Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. How did you get under the skin of this character who
is quite the most mixed up person you're played to date?
A. First off, it was such a wonderful script - so well
written and so clear about who the characters were. The book also
provided a lot of background. But the process of rehearsal is
such a great place for discovery. Working with Curtis [Hanson,
director], Toni [Collette] and Shirley [MacLaine] enabled me to
go through who this person was.
Q. Is Maggie a person you could relate to in any sort
A. Of course she’s someone I could relate to in
some aspects. I've been a woman trying to find her way through
the world and have not always been completely secure with myself.
Maggie's issues were, of course, much more intense, convoluted
and dire than mine. But I think it's something that we all go
through in life, that journey of finding yourself. So I could
empathize through that experience.
Q. How hard was it for you to play Maggie at the start
of the movie, when she's a really unpleasant woman?
A. When I read the script, it was like watching the movie
for the first time. In the beginning I was going 'who is this
girl? What’s her problem?' But the wonderful thing about
the movie is that you do get to see exactly what her problem is.
It's the discovery of somebody who you really think you know from
all the clichés and first impressions and who tries her
hardest to really give you a bad impression because that's who
she thinks she is. Maggie exploits herself to make sure she gets
what she needs. It's the only way she knows how to live.
So when you get to the end of the film, you really see her journey,
you see where she's travelled. It was essential to be that person
in the beginning but I knew when I was doing those early parts
how proud I was of her for being so courageous and taking that
Q. As an actress, did it feel enormously liberating to
be able to play someone so completely horrible at the beginning?
A. Well it's not really about me. I didn't do the part
saying 'Cameron gets to do this'. I'm playing that character,
Maggie. I must of course understand that it's my translation of
that character but it's more about being there with Maggie; it's
her journey that I'm doing. Obviously I get something out of it
for my own selfish purposes but it's not as black or white as
that, it's more involved.
Q. Did you ever coax Shirley
MacLaine into giving you any advice about how to enjoy a career
as long-lived as hers?
A. Knowing her history and her work and getting to know
her personally, spending time with her, she didn't have to keep
telling us to come over here to be told something. It was more
organic than that. It was about just being around her. It's almost
like osmosis, you just kind of absorb it.
But the fact she had the courage to take on this part says a lot
about what kind of person she is.
Q. So what did you learn from her?
A. Every time Toni and I are asked about Shirley one
of the things we say is how interested and interesting she is.
But mostly how interested she is in every aspect of life, from
popular culture to politics.
Anything that's going on at the moment that we could talk about,
there was always a conversation. Of course, being someone with
incredible wisdom and knowledge and who has lived such a wonderful
life, all that comes out and you absorb it.
Q. You also get to work with a number of elderly actors
in the film. What was it like working within the retirement community?
Did you find it inspirational?
A. They were so full of life and I think the success
of each one of them is that they're constantly embracing life.
Making a movie is not a leisurely process, it's hard work, it's
long hours and to work with each actor and have the amount of
energy and understanding they have, as well as their excitement
about being there and doing what they love, was inspirational.
But whether it's acting or gardening, if you still have something
in your life that you're excited about, or passionate about and
engage yourself in, then it means that you are living truthfully
to yourself. That's what keeps you alive longer, healthier and
happier. And it's a complete inspiration.
As a younger generation, we receive all of our information from
a box. We turn it on, flip the channels and receive all of our
information from there. So it's wonderful to be around a community
of people who know themselves so well, understand the world so
well and are able to be generous with both themselves and you.
Q. What did you do to establish the sisterly bonds between
you and did you discover that in real-life you had much in common?
A. It was easy for us to relate to one another. We both
come from very strong, stable families, we're very deeply rooted
in our families and have had a lot of support and confidence given
to us early on in life. We started our careers at the same time,
so we've sort of travelled in a very linear universe with one
That's how you become friends, by having that ability to connect
with one another. So not only did we get to be partners in this
film, we also became friends as well.
Q. How many pairs of shoes do you own?
A. [Laughs] I have no idea about the actual amount of
shoes I have in my closet.
Q. Do you have shoes that have never been taken out of
A. No, I don't like the boxes themselves. I like to take
them out of the boxes and put them up on the shelf where I can
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Curtis Hanson interview