a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Jake Gyllenhaal’

Disappointing Oscar hopeful “Foxcatcher”

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I was soooo disappointed in "Foxcatcher", a film that has been touted as an Oscar hopeful since its debut at Cannes, and followed by TIFF, and the NYFF. But I was just not on board with this film. Bennett Miller, who directed "Capote" to great acclaim and netted an Oscar for the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, is a director I admire. And though he directed the baseball saga "Moneyball", he has a penchant for tackling gay themed projects.

Which he is doing once again here with "Foxcatcher." Except that he isn't. He's totally de-gay-ed a VERY gay story, ripped from yesterday's headlines about Henry E. Dupont, the very rich and very weird scion of the Dupont family. They had so much money, Henry basically felt he could buy anyone or anything.

And he was gay, although you'd never know it from this incredibly closeted movie. I mean, how can you take the homo-eroticism and also the homosexuality out of this, what should have been a Big Gay movie? Except that it's not.

If you think wrestling in and off itself is exciting, which I don't, you might like this movie. But Henry DuPont was clearly a predator, creating this camp of muscle-bound young men, who he was purportedly training for Olympic wrestling.

Everyone thinks that comedian Steve Carell is going to get an Oscar nomination for his cold, rabbity portrayal of DuPont. It's true he's almost unrecognizable with this humonguous fake nose. He also attempts a monotonal speaking voice for DuPont, which is irritating. OK. So he's not relying on his comic chops. So?

So what do we get?

What he gives us is just a two-dimensional creep. Not the three dimensional one that Jake Gyllenhaal is currently essaying so well in "Nightcrawler." Gyllenhaal's Nightcrawler is obsessed with things that actually are depicted in the film. Money, power, violence, fame,tabloid television.

Dupont is obsessed with men and what's missing is the gayness. It's so toned down, repressed, if you will, that it seems that DuPont is totally in the closet, which he wasn't.

You think wrestlers are hot? In this film, they are cold.And so is the whole film.

"Foxcatcher" is the most unsexy movie imaginable. You can't do what is essentially a gay movie and leave the gayness out of it. I mean, c'mon! It's 2014 already!

And as the plot reveals, or rather, doesn't reveal that DuPont is super obsessed with one wrestling hopeful Channing Tatum( who BTW is turning in the really stellar performance here ), to the point that he moves him on to his estate which is called Foxcatcher. And yes, they do have horses and presumably hunt foxes. His domineering mother, Vanessa Redgrave, who is totally wasted here, with one mere scene of dialogue, is a formidable presence clearly. And Mrs. DuPont does NOT approve of her son's zealous pursuit of the sport of wrestling. She calls it "a low sport" and wishes Henry would stop importing all these young wrestlers to the grounds of their estate. She wishes we would, well, catch foxes at Foxcatcher, and not healthy young male wrestlers, everyone a beauty.

I guess we’re supposed to draw the parallel that he collects handsome athletic young men, the way that his mother collects horses.

Of course, this doesn't end well. And based on a true story, the events, when they at last unfold AFTER TWO HOURS, are baffling rather than revealing. Or tragic. As they should've been.

The only scene that approximates what may have been an homosexual affair is where DuPont and Channing's character snort cocaine together on DuPont's private plane.

The violence that in the end ensues is totally shocking in that it makes no sense with what we have seen before.

Mark Ruffalo, as Tatum's smarter, married brother is also wasted pretty much here. Which is a shame. But then so is Redgrave.

So what we are left with is a very cold, remote film about this weird rich guy that makes no sense.

Miller tried this de-gay-ing thing, too, with "Capote" but in that case it worked, because Truman Capote was sooooo gay, no matter how toned down you made him, he was still VERY gay.

Do we need another portrait of a gay psychotic? Well, I for one was looking forward to this film, given its' festival hype. But I was severely disappointed. It shed light on nothing. It's a gay film for straight people in that case. Maybe straight people will think that SUGGESTING DuPoint's sexuality was enough. To me it was just a big cop-out. I expected more from the talented Bennett Miller than a lot of tense, conversational scenes that illuminate NOTHING.

Gay people are going to be very disappointed with this closet of a movie.

Jake Gyllenhaal Just Grows and Grows!

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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.

Oscar Box-Office “Nightcrawler” hits #1, “Whiplash” falls

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“Nightcrawler” Jake Gyllenhaal’s creepy LA noir is doing really, really well at the Box-Office. It may even be #1 as of this weekend. This is REALLLLLY good for the great Jake’s Oscar chances. The Best Actor category is soooo crowded, just like it was last year, and Jake G. really needed this magic-hype from audiences to get into contention. But these numbers may very well do it for him.

His performance certainly deserves it. Eddie Redmayne for “Theory of Everything” coming up very soon, Benedict Cumberbatch in “Imitation Game” and Michael Keaton for “Birdman” are already pretty much nominated. I’m not at all sold on Timothy Spall for the disappointing “Mr. Turner” and Steve Carrell for the equally underwhelming “Foxcatcher” are not as solid as others think

More on those two Oscar misfires later. Both let me down tremendously.

And another Oscar hopeful that is out and playing already “Whiplash” is not connecting as it should be with movie-goers. And it really has to, especially in this incredibly crowded Oscar season.

Can Jake Gyllenhaal’s Masterful “Nightcrawler” Creep into the Best Actor Oscar Race?

Can Jake Gyllenhaal’s uber-creepy “Nightcrawler” slither its’ (and his) way into the Oscar race for Best Actor? The wonderful Jake is doing the best work of his stellar career in “Nightcrawler”. “Nightcrawler” debuting at TIFF, of course, this week, really caused a stir. And with good reason, it’s terrific and Jake is unbelievably good, playing against type at the Bad Guy, whom you’d rather not want to meet on a darkened street, or in a back alley, the setting and hang-out for his creepazoid loner, Louis Bloom. Bloom is a local news addict, who wants to break his way into the big time of tabloid television, by filming as many car crashes and shooting sites as he can.

His character really inhabits the twilight zone of L.A. Noir, a genre all its’ own, and Jake totally owns this revolting character in a way we’ve never seen him do before. He lost a massive amount of weight, so he doesn’t look well. He looks hungry. Hungry for everything the dark side of the La-La Night has to offer. His large eyes become enormous and glassy here as he inhabits this truly horrible character of a blood-thirsty ambulance-chasing videographer from the inside out.

Lou Bloom will stop at nothing to get the worst, most bloody shot imaginable. He’ll even go so far as seducing a much-older-than-him TV station manager,played by Rene Russo. Russo has never been better and one hopes they BOTH get nominated in their respective categories. Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

But will they? The Best Actor race is REALLY crowded this year, one again, whereas, as always, the Best Supporting Actress race has room for Russo.

Is this supremely ugly portrait of a tabloid-obsessed guy something the Academy will embrace with a Best Actor Oscar nomination? Or is it just too raw. too close to the bone, for the warm-and-cuddly Academy voters? His  Louis Bloom recalls DeNiro’s great Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver”, and DiNiro did get nominated for that, but didn’t win. But he immortalized the lines “You talkin’ to me?” forever in the Hollywood pantheon of one liners that define a character, and a performance and an era. They might be DiNiro’s most famous sound-bite. Will  Jake the Great make it in to the Final Five at Oscar time? I personally would love to see it.

And I think audiences are going to enjoy skinny, creepy Jake and reward “Nightcrawler” at the box-office. But will the Academy follow suit? That’s the 64 Thousand Dollar question.I’ve always felt Jake was the perennial good guy in a f-ked up situation, like for instance in “Zodiac”, but here’s he’s definitely the bad guy, who is making you like him ANYway. A very difficult thing to do. And he does it superbly, masterfully. I love this direction that Jake is pushing his career into. It’s not a comfort zone by any means, but it’s something a great actor does. Challenging himself again and again. And this time succeeding mightily.

I can’t wait to re-see “Nightcrawler” and be creeped out all over again!

 

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Oscar Afterwards’ ~ Sasha Stone & Jeff Wells Look Forward

Oscar Afterwards' ~ Sasha Stone & Jeff Wells Look Forward

It takes up something like six months of the year. From September when Toronto unfurls the usual winner, and they were right. “12 Years a Slave” was winning the minute it opened and it won the Audience Award there. Til March(this year) when the Awards are given out.

Then it’s time for the Oscar Afterwards period as I’m now calling it. The blah period when everything returns so much to normal, which usually means tons and tons of dreadful movies, that I return to Broadway with a vengeance and a thank god for the theatre.

People ask why I continue to ignore the Tribecca Film Festival, which is right next door, as it were, but I’m a proud Voting Member of the Drama Desk, and so for three months of the year, which is NOW, I turn to the stage.

Others, however, this year are looking ahead, WAAAAY far ahead to the Oscar race 2015. And Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone http://www.awardsdaily.com and Jeff Wells http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com do this very entertainingly as always in a new Oscar podcast I just stumbled upon at Hollywood-Elsewhere.

I’ll summarize. I was surprised to see this as Sasha is usually averse to this sort of thing soooo far in advance. She says and I agree it’s bogus and full of possiblities that turn into pot-holes.And then there’s “How’s the Academy going to react?” She points out that “Who could’ve predicted they would totally turn their back on a great film like “Inside Llewyn Davis?” But Jeff ALWAYS has his Oscar Balloon up all the year long.

But everybody seems to be doing this this year and I can tell you why. Especially if you’re on the Internet as I am and they are, if you don’t talk about the Oscars, your hits drop. The Oscars as opposed to just plain movie-going enjoyment.

I can’t tell you the disparity between the hits I got on Oscar day and for a week or so after. And now…well, as I said, everything’s back to normal.

Spring is coming. And so Jeff’s thoughts, particularly, turn to “What’s Next?” From their whole conversation, which veers off their picks A LOT and onto other(interesting) talking points, the one film that jumped out at me was “Gone Girl.” This is the new David Fincher film based on the best-selling book, which Sasha particularly got excited about.

She certainly intrigued me. Starring in the title role is the beauteous Brit Rosamund Pike. Who I’ve had a guest on my show a couple of years back, and who impressed me as someone who was much more than people took her for when I interviewed her.

And I thought “Why doesn’t someone give this lovely, beautiful woman a role she can really shine in?” And it seems that David Fincher may be just the one to do just that.

Look what he did with Rooney Mara in “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” People criticized him for casting an unknown more or less in the iconic role of Lisbeth Salander, and she ended with an Oscar nomination, though the film was not nominated for Best Picture…

“Gone Girl” may suffer the same fate. I don’t want to give anything away. I really do hate the way Jeff spoils things for people. But Sasha made this film sound so tantalizing, I’ll just say I’m glad I haven’t read the book, because I want to be surprised.

It seems it’s a thriller, and Fincher always does well, very well with that. One of my favorite films of his was “Zodiac” in which Jake Gyllenhaal gave ANOTHER under-rated, but great performance. And no, “Zodiac” wasn’t nominated for an Oscar either.

The Academy gave “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” an Oscar for Film Editing. It was a surprise. It’s like they wanted to give it SOMEthing.

Jeff was initially just dismissing “Gone Girl” saying “There won’t be much underneath it”, and Sasha just jumped all over him, and said “What? Wait a minute! It’s David Fincher!”

I really did like Rosamund Pike when I met her for “Barney’s Version” and could Fincher be the man to tap her untaped potential? Is there an Oscar Nomination in the beautiful Rosamund’s future?

As far as what’s coming up…it looks like another barren tent-pole summer of blockbusters. Not looking forward to that.

When Broadway is offering Bryan Cranston as LBJ in “All the Way” next week and also “Rocky: the Musical” directed by the extremely innovative Alex Timbers, well, I’m happy to be going to them both.

At this time of year as I’m waiting for Broadway to start, I am always glad I made the decision to keep going back to the theater.

“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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