a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Heath Ledger’

Jake Gyllenhaal Just Grows and Grows!

Nightcrawler 2

With his new #1 box-office smash “Nightcrawler”, Jake Gyllenhaal shows anew that he is willing to take on the riskiest of roles and stretch his range, and the public’s perception of him as a screen actor and a leading man. Never comfortable with simply the role of a movie star/action hero, “Nightcrawler” shows us that he is becoming a very fine actor indeed. An actor’s actor.One of the best. His name stands for quality.

Playing the slimiest of slime-balls, I don’t think we’ve ever seen so compelling a portrait of a bottom-feeder. His Louis Bloom is an ambulance chaser at best and simply a common thief, when we first see him in “Nightcrawler”. At the beginning of the film, which I saw at TIFF, he is seen stealing copper cables. He moves up the food chain from there, when he witnesses a car crash and sees TV video crews mercilessly filming the dying, bloody victims. He’s got a video camera, too, and thinks, “I can do that!” and does.

And of course, as he pursues his new calling, things just get worse and worse. Rather his deeds do. And the chilling thing about “Nightcrawler” is that it is more or less absolutely true. This is how those tabloid news shows get their scammy footage. So this great LA noir just reverberates with TRUTH. Sadly.

And Gyllenhaal’s massive weight loss for this character, mirrors the hungriness Bloom feels inside and out. And with the box-office bonanza this is turning out to be, the Academy can’t ignore Gyllenhaal’s frightening apt portrayal. People die and he keeps filming them. And selling his shocking, bloody footage to Renee Russo, who has never been better than she is here. As a local TV news manager, she is buying what Gyllenhaal is selling. She could reap her first Oscar nomination for this, too. In Supporting Actress, always a category, that this year more than ever is wide open.

In his last several films, Gyllenhaal has shown an impressive range and daring. Even in the sci-fi mis-fire, “Enemy”, he took on TWO roles. An academic and an actor in Toronto. In “End of Watch”, he was a good cop whose good values and heart shown through every violent scene.

“Nightcrawler” is just as violent as “End of Watch”, but is even more horrific because it shows, accurately, the ruthlessness of those profiting by exploiting that violence.

Jake the Great is turning out to be one of the best actors of his generation. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his unforgettable, doomed cowboy in “Brokeback Mountain.” and his 360 degree turn into the despicable “Nightcrawler” could very well bring him back into the Awards race again. I certainly hope it does. He deserves to be there.

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Phillip Seymour Hoffman & I

Phillip Seymour Hoffman & I

It’s soooo difficult to write about the tragic passing of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, because I looked so much like him & was mistaken for him almost constantly.

Especially when he played Truman Capote and won an Oscar for it. Then didn’t acknowledge the real person whom he was portraying so memorably. I got very angry about that more than once, especially at the National Board of Review awards that year when he didn’t even mention Truman or that he was playing a gay character. Nothing. Zip. In that acceptance speech that night or when he went on to win every award in the world that year for “Capote” culminating in the Oscar.And it was the year of “Brokeback Mountain”, too. The Year of the Queer, if ever there was one.

Contrast these acceptance speeches to what Jared Leto, who keeps winning and winning for “Dallas Buyer’s Club” has been criticized for, which is leaving out People with AIDS He’s corrected that.

Phillip never did. He didn’t think it was appropriate, at that time. 2006 which seems like 100 years ago in gay life.

Phillip saw the resemblance between us, too. I remember sitting in the front row of a press conference at the NYFF, can’t remember the name of the film, but he played yet ANOTHER gay part, this time a drag queen named Rusty. And he REALLY looked like me, when I lived in drag in the early ’70s. And he kept turning to look at me in the audience and was clearly disconcerted by the resemblance as I always was.

But for a straight man with a family and children, he played many, many gay parts both before and after Capote. He looked so much like me in some films especially “Boogie Nights” where he heartbreakingly played a young, long-haired P.A. who had a crush on Dirk Diggler. That part was an enactment of me in the ’70s, friends commented to me. It was unnerving. But of course I appreciated the intelligence and the power that went into that characterization.

We came officially face-to-face in the interview for “When the Devil Knows You’re Dead” which I posted in the previous piece here on my blog. And he was as uneasy about the striking resemblance as I was. It was uncanny sometimes. He was a blond. I was a redhead. But my god, it was an unusual similarity. Too close for comfort, and as you can see in the interview, Phillip is strangely scratching himself throughout. It was weird.

I met him many, many times at press events and junkets after this interview, and he always acknowledged me with respect. He played soooo many gay characters, and there I was the living embodiment of the roles he always claimed were “very difficult” for him. Esp. Capote.

He was one of the greatest actors of our time, or any time. He made 50 movies. He was excellent in all of them.

From the Tod Solendz film “Happiness” where he played a creepy telephone stalker that broke him open to a wider recognition. To his last final great role of Willy Loman on stage live in “Death of a Salesman.” It was a great privilege to have seen him onstage in that iconic role. He was clearly too young for it, but there was a desperation about a forty-something man playing someone who was supposed to be twenty years older. And at the end of his life. And as the title says, it was about “Death”. Willy Loman kills himself at the end of the play. It was oddly prescient like Phillip KNEW something.

There was a tremendous rough, urgency to his performance. Like he had to do that part, and he had to do it NOW. Like he knew there was no time left. And it turned out, there wasn’t.

He had played the part in High School, too, according to published reports. He was kind of obsessed with it. Willy Loman is certainly one of the great roles in one of the great plays of American Theater.

And for the record, in all my encounters with him over the many years I was covering him as a critic and entertainment journalist, I never saw or even THOUGHT of anything drug related in reference to him.

He won the Oscar the year of “Brokeback Mountain” when many said that Heath Ledger should’ve won it. And then Heath died in an equally tragic way in similar circumstances.

I wonder if that bothered him. It bothered me.

And then he went on to play even MORE gay roles…Guilt over “Brokeback” and Heath not winning? Who can say?

But the point is he played them all brilliantly, and with a range that we have almost never seen in an American actor.

His agent, whom I mention in the interview, Sarah Fargo “found” Phillip right as he was graduating from NYU UNDERgrad it should be noted. And not their illustrious Graduate Acting Program.

And it was Sarah, who became one of his life-long friends, who jump- started his career by getting him seen and into roles and projects where someone who looked like him would normally not have been seen and seen so quickly. He was a character actor, not a leading man, and I think he always saw himself that way.

He always gave himself 200% to any part. And EVERY part. How different was he in “Boogie Nights” and as the baseball manager in the baseball movie, whose name escapes me at the moment? ETA: “Moneyball”

Or in the indelible preppy monster/alcoholic Freddie that Matt Damon dispatches so abruptly in “The Talented Mr. Ripley”? Or the creepazoid/charismatic cult leader Lancaster Dodd in “The Master”?

And now that I think back on it the role that he was only moderately effective in was perhaps the role that was closest to him in real life as events have shown,the alcoholic Jamie Tyrone, in the incredible revival of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Starring Vanessa Redgrave as the tornado/virago of a drug-addicted mother who terrorized her hapless family, she blew on to the stage with hurricane force and pretty much stayed at that unbelievable level of performance throughout the plays three acts.

She was like a demon unleashed and she frightened the wits out of her family and CHANGED THE BLOCKING every night, though not the lines, which I could hear with crystal-clear clarity even sitting in the rear of the orchestra. Phillip shrank from her as his character was supposed to. And she throttled the living daylights out of Robert Sean Leonard every night, but you never knew WHEN she was going to attack him. I saw it twice. I’ll never forget it.

Phillip’s untimely death is such a shock and an incalculable loss to American film and American theater. Maybe leaving us soon so was his way of saying “I’m done now. I’ve nothing more to give. I’ve said what I had to say.” And now he’s gone. In the most lurid way possible. With a needle in his arm.

That small detail will haunt all of us who knew him, and the many millions who knew him through his work. But to know him that way or any way was to love him.

His great, hungry spirit will always be with us. Our hearts go out to his surviving family and friends.

That he will be missed is an underestimate.

The Ghost of Heath Ledger Stalks the Earth

Poor late Heath Ledger. He challenged the gods, if there are any, with his iconic performances in “The Dark Knight” and in “Brokeback Mountain.” We all hoped he could rest in peace, but it seems that is not to be.

The horror that unfolded Thursday night in Colorado, just miles from where the Columbine tragic shooting occurred, was ignited by Heath’s indelible, but deeply disturbing performance of the Joker in TDK. He then died himself not long after. I often thought that that performance killed him. It made him go to a place so dark, he couldn’t come back. He went over the edge, and it was all captured on screen. And made millions and it killed him.

He was shockingly young, as were most of the victims of BOTH Colorado shootings. He was too young to die. His great talent wasted. Drugs were to blame. A lethal concoction of either prescription or illegal substances. We’ll never know. There was a 20-30 min. delay in reporting his death, wherein one presumes, the Tribecca Loft he died in was cleaned up of anything incriminating. But in any case, poor Heath was dead.

But he lives on, especially in those two classic film performances. As Ennis del Mar in “Brokeback” and as the Joker in TDK.

And now this homicidal maniac in Aurora ,Colorado told the police calmly when they came to arrest him, waiting for them casually,  in the Parking Lot of the megaplex where he had just killed a dozen people and injured dozens more, some critically, he told them HE was “The Joker.”

He died his hair orange. However, the Joker’s hair was green. And only red when he wore a red wig in drag with a nurse’s uniform.  The Joker set booby traps as the killer seems to have done in his apartment.

A Ph.d graduate student in neuroscience, it seems he booby-trapped his door and left it unlocked, so that presumably anybody could get blown up, too, if they entered it unknowingly. One woman, a neighbor, disturbed by loud “techno-music” blaring exactly at midnight, as the killer was set to begin his rampage at the movie theater, this woman unknowingly nearly did. But something told her not to try to go in, so she didn’t. And thus saved her own life.

And it’s not just an accident that it was THIS movie that he chose to kill at. There have been big blockbusters all summer long. “The Avengers”, “The Amazing Spiderman” etc. etc. but no. He chose this one. He had been planning this for months, starting to buy guns, legally, it seems, in Colorado, in May as he died his hair orange and began to drop out of school.

We don’t know what made his Phi Beta Kappa mind snap. But snap it did. We may never know.

But he seems obsessed, deathly obsessed with the Batman trilogy, and of course, the Joker in particular. The Joker was the embodiment of evil in a way that perhaps was never depicted on screen before.

How horrible, I kept thinking, for Michelle Williams and also Anne Hathaway, who stars in this film TDKR, which is now going to be linked in the publics’ mind forever with this horrible horrible tragedy.

Michelle has a beautiful little daughter by Heath, the now six-year-old Matilda, who looks EXACTLY like her late father. And Anne Hathaway knew Heath, too, from “Brokeback.” It’s soooo ironic that SHE, of all people, should be the star of this movie. I worry about them all, and my heartfelt best wishes and concern goes out to them.

And the families of the victims who are still identifying the dead.

Marshall Fine, the critic, who received death threats just last week when he wrote the first negative review of TDKR to appear on Rotten Tomatoes, had his website crash and caused Rotten Tomatoes to close their comment section on TDKR, the emails were so heinous, threatening violence. And we can be sure that this avalanche of hatred directed at Fine and Rotten Tomatoes did NOT come from one lone gunman in Colorado. What is going on here???

It’s SOMEthing about this movie that his driving all these people over the edge of sanity. Just like it did poor Heath.

What is it?

I wasn’t wildly a fan of TDK, but I LOVED Heath’s  towering, unforgettable, frightening performance. Filmed during the break-up of his relationship with Michelle Williams, his Joker seemed beyond description. Someone who was totally out of his mind. He was a nightmare come to life. Scary is a way that no other Hollywood villain has ever been. And in a movie based on a comic-book yet.

And hence the Colorado gunman’s identification with the Joker. He has doing in his mind only what the Joker did, I’m sure he thought. And in doing so he would become as famous as the Joker, as famous as Heath Ledger. And unfortunately, he has.

And now 12 people are dead and countless lives maimed or destroyed by this one madman’s two-minute shooting spree, which movie goers all thought was part of the movie.

Until they saw people dying in the seats next to them.

I don’t know that I’ll ever see this movie now.

But anyone who does is not going to be able to shrik the horrible reality of what happened in Aurora, Colorado.

They are all haunted by the Ghost of Heath Ledger, who does not lie quiet in his grave.

Batman Opens. I stay home.

“The Dark Knight Rises” is opening to the general public in a matter of minutes. The midnight screenings in IMAX are going for $100 a pop. So says the Wall Street Journal. I could care less. I’m glad that people EN MASSE can still get so excited over a movie. But I’m just shrugging it off…

Anyway, I couldn’t get in if I wanted to this weekend it seems it’s TOTALLY sold out!

I can wait.

I didn’t like “The Dark Knight” particularly either. Though of course, the screen just ignited whenever Heath Ledger’s The Joker appeared, and posthumously, he totally deserved his Oscar. Sad. And Frightening.

The only reason I’d want to see this film is Anne Hathaway’s Cat Woman. Oh, and Marion Cotillard’s Miranda Tate, who seems to be Batman’s wife in this.

Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone raved about the two women’s performances, but as I looked over all the Top Critic reviews I could stand on Rotten Tomatoes, NOBODY mentions Annie or Maid Marion except to say they’re THERE.That’s not good for Oscar.

The only one whose buzzing about them is Sasha. Still, there’s “Les Miz” where that TRAILER! That trailer for “Les Miserables” with Annie singing “I Dreamed a Dream” just hits it out of the ballpark! And if Catwoman isn’t an Oscar-ish role, the doomed Fantine in “Les Miz” IS. So Catwoman and the mega-hype and the mega-millions that “The Dark Knight Rises” is going to inevitably make is not going to hurt her Oscar chances, but I don’t think ANYbody in TDKR is going to get Acting Nods for this one. Just based on how the major critics are reacting.

Rex Reed’s review was so negative I couldn’t bare to read it. And of course, there’s the whole Marshall Fine~Death Threats scandal that forced Rotten Tomatoes to close down its’ comments section on TDKR. I am NOT going to go any further into THAT brouhaha, but you can read what Sasha has to say about it at http://www.awardsdaily.com.

I don’t think Marshall Fine will ever be FIRST with a negative review of ANYthing ever again. Oscar Grouch Jeffrey Wells loved it sez Sasha, but again, he, even if it loves something, he spoils it rotten in his reviews, so I guess since I AM going to see this film eventually, I’m just staying away from what everyone has to say as much as one possibly can in this Bat Blitz were going through. Just read the headline captions of the Top Critics at http://www.rottentomatoes.com That tells you everything you need to know, without spoilage.

Me? I wasn’t even INVITED to see it! I did see TDK in IMAX at at press screening, and thought it was too dark and TOOOOO long. But there was wonderful Heath giving a performance for the centuries…

It was like he was having a nervous breakdown and Christopher Nolan(the director) just recorded it. It’s like the camera was pressing him to madness. Or was he just going mad anyway? Poor Heath…

I guess the question is will the Academy having snubbed TDK, which caused SUCH a furor back in the day, will they nominate it NOW? Now that it’s the last one, and it’s finished? Maybe….

They’re NOT nominating it several years back for Best Picture is what caused the Academy to change that category to Ten. Then change it again.

Will they try to make amends now? Well, the overall favorable reviews indicate they just might.

Me? I’ll wait til the stampede of the crowds is over.

This also begs the question ~ Will the Academy FINALLY nominate Christopher Nolan? He’s been snubbed, notoriously, over and over and over again. With only five Best Director slots, will he get in or remain in the Comic Book Ghetto for several years more? Until he does something AWAY from Batman? The fact that the actors and actresses are not being praised(except for Sasha) then I don’t think it will win Best Picture, no matter if it surpasses “The Avengers” which was just total crap-ola.

And “Spiderman”? It’s like it didn’t even open…

And the weather in NYC was back in the heavenly 70s for a most welcome change! It’s been over 100 one way or the other for what seems like a month!

“She’s Never Been Happier!” Michelle Williams interview from Jan.2006 for “Brokeback”

“SHE’S NEVER BEEN HAPPIER!” Michelle Williams Interview from Jan.2006 by Stephen Holt

Originally published at that time by Www.Oscarwatch.com (Now www.awardsdaily.com)

 Best Supporting Actress Oscar Nominee Michelle Williams talks about “Brokeback Mountain,” Oscar, her man Heath, and her new baby.

 Hollywood’s new golden girl is definitely Michelle Williams, first time Oscar Nominee for Best Supporting Actress for the record-breaking, landmark film “Brokeback Mountain.” With the ballots now in the Academy voting members hands, “Brokeback” is still in the front-runner position with Eight Nominations, including Best Picture, and Best Actor for Michelle’s fiance Heath Ledger. Heath is also the father of their baby girl Matilda Rose.

Heath and Michelle are also making Oscar history by being the first real life couple nominated for playing opposite each other in the same film and the same year. And their acclaimed roles could also make history if they both  each go home with their own little golden guy on March 5th.

Michelle exudes a warmth and a delightfully brainy, but bubbly glow as she talks with great affection of her man, her  baby and her love for her Oscar nominated character, Alma, the betrayed wife of Ledger’s iconic gay cowboy Ennis Del Mar. If Ledger’s portrayal of Ennis is a man who is so repressed he is like a clenched fist, Michelle’s Alma is all heart.

Michelle is a marvelous a conversationalist as she is an actress, and her devotion to her art and her craft, is second only to her love of great writing.

Since she burst upon the world at age 15 on the WBs “Dawson’s Creek” ten years ago, she’s proven herself time and time again to be an intelligent actress with “chops” and not just another pretty teen face. After six long years on “Dawson’s,” she used her TV  money wisely, allowing her the freedom to pursue quirky, unusual roles in indie films, like the love-scarred librarian in “The Station Agent” where she got to share a SAG ensemble award with its great cast including Patricia Clarkson and Peter Dinklage.

She also appearing notably on stage in New York, with Off Broadway’s red hot New Group, in Mike Leigh’s “anti-farce” “Smelling a Rat” under the direction of Scott Elliot.

I met Michelle in the electric atmosphere of the New York TV press junket for “Brokeback Mountain” in early December before the film opened. I had seen it in Toronto at the Film Festival, where the reaction was ecstatic. Grown men staggering out of the theatre and into the street in tears. My friend Rex Reed, immediately proclaimed it “a masterpiece.”

Then it wasn’t screened  widely again until after Thanksgiving. And when I first met Michelle and Heath and Anne Hathaway, all hell had not broken lose yet. But I knew it was going to.

I interviewed her and told her that she and Heath and “Brokeback” were going to have a very active awards season, to say the very least. And most astonishingly of all, she remembered that I was the first one to tell her this.

It’s now a snowy afternoon in February in New York and Michelle is calling me on the phone from sunny L.A. Am I the happiest guy in the world today? Michelle’s joy is infectious. She’s an utter delight and a winner in every sense of the word.

MW: Hi, it’s Michelle Williams.

SH: Hi, Michelle! How are you?

MW: I am fine thank you. How are you doing?

SH: Oh! So excited to be talking to you!

MW: Thanks so much. Likewise.

SH: Do you remember me?

MW: I do. Of course. I remember.From the junket.( You can see that original TV interview from the “Brokeback Mountain” junket at my YouTube Channel. www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow)

SH: And you said to say “Hello” to everyone at the New Group(the New York theater company where she appeared in Mike Leigh’s “Smelling a Rat”) for you, and I did.

MW: Oh, thank you.

SH: My friend, Jill Clayburgh is in  Scott’s ( New Group Artistic Director Scott Elliot)- He’s doing “Barefoot in the Park” with her right now on Broadway, and she  said that he talks about you all the time. And how much he likes you.

MW: You’re kidding. That’s so nice.

SH: And everybody was thrilled that here, in this big moment of yours, you were thinking of them.

MW: Oh, that’s so sweet! Hey, you know, you were right. When we met, you knew exactly how well the movie was going to do. You predicted all of this.

SH: I know. I know. I’ve been riding the “Brokeback” bubble, too. (Laughs) I was the one who said it was “the Gay ‘Gone With the Wind’.”(MICHELLE laughs) and then people starting writing about me and saying I was “a Toronto Wag” and I had to call them up and correct them and that yes, I really was a film critic and a theatre critic.(Both laugh.) And so, I gotten written up by Anne Thompson in the Hollywood Reporter. So now, I’m writing for Oscarwatch.com because of “Brokeback”!

MW: You’re kidding? Really?

SH: Yeah, that’s who I’m writing for now. In addition to doing my TV show.

MW: Oh my gosh!

SH: So “Brokeback” made me a star, too! (Both laugh.) Anyway, so, honey, congratulations!

MW: Thank you very much.

SH: When I met you, Matilda was five weeks old.

MW: I know. (Laughs)

SH: How old is she now?

MW: She’s now three months and one week.

SH: How’s she’s doing?

MW: She’s just fabulous. She really is.

SH: Does she look more like you or Heath?

MW: Personally, I think she looks the most like Heath, though people say that she’s a pretty balanced combination of the two of us.

SH: Well, that’s a very good-looking baby then.

MW: But I really see her Daddy in her.

SH: You must be so happy in the middle of all this. I mean, to get an Oscar nomination?

MW: Yeah.

SH: And all of this? And you won the Broadcast Film Critics Award!

MW: I know, I’ve never been happier. I’ve never imagined that my life would turn out this way. I really didn’t.

SH: You know, because it’s Oscarwatch, I have to mention that I don’t think any other couple has ever been nominated before.

MW: Yeah, somebody asked me about that recently, if I knew if that was any kind of fact, or record. I can’t think of anybody.

SH: I don’t think so either. Maybe people got nominated in the different years. But never for playing opposite each other.

MW:  Never in the same year, and for the same movie.

SH: So you’ve made history, too.

MW: I know. The whole thing is pretty serendipitous.

SH: Well, it’s a great love story and the movie’s a great love story, so—

MW: So it’s only fitting.

SH: Right. Right. So the day I saw you,  it was the following  Monday and Tuesday when all the critics  awards came out, so your whole life must have changed since I last saw you? The film hadn’t really opened I think even when I interviewed you?

MW: No. It hadn’t. Only select groups of people had seen it thus far.

SH: I saw it in Toronto where everyone was going beserk. (MICHELLE laughs) But how has, my god, all this recognition, and all the attention and the nomination and all changed things?

MW: Yeah, I mean, it doesn’t change our immediate, personal, mundane, day-to-day life outside of our careers. Nothing’s different. We’re the still same people, and we feel the same way about ourselves, and each other, but   career-wise,  y’know, all of a sudden! All of the offers!

That’s the most exciting thing to watch happen after being nominated for awards like these is that your work opportunities increase, and they just get better. You get more opportunities to do the thing that you love, and that’s really the greatest reward.

SH: I’m from the Bronx myself, so I just think it’s great that you and Heath have chosen to live in Brooklyn. I think that’s wonderful.

MW: We just adore it. And so many people say that, and “How can you stand to live in a boro?”and think that —

SH: There are very beautiful spots in Brooklyn.

MW: Oh god! We think so! I don’t feel like we live in a substandard environment.

SH: (laughs) And I’m sure you don’t.

MW: People are so surprised that we wouldn’t want to live in the center of Manhattan.

SH: Well, you’re from Montana, and there’s a kind of balance in Brooklyn, between the city and — I mean, you want to see the sky, I’m sure.

MW: Yeah, I realized I was homesick for space. Homesick for sky. I was so claustrophobic in Manhattan, so caught up in Manhattan. I had no conception of Brooklyn. And it blew my mind, when I took my first subway ride, and I walked out, and there was air!

SH: We should talk about “Brokeback”. I went back to see the film again, and I just read the screenplay. I couldn’t put it down. I have to tell you this, Michelle. I went to see it at 10 o’clock on a Friday night in Times Square, totally straight kids, teenagers, who are usually very noisy. They were totally quieted by the movie. I couldn’t believe it! And this was a straight audience, to say the least. I was floored! It was reaching people I never dreamed it could possibly reach. And anyway, when I saw it again, I was really looking at your performance, because I knew I was going to be talking to you, and there wasn’t one false moment with Alma.

MW: Thank you.

SH: Of course, the scene where you look out the door and you what you see. It’s just unforgettable. And you see Jack and Ennis kissing. And then, and I didn’t notice this the first time, you made this incredible choice, you ran to your purse.

(MICHELLE laughs)

SH: And you started going through your purse!

MW: You’re the first person to ask me about that! I know!

SH: That was your choice, wasn’t it?

MW: Yeah, yeah, it was.

SH: It was brilliant! It was like “What is she looking for? Where is she going? How can she –?” Like there was no way out. It was so right for the character and was a really brilliant touch, I thought.

MW: Thank you so much. I’m really pleased that you saw that.

SH: Had you decided to do that? Was that planned? Or did it just happen?

MW: It was somewhere in the back of my head. I never said it out loud, or talked to Ang about wanting to do it, or what he thought of it. I just had kind of a vague wisp of an idea about it. Just about how to physicalize a moment of total vertigo. I think that her feet really weren’t on the floor anymore. I’ve had moments like those, where you just start reaching for something that’s ordinary, something that you do everyday, something to ground you.  And somewhere to put –– She couldn’t – Y’know, how was she going to really look at her husband? She needed something that was her own. I think there was safety and I think there was history and there was an identity in her purse. It was like reaching for a talisman.

SH: And then she closes it(her handbag), and puts it on! Like it’s her only defense against what she’s just seen.

MW:  Like she has something. Like she has something in the world that’s her own.

SH: My mother would’ve done something like that.

(MICHELLE laughs)

MW: So would’ve mine.

SH: It was such a feminine thing. And just so right. And, y’know, we’re all the audience –I mean, I’m gay, obviously- but I mean, I was like rooting for you at that point! You know? You totally made everyone see Jack and Ennis from HER point of view. Because, you are the audience. You’re the character the audience goes through this with, I feel. Most of the straight audience can understand you totally. If they don’t understand the men, they’ll totally understand you. Alma, I should say, the character.

MW: Right. Right.

SH: And then, there was the scene where they come back, I think. And there’s a cut .There’s a shot of you, and your face looked disfigured with crying. Like you had been crying for days, or hours. It was not she’d just recently cried, it was that she couldn’t stop. It was like your features had moved to different places on your face.

MW: I think that kind of transmutation is entirely possible. I’ve seen that happen myself. I’ve seen that happen in friends. I think that you can feel things internally that manifest themselves externally. And I think that she had been crying non-stop since he left. I mean, wailing and throwing herself at the furniture and all that stuff. I think you’re absolutely right. I think she is disfigured by the end of the film.

SH: Well, she doesn’t look like she does when we first see her as the innocent bride.

MW: No.

SH: When you first got the script, when your agent brought it to you, did you just get Alma’s sides(scenes) or did you get the whole script?

MW: I got the whole script, though, at times, it felt like I was just reading Alma’s sides, because my heart went out to her first, completely. I only had eyes for her.

SH: And you immediately wanted to do it?

MW: Oh, immediately.

SH: It’s a beautiful script. I couldn’t put it down. It’s a brilliantly written screenplay.

MW: Isn’t it though?

SH: And Diana (Ossana) and Larry (McMurty,the authors)! What a great job they did! I mean, oh please! Because I knew I was going to be talking to you, I went back and watched “Hud.” Have you seen that?

MW: You know what, not in a long – What’s the actress’s name in that film?

SH: Patricia Neal.

MW: Patricia Neal. That’s right. I was trying to think of her name.

SH: Alma. Her character’s name is also named Alma.

MW: Oh, right! Of course she is!

SH: And she won the Oscar for Best Actress for that film in 1963, the year “Brokeback” is set.  Here at Oscarwatch, we try to make all the Oscar connections.

MW: Oh! Ohhh! Wouldn’t that be sweet?

SH: Well, Larry McMurtry, everytime he does something, all these people win Oscars. Melvyn Douglas got a Supporting Actor Oscar, also for “Hud.” (Based on a Mc Murtry novel, “Horseman, Pass By”). And Patricia Neal won Best Actress for “Hud.” And then in “The Last Picture Show” it was Cloris Leachman, in that wonderful part, and Ben Johnson in 1971, both won for Supporting. (McMurtry co-wrote the screenplay with Peter Bogdanovich, based on his novel of the same name. McMurtry and Ossana are also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. McMurtry has never won an Oscar.) So the characters are very, very, very well written. Of course, it’s very interesting, Alma Del Marr is very much in the story (by Annie Proulx). Did you read the story subsequently?

MW: I did. After I read the script.

SH: Because my god, is that a beautiful story!

MW: Oh, I know. You know, that was a lot of my preparation for the film was reading that collection of short stories. (“Close Range” by Annie Proulx) I started actually reading it about a month before filming began, and a couple of stories into the collection,  I knew I had to put it down, because the world was so intoxicating and so effective that I wanted to save it for while we were shooting, because I felt transported immediately. But as far as the screenplay, you know, it’s astonishing that it was adapted from a short story. You know you feel it’s so flawless that it must have come from a novel. You can underestimate exactly how much work Larry and Diana put into. These characters are so alive and so real to them. They took every word. Every word was precious and necessary.

SH: Well, I think what Annie Proulx did, it’s part of modern times, where everything in our attention span is getting shorter and shorter. Everything is compressed. The short story read to me like a novel. Like she’d taken a novel and just stripped it to the absolutely bare minimum of its elements. Like there was not one spare sentence in it, which is like actually the best kind of writing to adapt to a film, because it’s so efficient. Because the scenes in movies are so brief.

MW: Yeah.

SH: And you have to make this impact.

MW: Right, right. In three pages or something.

SH: And you also had this wonderful thing I noticed when the jars all fell over in the store, you got to see that she had an inner resolve. That she was going to make the best out of whatever it was, and that she had a way of righting things. I mean, correcting things.

MW: She is a survivor.

SH: Yes, yes, that’s why you love her.

MW: You know I think that it changes her irrevocably, and for the worse, what she endured. I don’t think that she was able to understand or appreciate the love that the two men had. I think that it just turned her cold, and it turned her bitter, but she did pull through enough to be able to live in the world, to work in the world, to meet another man, to consent to marrying him, however for convenience sake that might have been. But she continues to exist.

SH: She seemed to have made a better choice with the second husband.

MW: She made a better choice in that he wasn’t in love with somebody else, but I think she made a safer choice. I don’t think– it wasn’t a marriage of great passion, or intensity. I think that she knew that she would never be exposed again in that way. I doubt that she even spoke of what her previous marriage (with Ennis) had been like with Munroe(her second husband). I doubt that she told him what was really going on. I think that it shamed her too greatly. I think it challenged her womanhood too intensely.

SH: Right. And it all boils out in that scene in the kitchen, years later after the marriage, when they’re divorced,  in that incredible scene in the kitchen. I know Anne Hathaway said, “How are you ever going to say that line ‘Jack Nasty’?” But –(MICHELLE laughs) – That’s a famous line now.
MW: I know. Isn’t it? I know. People like to tease me about it.

SH: Well, y’know, something, Michelle, when the characters name go into the vocabulary, and that you’re not talking about “Oh, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal…” You’re talking about Ennis Del Mar, and Alma, and Jack Twist. That means that’s the highest level of cinema greatness is when the characters become part of the world’s vocabulary.

MW: You’re right. You’re right. You’re right. Wow…I’m going to pass that on to Heath.  You’re absolutely right. That certainly happened with Ennis Del Mar.

SH: I know that name, it just resonates.

MW: It’s come to mean so much.

SH: Does that mean “Island in the sea” in Spanish?

MW: I think Ennis means “island” and Alma means…

SH: Alma means “soul.”

MW: Alma means “soul.” That’s right. Thank you.

SH: That’s from-

BOTH: Tennessee Williams! (Both laugh)

SH: That’s from “Smoke and Smoke.” Oh, I know you’ll play all those great roles some day.

MW: I would so love to play a Tennesse Williams play.

SH: Well, this woman was like a Tennessee Williams character, in that she was regional. She was in great conflict, but she had this modern edge. She survived. She got out of it. Blanche (du Bois of “Streetcar Named Desire”) doesn’t survive.

MW: In contrast to a Tennessee Williams character.

Correct. Absolutely correct. Oh, this was fun!

SH: Oh, I’m glad! I could talk to you for the rest of my life! Maybe I’d be lucky enough to do that. Oh! And so for the Oscars, do you know what you’re wearing yet?

MW: I have no idea. (SH laughs) I haven’t seen anything. Thought of anything. Touched anything. I have no idea.

SH: I know for the Golden Globe awards you said that beautiful, purple gown, the dress was too small, that you didn’t try it on soon enough?

MW:  That won’t be happening again.

SH: Let me tell you as an Oscarologist, there’s a history of the Academy of awarding the Supporting Actress Award to the actress who is in the Big Film. Juliette Binoche in “The English Patient”, Cate Blanchette in “The Aviator,” which was nominated for Best Picture. So you have a very good chance of being up on that stage. Do you know what you’re going to say?

MW: Oh, I don’t know about that. I really– I don’t.

SH: Well, you gotta work these things out before hand because you get to that moment and it’s like “Oh my god!”(BOTH laugh) They expect you — Frances McDormand said she saw it as an improvisation. She said, “There’s this bare stage and you’re supposed to get up there and do something for five minutes. You know, fill the space.” I don’t know what I’d do. I’d probably totally break down crying and thank my mother. Who’s dead. But I anyway, I don’t know what I’d do. It’s been such a delight speaking to you, Michelle!

MW: Likewise. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. It’s really nice.

SH: I hope you win! Is there something perhaps you’d like to say in conclusion that hasn’t been brought up in all these interviews you’ve done about “Brokeback” that you would like to say as a final  word to–?

MW: Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness.

SH: That you would like people to remember?

MW:  I mean, I feel like my greatest goal  is for people to walk away from the film, and to feel less alone in the world.

SH: Yeah, that’s what you’ve done. That’s what you’ve done. Wow…wow…It’s a miracle. Any great film is a miracle…

MW: That’s what I hope for. I hope that they see themselves. They see themselves no matter if it’s gay, no matter if it’s cowboy, no matter if it’s fifty years ago.

SH: There are very few films that change things, and “Brokeback” there’s the film, and then there’s the social impact that it’s had.

MW: Yes.

SH: And I’m just going to tell you in closing that I’ve been Out in the media since forever. I was one of the first Out actors in America.

MW: Wow….

SH: And for 18 years I’ve had this show and I’m out on it, and it’s always been that I was “too gay.” But now, suddenly, because of “Brokeback”, I’m not too gay. I’m just right.

(MICHELLE laughs.)

MW: And guess what? YOU’ve never changed!

SH: That’s right.  That’s right!(Both Laugh)

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