On the other end of the phone as she wrapping up interviews in New York for Kinsey, Laura Linney didn’t even wait for the first question to be asked before responding unhesitatingly when asked whether she was concerned that co-starring in a film about Kinsey would diminish her own participation. “Absolutely not”, exclaims the Oscar nominee, laughingly.
“I had no qualms about any of it,” she says. Kinsey of course explores the passionate life of sexologist and scientist Alfred Kinsey, whose lengthy studies on male and female sexuality amidst the conservative of 1950s American society, ultimately caused outrage, leading to Kinsey’s final disgrace. The film also focuses on Kinsey’s strange marriage to Clara Bracken McMillen, played by Linney.
The actress says she was attracted to the role, because she liked the idea of “playing someone through, many years of their life, something I’ve never done before. Also, she was unusual, given the period of time in which she lived. I also liked the fact that she had a close marriage with someone so complicated and how she was able to make that marriage work.” Linney says that “it must have been easy” for her to identify with the character to some extent, she admits, laughingly.
“But not right away and that’s not always necessary, but there was a lot about her I admired, but there was also a lot about her that was very different from me. She had, for instance, a very scientific mind, she was pursuing a level of education that most women did not have at that time, she raised three children, and she had a very conventional home life despite the complexities and dynamics that came with Kinsey’s work and their own sexual, personal explorations. I just found her to have such a huge heart, a hugely generous and life-embracing person.”
While Kinsey does deal predominantly with Kinsey’s work as an obsessed sexologist, to some extent, Linney says, the film is partly a love story “certainly as far as their marriage is concerned.” Yet at its core, Kinsey is still a film that explores sexuality, a subject that continues to raise eyebrows in the 21st century. Linney agrees that a film about American sexuality cannot be anything other than contentious. “It’s America’s relationship to sex and sexual behaviour and about one man’s work, when published, changed our culture permanently and then set in motion a sexual revolution that was so huge that people completely forgot how that revolution began. As the years and decades rolled by, most people have heard the name Kinsey, and are familiar with the name ‘The Kinsey Report’, they know very little about it, or how and why it happened.” While Kinsey’s findings occurred at the height of American conservative, Linney admits that the timing or Kinsey is perfect, given today’s political climate. “The pendulum will always swing, as it does in every culture. This country has a puritanical history which sometimes comes forth, and we’re now in a period right now that is judgemental.”
Laura Linney is that rare breed of actress who can effortlessly slip from Hollywood’s mainstream to edgy independent cinema, yet always playing strong, complex women, which some may see as an anomaly in an industry not kind to female characters. Linney laughs when asked how she manages to do that. “I’ve just been incredibly lucky. I don’t really restrict myself to any one medium which has a lot to do with it and I’m willing to do a movie even if I’m paid 5c. It’s really been about being open to new experiences than anything else.”
Linney will also soon be seen in P.S, for which there is already some pre-Oscar talk. In P.S, Linney plays Louise, a late 30’s divorced woman who gets to live her fairy tale when she is reunited with a high school sweetheart who had died previously and reincarnated in a mid 20’s year old. Linney says that in some ways she could identify with this woman, another complex character for the actress, “in so much as she’s a similar age, living in New York City, someone who’s been married, so there are some similarities there.” Linney says that Louise was tough on her. “She was draining to play, but when you do the low budget movies, you don’t have a whole lot of time to worry about that. You really just throw yourself in.”
But that’s Linney, an actress who has often lived for her work. A self-confessed workaholic, Laura does have a downtime and says she tries to use those infrequent periods the best she can. “It’s horrible to refer to life as a hobby,” she begins, laughing. “I spend as much time as I can with family, I read a lot.but it has been an unusually busy few years, and even unhealthily busy, and I’m aware of that. But its also been the best three or four years of work that I’ve had, every single project has been, for me, enormously satisfying so I’m really, really grateful. I’m sure there will be a time where I’ll sit down and everyone will say, ‘What the hell happened to Laura Linney?’ “However, one cannot imagine that happening for some time to come.