Laura Linney, it seems, can do anything she sets her mind to, from working with Robin Williams, to heading off to the Australian wilderness in order to work with Ray Lawrence. Currently shooting an epic miniseries about US president John Adams, the diverse Oscar nominee talked exclusively to Paul Fischer.
Question: Now the character you play in Jindabyne is such a tragic character and I was wondering how hard it is for you to immerse yourself in a character like this.
Linney: Well, you know when they’re well written like this, the script points you in certain directions and it will support the decisions that you make about their emotional history, about why they do the things they do. It’s tremendously exciting. I love her. I think she’s a really, really interesting woman. And, you know, every single character in this movie is haunted either by an event that they’ve lived through or the decisions that they have made and you can see them, it’s so interesting with the residue of events like that and how they stick with all of us. How something that happened ten years ago will affect how you treat someone on the streets, I think is very, is just great fun for an actor to explore.
Question: Was this part of the equation, I mean the fact that Ray Lawrence was involved and the moment he talked to you about this it was a question of – or would you do this anyway because it’s Ray Lawrence? Ray Lawrence is one of those directors that actors really want to work with …
Linney: Yeah absolutely.
Question: So when he approached you was it pretty instinctual to take this one?
Linney: Well actually Anthony Lapaglia was the first person to call me about it. He called me on the phone and he said ‘Look, my friend Ray, who I did Lantana with is doing this movie and you have to do it.’ He’s like ‘You just have to do it. You will have a great time, you’ll love him. Go do it.’ And so I sort of had a feeling before the script arrived that it was going to be pretty good. And once the script did show up, which was a fantastic read, it was a very easy decision to make. And I got to go to Australia where I’ve never been. And it was an amazing thing to go through.
Question: Now geography clearly played an integral thematic role in this film. How beneficial was it for you to be working in that location in terms of getting into your character?
Linney: Well it was just essential, because the landscape there is so powerful and it makes you feel so small. And there’s a sense of danger everywhere. You know the wildlife is a real force to be reckoned with. You know you never sort of know what’s around the corner. And you can flip yourself out if you wanted to, about impending danger or you can just sort of relax and go with it. You’re sort of both horrified and captivated at the same time.
Question: So I guess you must be very grateful to Lapaglia for hooking you up.
Linney: Absolutely. I love him.
Question: I don’t suppose he called you up and said ‘Hey by the way, we’re finally getting this Arthur Miller movie off the ground. Do you want to be in it?’
Linney: (laughs) No, I’ve always known about his movie – about that film so I’m very excited for him.
Question: I mean Ray Lawrence is directing it.
Linney: Oh I didn’t know that. That’s fantastic news. That’s good.
Question: I remember when I talked to you in Toronto, and I said to you, you know you really need to do something lighter. And you said well you do have this movie coming out, The Savages, which is a bit lighter. That was a very funny character to play, so was she as far removed from you as any woman you’ve ever played or do you think the character in Jindabyne is further removed from you?
Linney: You know, they’re all sort of removed from me in a way, which is what makes it so fun to sort of jump into. You know she she’s sort of just in arrested development and so you can act out all those childish impulses that you have but you didn’t know. So it was just enormous fun. I found that she was a fantastic character and The Nanny Diaries also is another, is a woman who’s a mess in a very, very different way. You can see someone who’s overwhelmed and it can either be sort of tragic and it can make you scared or you can watch it and it just makes you laugh and it’s fun to sort of go back and forth between the two.
Question: Was it fun sparring with Phillip Seymour Hoffman throughout Savages?
Linney: Oh I love him. Absolutely. You know we had a ball together. He is a fantastic person to work with and it was very easy. Those are the experiences that you really just love working with actors of that calibre just gives you so much. And then the work is really your work together. It’s not just one person’s work or another person’s work. It’s the work together. Just fantastic.
Question: What was the film you were shooting in South America?
Linney: A James Ivory film called City of your Final Destination. It’s based on a Peter Cameron novel of the same name.
Question: Who do you play?
Linney: I play a woman named Caroline who is the widow of a novelist who wrote one very famous novel and then he committed suicide. And there is a PhD student who’s at the University of Kansas who wants to publish his PhD dissertation on this novel so he has to go down to South America and get permission from the family.
Question: It sounds like another comedy for you then is it?
Linney: Yeah, who knows. It’s a very soulful book. The student comes down and he has to deal with the widow, the guy’s mistress and his brother. All three of them live together.
Question: Now you do switch between kind of mainstream and indie and although obviously you’re drawn towards the indie world. Is it a world that you find more comfort in?
Linney: Yeah, I’m sort of drawn towards just the work that I know will be challenging and I know will be a kind of good experience. And a lot of the things, particularly lately, have been in the indie world because they’re just emotionally more complex. They’re character driven movies most of the time. So that’s where it’s, you know, that’s where my instincts have taken me.
Question: What else are you working on?
Linney: I’m doing an HBO miniseries at the moment on John Adams, for HBO, which is E-normous!
Question: Is that the one that Tom Hanks is producing?
Linney: Yes it is, yep. I’m playing Abigail Adams and Paul Giamatti is playing John Adams and it’s an amazing group of people and I’m not used to working for companies that have money. I’ve got to say it’s really nice.
Question: I’m sure the food’s good then.
Linney: I’m getting spoiled rotten but I’m loving it.
Question: So do you ever actually have time for a life because you are always working? I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone who works as much as you do.
Linney: I’ve been very, very busy. And I actually have been able to have a life. And quite a good one. So life is – I cannot complain.
Question: When’s the Adam miniseries airing?
Linney: It’ll be during the election so it’s a year and a half away. It’s huge. It’s seven hours. You’re really going to love it.