappings the production would remain a unique and artistically stimulating experience.
“The first film we did was very different from the rest because the studio didn’t think it was going to be a big hit,” she said. “They hired Jon Favreau to direct who was great. And they hired Robert Downey Jr., who was unhireable at the time. His career was at a very low point.”
Paltrow continued to say that because the film was so low stakes for the studio they approached every day on set like an indie film and the cast was afforded the freedom to experiment.
“We improvised almost every scene of that movie. We would write scenes in the morning in Jon’s trailer. It was like doing an independent film. Then the movie was such a huge hit that then we didn’t make them like that anymore,” she said.
Concluding the talk Paltrow was asked whether she had any plans to return to acting. After a hesitant groan, she responded: “I never say never. I’m really happy and busy doing what I’m doing. But if one of my best said, please come and do this, maybe I would consider.”
Red Sea Film Festival runs through December 9.
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