“It’s difficult because if I refuse to do any magazines at all, my work, I think, would suffer in a very immediate way. But when I appear in these magazines, I know I’m being ‘trimmed’, I’m being airbrushed a lot. And I know that people are accepting those images and are under the impression that that is really how my body looks, that I’m hairless and sexless and weigh 90lbs. That really worries me. And I really don’t know what to do, except talk about it.”
An acknowledgement of style over substance - as in the literal substance of female flesh - would, she thinks, be a start. “Look at Tilda Swinton. I think she’s incredibly beautiful, immensely stylish. And she also doesn’t give a damn. Which is the best possible thing.”
She may be right, but it would be a shame if Garai were to stop caring. Because she does it so well. Not just in an ‘isn’t it awful?’ way but in a considered, career-defining way. The lure of Hollywood, she insists, is considerably lessened by the attitudes of US film executives.
“I was just reading the other day that Jason Segel was made to lose 30lbs to play his part in The Five-Year Engagement. Because the executives said it just wasn’t credible that anyone would want to have sex with him the way he was. I think that is such a profound misreading of what people want out of sex and relationships. And I want no part of that. I wouldn’t want to sit in a room and have someone say to my face, ‘No one is going to want to have sex with you.’ No job is worth that.”
Meanwhile, there are the “piles and piles” of books waiting to be read in her west-London flat and a Guinness cake recipe she’s keen to perfect. There’s her new movie, Last Days on Mars, co-starring Liev Schreiber, to be shot in Jordan, in a spacesuit. “I know the director’s going to be saying ‘How do you want to play this scene?’ And I’ll be saying, ‘Well, really, I’m just going to try not to faint’.”
There’s also the drama, Scrubber, which Garai has written and directed and which was nominated in the international short film category at the Edinburgh film festival in June.
“Obviously,” she says, with no shred of irony, “I’m coming to writing and directing a bit late, but I’ve really loved doing it.”
So many passions, so little time. If Hollywood sharpens up its act, she may give it a whirl. If not, she won’t be sitting by the phone. But the question isn’t ‘Will Romola Garai be big in movies?’ More to the point, will the movies be big enough for Garai?
The Hour returns to BBC2 tonight at 9:00pm