By Jordi Lippe-McGraw. Photos: Courtesy 20th Century Fox.
Rosamund Pike has spent a busy year shuttling between her home in London and Africa, where she filmed political thriller High Wire Act in Morocco—the latest go-to location for filmmakers (Tangier stands in for Beirut)—and A United Kingdom in Botswana. Based on an epic true love story, Kingdom stars David Oyelowo as Botswana's first president, Seretse Khama, who stirred up some trouble in the 1940s by marrying a white British woman, Ruth Williams (Pike). The country has been referred to as one of the movie's main characters, and it's easy to see why. When Pike came to New York City recently to attend the IWC Schaffhausen’s For the Love of Cinema gala, she took some time to chat with Condé Nast Traveler about her recent travels, family vacations, and her guide to London.
Your career obviously takes you around the world. Do you get inspired by the places you travel?
Yes! I did a film in Morocco and came back thinking all of my bathrooms had to be in Moroccan style. Then you realize there’s a reason that style belongs in a hotter climate and London is utterly different.
How was it filming A United Kingdom in Botswana?
My family came with me to Botswana and they had a completely different experience than on other trips. The hotel ran out of water and we had no water for five days. It was challenging, but it was important to show your children that water is precious. Yes, it comes out of the taps in London, but it’s not to be taken for granted. These lessons are huge and can only be learned on the road. You have to see for yourself when you turn on a tap and no water comes out and you can’t wash your clothes or flush a toilet.
What’s it like traveling with a four-year-old and a two-year-old?
It’s fun. They’re really good travelers and not phased by it. We make these funny homes away from home by bringing toys for the kids, but it’s an adventure. When I was traveling as a teenager and backpacking, I would see parents with their children on the road, taking trains through places like Vietnam, and admired them; I hoped to do that with my children. Now, I’m kind of doing the same.
Aside from not having water for a few days, what was it like filming in Botswana?
It was profound. We were telling the history of a place and the people involved. A sense of place is one of the most vital ingredients you can give a film. We could have filmed elsewhere and told the story, but it wouldn’t have had the essence. A great sort of magic power was invested in the film from Botswana. There’s even a scene where the local women [in Serowe] all sing to me and that was unscripted. It just happened because that was their culture. It was unbelievably moving.
Did you get to explore other parts of Botswana or Africa?
No. It’s not on the schedules of these low-budget films. [A United Kingdom was filmed on $14 million.] No safari. When you’re the lead, you forgo the extracurricular trips.
What’s the best family trip you’ve ever taken?
We took an RV to Joshua Tree for Christmas one year. That was great fun. That was sort of our American road trip in a really obnoxious RV—the one I would loathe with the pop-up tent. We went skiing recently, too, which was a different kind of adventure. We were also living in Morocco last summer, which was pretty exciting.
What stamp in your passport are you the most proud of?
It’s changing. In my old passport, I was proud of my Vietnam and China visa from 2000. It was all quite a long time ago that I had all of the Middle Eastern places like Jordan, Egypt, and Israel. I think the stamps in the passport are less potent now than they used to be. Botswana is a good stamp!
Is there a place you're itching to go?
I’d like to see a volcano erupt! I find fire very exciting.
That’s my dream! You have to go to Hawaii now.
Go to Hawaii right now?
Yes! The lava flow is incredible.
I have to go! I’d also love to see the Northern Lights in, like, Finland, and I’ve never been to South America. I don’t speak Spanish. But I did a film last year with José Padilha, the Brazilian filmmaker. Now I feel like I have a way to go into Brazil.
You get to travel a lot, but your home is London. What are your top must-visit places?
If you’ve never been to London I would go St. James Street. I would go into Dr. Harris, the old chemist shop there that still runs like an old apothecary. Then I would go to John Lobb shoemakers where they still have [casts] of everyone’s feet in their molds. I would also go to [Lock & Co](http://www.lockhatters.co.uk/), who makes some of the most beautiful hats. Then I’d go down to the St. James Hotel and get a martini because they’re the best in London. That’s a very old school street with lots of interest.
I would also go into Hyde Park very early in the morning and walk around it. I love walking right through Kensington Gardens through Hyde Park. I find it just amazing that in the city we have some of the most beautiful green spaces ever. I’d even take a picnic; pick up some food from Whole Foods and just sit and enjoy the sounds and how far away London feels.
Then I would walk all the way along the South Bank. I take the Tube to the Bank Station and walk over the bridge because you then see the river. Then I’d walk past the Royal Festival Hall, past the National Theater, and go all the way down to the Tate Modern. Then you can walk across the Millennium Bridge. I could be a tour guide!
I love my city. It was a very exciting place to grow up and I love the sort of jumble of life that London has—the old and the new and the fact that the bombing has made modernity rise up alongside old beauty. I love it.
This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler.
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