Sleeping Dogs - Melinda Page Hamilton interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
MELINDA Page Hamilton talks about Sleeping Dogs, some of its more kinky aspects and why it will ultimately surprise anyone who sees it.
She also reveals why the production of the film was such a memorable experience, as well as her involvement with TV shows such as Desperate Housewives (she played the nun!), Nip/Tuck, and her continued passion for theatre.
Q. How did you become involved and did you have to think twice?
Melinda Page Hamilton: [Laughs] It’s funny. I auditioned and got the job the old fashioned way and I didn’t think twice which, in retrospect, I’ve had to ask myself: “Was I just completely out of my mind?”
Actually, the first scene I read was the scene in the car where she tells her boyfriend and it’s such a wonderfully written scene. I thought: “OK, this could be really good because how do you tell someone you love this event and still have him love you?” It’s kind of what the object at hand is – keep the fairytale together without blowing it completely apart. I thought that was a great challenge.
So, when I ead the script from the very beginning I knew where it was going and didn’t stop on the first two pages and go: “I don’t think so!” That doesn’t mean to say I wasn’t really nervous about those first two sequences but the hard part was explaining to family about my first starring role in a movie and why I felt it was important [laughs].
Q. I guess that was good training in a way for the reveal scenes…
Melinda Page Hamilton: Exactly!
Q. Have they seen the film?
Melinda Page Hamilton: My mother has and she loves it very much.
Q. How are you with dogs?
Melinda Page Hamilton: I like dogs. I would consider myself a dog person although not quite to the extent that my character is! But I got along well with my canine co-stars.
Q. Was there anything you didn’t do or had to talk with [director] Bob Goldthwait about first?
Melinda Page Hamilton: Actually, it never really got down to that. The thing I was most afraid of was the first scene – and not for the obvious reasons. If that didn’t work, if the right pitch didn’t hit there, then the rest of it wouldn’t work. You have to believe that this girl did this and she did it not from a place of perversion or something… I’ve never done anything like that and it’s hard to imagine a person wanting to do something like that, so really exploring that was my biggest fear as an actor.
Q. How was working with Bob Goldthwait?
Melinda Page Hamilton: He’s really just a quite, intelligent, lovely person. He had my complete faith the entire time. Had I felt he was coming at this subject matter from a different place, I hopefully would have thought twice. But there’s the script you read on the page and there’s the script you read slightly off the page and if that’s in alignment with what the director has in mind then it’s going to be a good partnership.
Q. There are two scenes that stand out for being particularly poignant – with your mother and father. What were they like to film?
Melinda Page Hamilton: Well, they’re both such phenomenal actors that it becomes a bit easier.
The scene in the kitchen was kind of funny because it took a life beyond what I’d anticipated. Because of the tremendous feeling of safety on the set and the short filming time, all of us just kind of dived in without necessarily knowing where any of it was going to end up. I think that can sometimes lead to very happy accidents and that scene with Bonita Friedericy was great because it just took on a life of its own. It really had a joy within it that I hadn’t anticipated but which just erupted and seemed appropriate.
Q. And the scene with your dad?
Melinda Page Hamilton: That moved me. I adore Geoff Pierson so much and his character is so… we all know what it’s like to want affection from a man who finds it desperately hard to give. It’s that constant yearning and then finally getting it for the first time. Even now just talking about it makes me well up a little. That’s the gift of good writing – it’s not hard to do when you have a great script and a great actor in front of you.
Q. Sleeping Dogs was shot on a budget of just $50,000 and completed in just over two weeks. How was working in such quick conditions?
Melinda Page Hamilton: In retrospect, I think that was probably a good thing. A lot of stuff can get ruined if there’s a lot of second-guessing. You didn’t have time to worry… I’d imagine being on a big budget set with so many careers and so much money on the line, there’s a stress level you unconsciously bring of having to make it right. And that might not be conducive to a tremendously creative environment.
The advantage of an independent film that really doesn’t take itself seriously, especially in terms of what it’s going to do for anybody, is that you have the freedom to play for the sake of playing; there’s no sense of: “If we don’t do this right, we’ll lose millions of dollars and will never work again!”
Q. Of your television work, how was the Desperate Housewives experience and playing a bad nun?
Melinda Page Hamilton: I loved it. I had such a great time. It was wacky, obviously, and I did think [of the storyline]: “Really, really?” But I loved the director and my colleagues were just fantastic. Eva [Longoria] and Ricardo [Chavira] could not have been nicer to me.
Q. Did Eva give you any advice in terms of movies, given that she’s just beginning to branch out into them herself?
Melinda Page Hamilton: No, she didn’t. But I wanted to ask about her Saturday Night Live experience because that sounds like the coolest high-wire act that any actor can do! So I was peppering her with questions like: “What was it like? What did you do?” I was like her little sister.
Q. Did you feel any pressure going into that given the expectation surrounding each series now?
Melinda Page Hamilton: Yeah, I did. I actually don’t watch a lot of TV so I didn’t have the same level of appreciation of just how huge that show is. But I still get recognised from it although I haven’t been in it for months. That’s the power of a massively popular, global television show. But whenever you’re a guest star you’re the new kid in school. You don’t know who to sit with at lunch and you hope people don’t take one look and judge.
Q. You have a background in theatre. Do you miss it as you make the transition to movies?
Melinda Page Hamilton: Constantly! But it’s funny because I think Sleeping Dogs was kind of close to a theatrical experience in terms of the tremendous sense of family that got created almost immediately and the tremendous intimacy that happened spontaneously. But I love theatre and I will hopefully do it forever. It’s the most immediately satisfying of all the different genre of media as an actor especially.
You know that hopefully in film the best take will be used. You can hit that vein of absolute gold once and it’s done. Whereas when you do theatre every night you don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t know if it’s going to be a brilliant performance – the variation can be a little nerve-wracking if you think about it too hard.
Q. Would you like to come to the West End to do something?
Melinda Page Hamilton: Oh absolutely, in a heartbeat. That would be a dream come true.