Interview: Scarlett Johansson
Posted: Thursday, December 22nd 2005 5:12PM
Author: Paul Fischer
Location: Los Angeles, CA
With the Golden Globes looming and the awards season in full swing, Woody Allen's Match Point is shaping up as a strong contender, with star Scarlett Johansson a favourite as a Best Actress winner. This often sardonic tale of adultery and infidelity offers food for thought, and causes the beautiful actress to ponder on monogamy in Hollywood, as she revealed to PAUL FISCHER.
Scarlett Johansson, casually attired in jeans and a loose, white blouse, drapes over a couch in a Los Angeles hotel room, looking relaxed and in good humour. And for good reason. Critically acclaimed for her portrayal of an American actress in London, whose adulterous affair with a social climbing ex-tennis pro has dire consequences, the beautiful actress confesses that monogamy and Hollywood don't necessarily go hand in hand. "I don't think human beings are monogamous creatures by nature," the actress concedes. "You have to put a lot of effort into a relationship with somebody. People cheat for different reasons with some constantly needing to kind of reaffirm their status as a dominating person; while other people are unhappy in their relationships but they're co-dependent on a partner." While not being too direct about her own relationships, Johansson does admit that actors have a tougher time than most keeping faithful. "I think it's hard for working actors general just because they're so damn moody," she says, laughingly. "Also you're away from people constantly and having a relationship with somebody on the phone is miserable. So it's difficult in that sense to say, hey, guess what, I'm going off with this really sexy guy to do this very sexy movie but I love you and I'm going to be thinking about you when I'm rolling around in bed with this other person. Not only that but also I think that sometimes you get really overwhelmed by your emotions when you're working and so it's hard to differentiate how you feel when you're working from how you feel in real life in that moment," the actress confesses, justifying why it is actors find it tough to have monogamous relationships with one another, "because you're constantly thinking in somebody else's head as well as a film set being a very incestuous kind of place. I mean you've got the makeup artist sleeping with the DP who is also sleeping with the wardrobe person."
In Match Point, Johansson has some passionate and torrid moments with her leading man, Irish hunk Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, and has no problem engaging in some wild sexual on-screen love scenes, atypical for a Woody Allen film. "I'm not conservative or anything if it's tastefully done. Besides, I mean Jonathan is very gorgeous and everything so it wasn't that difficult," she adds, smilingly. Nor was it tough for the actress to say no to the idea orf working with Woody Allen. "I've always been a fan of Woody's probably before I was supposed to be watching his movies. I was planning on taking the summer off and I got this call from my agent who mentioned that Woody is shooting a film in London in a week and I was like, Woody? - Oh, my god, I couldn't believe it." While she would have done the movie script unseen, Johansson did respond to Match Point. "I don't know why I responded to it and I don't know if I have the vocabulary to explain why I like any project. I just responded to the dialogue and the character and I thought, okay, I can play that and I felt I was capable."
The experience was so stimulating, that she re-teams with Woody on his next project, as both co-star and director. "We wanted to act together and we wanted to do a comedy together because we had a lot of fun on set, and there was a kind of funny banter between us, so when we were making it I said, that I would love to act with you some time which would be so much fun, and he agreed." She said working with him as an actor "was the same except I got to see him more. It was a little bit different doing a comedy with him because he he's a comic genius."
While it seems that Johansson is at her best doing smaller films, she is not giving up on mainstream Hollywood, despite the failure of The Island. "That was the only science fiction film I'd ever read that I felt was worth doing. I think it bombed because it was just very bad marketing, domestically, because it did really well internationally. . But I mean I'm doing The Nanny Diaries, which is certainly commercially viable, and then I'm doing a film called The Prestige, Chris Nolan's film with Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. Then I'm going to do a Neil Jordan movie so it's sort of all across the board." And Johansson, who has been working steadily since her adolescent debut in The Horse Whisperer, says she doesn't look at her spate of success with any degree of objectivity. "I still don't really think about the future that much. I'm surprised that I haven't been found out really and I just continue working and hope that I can keep working from job to job, nor do I have some grand plan. I mean when you get older and you start to think about it as more of a career, having to balance an independent film with something that's more commercial, it's still making movies."
As busy as she is, one wonders how the actress has time for any kind of a personal life, but while still enjoys the dating scene, unlike the male central character in Match Point, she doesn't view marriage as an economic necessity, and is not immune to the idea orf that particular institution. "I think marriage is a very romantic idea, but when you look at it as an economic necessity I think that's different for different people. But someday when I decide I would like to have children with somebody I think it would be nice to be married."
Match Point is "a winning combination of sex, mystery, brilliant writing and first-rate acting that all adds up to one of the most erotic and exhilarating movies in years." (Maxim). Chris (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is being torn apart by his desire for two very different women. Marrying Chloe (Emily Mortimer) will bring him a life of wealth and success, but his true passion lies with his brother-in-law's fiancee, the stunningly sensuous but unpredictable Nola (Scarlett Johansson). Pulsing with tension, Match Point rides the dangerous line between ambition and obsession to an ending as surprising as it is chilling.
Interview: Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton
"The Family Stone"
Posted: Thursday, December 8th 2005 9:49AM
Author: Paul Fischer
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Sarah Jessica Parker may have risen to stardom as one Carrie Bradshaw in the award-winning Sex and the City, but the actress proves her versatility as an unsympathetic character in the ensemble comedy The Family Stone. Funny and consistently surprising, Parker, wearing a pink shirt dress, a cameo buckle on her belt, and wavy hair, talks life after Sex, along with her formidable Oscar winning co-star, the legendary Diane Keaton, with Paul Fischer.
Question: Some audiences will undoubtedly leave the theatre not liking your character, compared to "Sex & the City's" Carrie. So what is the legacy of that TV show?
Sarah Jessica Parker: I love that we live in a country where people can have different opinions like it's so hard to feel alone. I think it's wonderful. It's cool. I would say I'm not burdened by this legacy of "Sex & the City" or Carrie Bradshaw. I'm happy to have to work hard as an actor to remind people that I was a working actor before that show, and that this wonderful thing happened, and I'm thrilled to be part of something that people connected to, women especially. And I've never thought about those things in my past. I think it wouldn't serve me to do so now. I think it's incumbent upon me to try to be smart and make good choices and work with good people and work my ass off when I'm working with good people and I have to let everyone have their opinion afterwards. But this is what happens. You make a movie or you're on a show and then you have this experience and everyone tells you what you did. They tell you what you did. That's allowed. That's the experience of being human and subjectivity. That's it. We can only do what we'll do, and I can only do the best I can do.
Question: Was part of the reason for playing this character is to be far removed from Carrie Bradshaw?
Sarah Jessica Parker: Yeah, but not arbitrarily. I wasn't just saying, "Among you, who are different ..." It was this part in this film that was, this person that was so radically different from Carrie Bradshaw, and frankly unfamiliar to me as a person. I've never met anybody like Meredith, but it was also the fact that she was also this beautiful -- I love the way that she was written, but larger piece was equally important. It's fine to have a great part, but not so fine to have a great part in a mediocre script. This was a double whammy in a great way. This was a great part in a great script, with great people, and those opportunities, I don't think, in my experience, don't always --
Question: How do you prepare for a character like that, that you have no identification with? Your Imagination?
Sarah Jessica Parker: You draw on imagination, but I have this beautiful script that was so clear to me who she was. The same way you tel any story, whether someone is familiar or not. I've played lots of people who I didn't know: mothers with many children who found themselves in terrible situations. Or lots of circumstances that are unfamiliar, but if you don't have training and don't have a method, the most helpful thing for me to do is simply tell the story as you understand it and hope you have a great director. In our case, we had an extraordinarily gifted director.
Question: Diane, you were the first person signed up for this?
Diane Keaton: Apparently. So they say, but it's not true. No, she was (points to Sarah JP). Because you know how long this movie's been around? Forever. It's been like --
Sarah Jessica Parker: But you were the official first. (they talk over each other a bit here, hard to hear)
Diane Keaton: I guess it was officially me, but she read it first and loved it. And they couldn't quite get it on for some unknown reason. And then when I signed on, then they gathered together everybody, because then they pretended like they had a movie, but they didn't until they got everybody else. My belief about that whole thing is that when people hand you scripts and go, "Oh, so and so is attached." Then that means that you're an actor, "Oh yeah, so and so is attached, so I better read it." That's all it gets you, is the reading. And I think that that's what they had. They laid it on her again, and then she said yes, which is fantastic because I remember when they were talking about that. Frankly, I never thought the movie was going to get on. I thought, "Yeah, right. I've been down this road a few times." Every time I would, Tom would say, "No, it's going to happen." I'd say, "Are you sure, Tom?"
Sarah Jessica Parker: Well, you know what happened? The reason I think he felt so confident was that Michael London came along. All of a sudden the whole thing was elevated, and then Diane came along, and it got very real ...
Diane Keaton: Yeah, Michael London is a big, huge --
Sarah Jessica Parker: He's one of the heroic, less remembered parts of this story, I think, because before he was part of the movie they just kept having these false starts.
Diane Keaton: This is completely true, and enough isn't said about producers who are really good at the job. Michael London's an excellent producer.
Question: Diane, you didn't treat Sarah well?
Diane Keaton: I wasn't kind.
Question: You didn't tell anybody that you were going to do this to the poor girl, so why ...
Sarah Jessica Parker: Why pretend now? Wouldn't it be a better story if we wouldn't be in the same room together even? I'm so damaged.
Diane Keaton: I'm an Irish Catholic. And you know what that means. Teasing is the best thing in my life. My father used to torture me with teasing, and now I'm carrying the legacy on. My whole life, the greatest pleasure I ever had was constantly repeating it over and over, to my delight and nobody else's, that she's the bitch from Bedford. I told them they should title the movie "The Bitch from Bedford." Nobody listens to me ever! I was "Trust me, Tom. It's 'The Bitch from Bedford.'"
Sarah Jessica Parker: It used to be called "Hating Her."
Diane Keaton: It was.
Sarah Jessica Parker: It used to be called "Hating Her," actually, before that, it was "F-ing Hating Her." Do you remember that?
Diane Keaton: "Fucking Hating Her"?
Sarah Jessica Parker: Exactly.
Diane Keaton: No, I didn't know that. I thought that ... but this was my greatest joy of the whole entire movie. Plus she had to room with me. We were roommates. By that I mean we were in the makeup trailer every morning at five.
Sarah Jessica Parker: No, let them take from that what they thought. You just corrected yourself. We were lovers. The tension was so intense that I thought the best way to solve this problem was to make love. (laughter)
Question: How was that then?
Diane Keaton: Special. Very special. I'm a special needs lover!
Question: You'd think you'd know better than that to have the press have a quote like that.
Sarah Jessica Parker: There are so many worse things that I could say that aren't true that are just provocative.
Diane Keaton: I would be honored, frankly. (laughter)
Question: In great dinner scene ...
Diane Keaton: Oh thank you for saying something nice. I love you. I worship at your feet. Wasn't it a good scene though?
Question: Every gay man in American will want you as their mother...
Diane Keaton: Good. I'm ready. They can have me. I'll be happy to be their mother. I don't know what to say, but could there have been a better gay couple in the world? Were gay people better represented by those two actors? They were so moving. Ty and Brian -- Ah! I love them so much, and their baby at the end -- Oh! I mean, life goes on, and that baby's in great hands.
Question: Diane, did you tell the cast that you were going to do this to Sarah?
Diane Keaton: Oh yes. No, it was a formal -- I'm just teasing. I'm kidding.
Sarah Jessica Parker: I was -- and I'm not just saying this for your sake, that if there was some sort of documentation, I'd be perfectly willing to show you. I kind of felt privileged to be on the receiving end of this snarky, funny, kind of cruelty, but not really. You know, teasing. I was actually, "Oh, that's a shame. She doesn't like me." No seriously, because I a few years ago, that would have been me sobbing in a room. Seriously. That that is the wisdom of the ages. Simply going on and saying, "This is the way she needs to work. I don't have a process that I'm going to impose on her, but I'm perfectly happy to make her feel comfortable." Whatever works for her. And I went home and I told people -- not people, but my family who were concerned about me -- I'm like, "It's okay. It's actually okay." Honestly, because it was funny. It was like, "Oh, she's going to do that to me. Alright."
Diane Keaton: Come on. Give me a break. It's a form of love. It's my idea of affection. No? No, I'm not getting anybody?
Sarah Jessica Parker: It wasn't cruel. Like I said, it was kind of I felt like, "Wow. She thinks I" -- that's what this idea that she has that it's a form of affection. It's not unfamiliar. I have brothers. I have a husband. It's fun to make fun. It's fun to poke fun. You have to have an implicit understanding that this is what it is. It's swordplay.
Diane Keaton: Yeah.
Question: Does this help you be empathetic towards this character?
Diane Keaton: Oh yeah. That's interesting.
Sarah Jessica Parker: I assumed that that was her point. I thought that that had something to do with it, and it was valuable to know what it felt like to not be warmly embraced like Diane Keaton.
Question: Isn't this a traditional thing in film, like Westerns, where the actors playing good and bad guys stay separate?
Diane Keaton: ... circle around each other, yeah. Well, first of all I've never... yeah, I agree.
Sarah Jessica Parker: But sadly she wasn't afforded the opportunity to really complete it. Like, it was an unfinished, the circle was not complete because she did, we did spend -- we were put in a trailer by ourselves the two of us for hair and makeup, which is pretty intimate experience.
Diane Keaton: Yeah, it really is.
Sarah Jessica Parker: And so by that time, I basically, I don't know. I felt like I was forced on you and then I don't know. I feel like there's so much that we love talking about. We could talk non-stop easily about everything in the world. And Diane is interested in everything in the world.
Diane Keaton: We want a morning talk show.
Question: If the internet is any indication, you're going to have a milestone birthday coming up in a couple of months.
Diane Keaton: I am. I am going to have a milestone birthday. I'm going to be 60 - yeah.
Question: I'm curious how you, you know, how you feel about that - if you're looking forward to it...
Diane Keaton: You know, I feel in a very... you know, it's so strange because those birthdays - I remember at 30, when I was 30, that it was devastating. It was a hideous nightmare. I was forgotten by my loved ones. My sister, Robin - Robin wherever you are - (Laughter). She let me down. She forgot about my birthday. I completely collapsed. I was just... and ever since that 30th birthday, the debacle, the ruination of my whole emotional life, it's been getting better (Laughter) and every fucking decade I feel just a little bit more secure. I mean I think that that's nice but the... the one thing about turning 60 is that I'm completely consumed by time now because I realise that I'm 60. So it's all about time - so time is so darn precious. So I just want to do every single possible thing I possibly can in every way. I wanna, you know...
Question: Like what?
Diane Keaton: Cherish my kids more. I want to like experience the school experience but at the same time, you know, I wanna make sure that I read the paper - and, oh, did you read the Joan Didion thing and then, ohblablablah - and you didn't see Monument Valley and are you going to go... you know, it's so damn exciting. I mean the point about life is that as you go along it gets more and more and more and more and more compelling, interesting, dramatic, touching, tragic, you know, moving, exciting, lovely, divine, light - the play of light on a window - da, da, da, da - and on and on. And so I really feel that it's, um... it just makes you savour life more and more as you... as you go along. So... but, but in terms of my specific 'what am I going to do on my 60th birthday'... I'm terrified that I don't know what to do. I've started thinking maybe I'll go to Monument Valley or do something like really interesting - go see the west - because I loved when you mentioned the west, I am consumed by the west and I, you know, I love westerns and I love John Ford - I mean I love America and the west and...
Question: When you talk about time being precious, I mean, now talk about playing this character who's going through dealing with her mortality and...
Diane Keaton: I gotta tell you, look, I gotta tell ya. When I saw the movie the first time and I saw that picture - that they cut to that picture at the end, you know, they pan over to that picture of me when I was 27 - that picture was taken by my mother.
Diane Keaton: I can't stand it. And, you know, I... that moved me more than anything in the movie because that picture was to me about my mother and that I felt... I had the strangest feeling when I looked at that picture - which I hate that picture. But I had this feeling that, you know, that's the best acting I've ever done in my whole entire life is that portrait that my mother took. So the whole thing about motherhood and, you know, your sense of honour to your mother had such resonance for me in that moment, and I just thought that Tom Bezucha captured that in such a lovely way about, you know, life going on and... and for me personally my mom took the picture, I'll never forget that. It's my favourite moment in any movie that I've ever been in is my mother's photograph of me because she took it.
Question: Family sounds very important to you.
Diane Keaton: Oh! I love my mother - forget it!
Question: Sarah, what's going on with you now? Are you working at the moment? Are you taking a break? Are you spending time with your family?
Sarah Jessica Parker: I did a movie after The Family Stone, and then I start a movie on Tuesday.
Question: Which one did you finish and what are you...
Sarah Jessica Parker: I did a movie called Failure to Launch which we shot in New Orleans for a few months. And then, Tuesday I start a movie called Spinning Into Butter, which was a very acclaimed play - a very controversial play in New York about five years ago by a playwright named Rebecca Gilman. And it's about a racial incident at a liberal arts college, on the east coast, and this woman who's the Dean of Students I'm playing and really... it's about racism and who we really are.
Question: Are you able to find time to balance being wife, mother and actor these days?
Sarah Jessica Parker: I do my very best. My son, you know, is my priority, is our priority, and, you know, it's very complicated - as any working mother in this country will tell you, and probably less complicated by the fact that I, you know, can afford help and really good child care, unlike a lot of working women in this country. but I still - I don't think I can talk about it - just this endless conflict and this feeling of somebody's, you know... I think women would generally like to be all things to all people and make certain everybody's taken care of - and I don't mean in a kind of martyr way but rather it's just... it feels best if you feel everybody is simply taken care of. And so, you know, that can't possibly be true all the time and so you have to resolve that, you know - so I do my best.
Question: Can you each talk quickly about what the holidays are like for you guys at your homes - are they huge celebrations, are they intimate gatherings? What goes on?
Sarah Jessica Parker: Mine has been basically the same my whole life, it's really about family. I have a really big family and it's grown over the years as the grown up children have been married and have children of their own and I'm very close to my family and I see my family all the time during the week and talk to them all the time and, you know, this time of year just has such nostalgia and we just really like being with one another. So anytime I walk across the threshold of my parents' home it's like the place where I'm most relaxed and happy and my son's there now and it's just a perfectly wonderful time.
Diane Keaton: I had a father, Jack Hall, Irish - that's the Irish Catholic side - Jack Hall was consumed by the beach and every week we'd drive down to the beach, and his whole dream in life was to have a house at the beach. So he got a house at the beach where he died. And every year we go to the house at the beach and that's what we do. My mother's still alive and we go down there and we just, you know, hang at the beach. And we're all together and it's really our way of celebrating Christmas is just to be there at the beach.
For anyone who views holiday gatherings with equal parts joy and dread, The Family Stone offers plenty of comedy to identify with. Writer-director Thomas Bezucha's slapstick premise begins when Everett (Dermot Mulroney) brings his fiancé Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) home to meet his family for Christmas. It's an instant disaster when parents Sybil (Diane Keaton) and Kelly (Craig T. Nelson) agree with their gay, deaf son Thad (Ty Giordano, who is actually hearing impaired), pot-smoking son Ben (Luke Wilson) and daughters Amy (Rachel McAdams) and Susannah (Elizabeth Reaser) that Meredith is way too uptight to be welcomed into their family. Meredith recruits her sister Julie (Claire Danes) to help her thaw the Stone family cold front, and after building a solid emotional foundation for his holiday comedy, Bezucha starts to stack the deck with plot developments that, while heartwarming, border on the absurd. You either go with the movie's flow or you don't, and with this appealing cast (featuring some really nice work by Keaton, Nelson, Parker and Danes) it's easy to forgive Bezucha's unlikely blend of yuletide cheer, petty animosities, and romantic tables turned in the blink of an eye. Toss in a case of terminal illness and you've got a sad-happy tearjerker that works in spite of itself. If you don't recognize at least part of your own holiday clan in The Family Stone, you probably haven't been paying attention.
Interview: Heath Ledger
Posted: Wednesday, December 7th 2005 3:34PM
Author: Garth Franklin
Location: New York, NY
If 2004 was 'The Year of the Law' (Jude Law that is), 2005 is 'The Year of the Ledger' it would seem. After brief forays as a gay cyclist and a medieval prince on TV series such as "Sweat" and "Roar", Aussie actor Heath Ledger was pegged as one of the next big young hunks to hit Hollywood back in 2000. Coming off comedy hit "10 Things I Hate About You", the actor scored a high profile role as Mel Gibson's son in "The Patriot" and followed that as the lead in actioneer "A Knight's Tale" and a small part in the acclaimed "Monster's Ball".
Then the gild came off the cage. 'Tale' underperformed, Ledger's next three follow-up films "The Four Feathers", "The Order" and "Ned Kelly" all bombed. Whilst a high profile relationship with fellow Aussie and rising star herself Naomi Watts meant his name was still being mentioned in the press, career wise things seemed rather quiet.
This past year changed all that, the now 26-year-old Ledger went back to work with a vengeance and ended up scoring or sharing the lead role in four major projects which opened in 2005 including skateboard drama "Lords of Dogtown", Terry Gilliam's twisted fantasy "Brothers Grimm", and adult comedy "Casanova".
The one that's garnering most interest though is "Brokeback Mountain", Ang Lee's haunting tale of a romance between two cowboys in 1960's Wyoming. Aside from the controversial subject matter, the most frequent comments around the film surround Ledger's powerful performance which many are already citing a likely Oscar nomination and a good chance to win. The actor, who recently had a daughter with 'Brokeback' co-star Michelle Williams, spoke with press in New York about the film:
Question: Did you approach your character from the physical standpoint?
Heath Ledger: Definitely. I actually thought it was a gift not to have words to play with. It definitely restricts what you can express. You are stuck with what's on page. In a sense, I had the freedom to say what I really wanted. In fact, I can make my own decisions and come to conclusions about this character from the physical point of view. First of all, I had to go in and discover what was causing this inability to express and to love. What was the culprit in that? I figured that it was some sort of a battle, and the conclusion I came to was that he was battling himself and battling his genetic structure; he was battling his father and his father's father's opinion and traditions and fears that have been passed down and deeply imbedded in him. So, once I had that and a few other things, I wanted to physicalize it cause that was all I was really left with. I wanted it to be hard for him to express and I think any form of expression had to be painful. I wanted him to be a clenched fist; and therefore my mouth became clenched too. A lot of the physicalization was lack of posture, but with the lack of posture in his mouth; in the words, it escapes his mouth.
Question: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
Heath Ledger: Well, the challenging thing for me I think was in preproduction, figuring out what to do with so little time. I guess the aging process was probably what I thought was one of the important aspects, because without that, the whole story goes up shit creek without a paddle. And also, it had to be so subtle the aging process. Physically aging between 18 and 40 is fairly slim and subtle, and also for Ennis, the character I was playing; he didn't really evolve emotionally either within that age at the time. I used my accent to voice the tone of the voice at the beginning of the film when he's younger; it's pitched a little higher and it's a little more useful and energetic and enthusiastic and it slowly kinda gets deeper and deeper and raspier and more fixed and tighter towards the end. I thought that was just a subtle vehicle I could use to age. The easiest thing I found was being a ranch-hand, being a horse backup. I can ride backwards if I had to. I'm very comfortable with horses. I love horses and I have grown up around farm-hands and even if I was born in Perth, Western Australia, there's something very universal about anyone who's on horseback night and day. There's a universal trait. Even physically, when you are on horseback night and day, when you get off that horse, you are still walking as if there's still a horse between your legs.
Question: Does this film reinstate your belief in Hollywood because for awhile there, you felt as if you weren't being challenged enough with the roles you had or were being offered?
Heath Ledger: It's definitely given me hope. The whole year was about reigniting enthusiasm for myself because I did The Brothers Grimm followed by Lords of Dogtown, then Brokeback, then Casanova, and then Candy, which is a love story between junkies; and I think before that I was really bored with the choices I made and with the movies. I was just in the industry. Everything was just boring and it was starting to get stale and I was getting a plateau of nothing. This was my year to handpick things for the first time. I really wanted to put together a collection of quality work.
Question: Was that "Monster's Ball" that changed it all for you?
Heath Ledger: "Monster's Ball" was the first time I felt like I had to something about it; and what I had to do was essentially nothing. At the time, I just boiled it down, take off the shine, and destroy it a little bit.
Question: Who was the biggest supporter and biggest detractor in you playing this role in regards to the gay aspects?
Heath Ledger: No one was trying to detract me from it. Everyone was very supportive of it. I understand everyone else or people found it risky. I hate to call it "daring" or "brave"; firefighters are daring and brave. I'm acting. I didn't get hurt and I'm not mentally wounded from this experience.
Question: In looking back at the ranch-handlers you grew up with, do you think any of them might have been gay?
Heath Ledger: No, but I have a very good friend of mine, who's actually an uncle of mine. I didn't base this character off him, but he's gay. He's always struggled with his sexuality. He's like 60 now but back when he was younger, his dad kicked him of the Perth and said to him, "Go to the hospital and get fixed or you're not coming back to the family." My uncle said, "I can't get fixed" and his dad said to don't come back and he left and hasn't been back since then, but he's also the most masculine person I know. He's the head of arm wrestling federation and he goes to cage fighting. So that was definitely a good example of the level of masculinity, the range of masculinity; there relationships that occur with him. It's purely masculine and it was important for Ennis to be that.
Question: Did you have any connection to Ned Kelly, the Australian outlaw on horseback that you portrayed and this particular sexual outlaw that you in this film?
Heath Ledger: I guess not. Ned Kelly was extremely expressive; physically, violently. He dictates this incredibly expressive manner about his cause and he was very in touch with what he was fighting against; whereas Ennis was very unaware about the battle within him. I knew the battle within so I tried to do the investigation and I chose to ask the questions about him but he has never asked these questions and that's part of his problem. He's unaware of this battle within him and so essentially as an actor, once I gathered all this information about him, I had to then perform as Ennis and forget the information I learned and essentially think less.
Question: To follow up on that question, did you model your voice in the film on any other performance you may have seen?
Heath Ledger: For one, it was something I remembered about Australian ranch-hands; they always liked talking like this. (Changes his voice) But I think it in Australia, it's just to keep flies out of your mouth, but it was something very clenched about it. When I found this accent, I had to find a regional accent and my mouth was moving everywhere when I got it, but that was part of physicalizing his battle and it was an extension of what was within him. I just tried to that and as many as those aspects as possible.
Question: Ennis is not an outwardly emotional character. Can you talk about the different feelings he had with Jake's character, Michelle's, and even Linda Cardinelli's character?
Heath Ledger: I guess the quick answer to that is that I think most of the emotions or love within Ennis is purely potential. It's within him and he never really expresses. That's the tragedy of this story and that's the tragedy of each one of those love affairs. I think the only time you get to see this potential or slither of how he could express is when he's with his children; because his children are the one area where he feels safe and allowed to love the way he naturally feels he can love them. With his wife, his love is slightly manufactured. It's more traditional and it's him conforming, but it's not true love. His love for Jack is true in a passionate love, but he hates the way he loves and it's forbidden. Essentially, he's like a homophobic male in love with another man. He's very fixed in his ways and he's left lingering in between the role.
Question: Did this film change your idea of the American western at all or the western hero?
Heath Ledger: Not at all. I'm not a big fan of western movies and I really don't like cowboy-indian movies. I have never watched them. We're borrowing this iconic figure because it is so tightly connected to masculinity and the surroundings and that was the point; that loves transcends all and all its environment.
Question: How did you prepare on an emotional level for the big tent scene?
Heath Ledger: The way we looked it and the way it is is that there are not actually love scenes for the sake of doing a love scene. There are actually stories within each of those moments. The first moment for Ennis was very poignant because it had to be rough; it had to be fighting. He was almost ready to punch him. Once that all settled it had to be this innate passionate adrenaline. It just takes over him. There's another moment in the tent where it was really important to show a glimpse of Ennis in a vulnerable state. It is true intimate love they have for each other. It has to set up the tragedy for the story. It set up the freedom of Brokeback Mountain.
Question: Did you have to reshoot those scenes a lot to get it right?
Heath Ledger: I don't know. I think Ang has been telling everyone that we did 13 takes. I don't even know which scene he's talking about, but I generally haven't taken notes of how many takes for any scene. It doesn't seem like we did a lot of takes.
Question: Do you think Ennis could be happy with Jake's character, Jack?
Heath Ledger: I don't know. Maybe externally, he would have been seen happier because he was never confronted or tested in any way and he could have continued to live in denial. I'm sure inside he would have be hallow and rusty and alone. I think he was ultimately internally happier for having the experience because in his life he experienced true love.
Question: What did you take the role when others in the past had said no?
Heath Ledger: It was a beautiful story. It was a story that hadn't made it on the screen; which is rare to come upon a script so beautifully well written and hadn't been told before. It was very exciting to tell a new story. Ang lee is attached to it. I don't think I would have done it if it were in anyone else's hands. He was the perfect director for it and that's really. I looked at it as a wonderful opportunity to get in the head of this character. I never saw it as a huge risk that everyone else was seeing. It's all relative to the person you are and how relaxed you are with people and the people around you. I was very happy to tell a story that hadn't been told and I thought it should have been told.
Question: How was working with Jake?
Heath Ledger: Wonderful. I couldn't have asked for a better person. He comes from a beautiful family and he's a wonderful actor.
Question: What kind of mindset does a straight person need to be in to see this film?
Heath Ledger: Just a regular straight male. Anyone who fears this... they are not going to come out of the movie and suddenly... it's not a disease. It's not contagious. They should understand that it's a story of pure love. They don't have to be a hero. They don't have to be brave like us. I guess a little bit of maturity is being asked for because society has been immature in the past. That's about it.
Question: Is there any particular Ang Lee movie that made you do this?
Heath Ledger: I think all of them as a whole because he's so diverse. He's got such an attention to detail for different forms of life and society; I knew he would be able to capture this world. He's a smart man.
Question: The first seven minutes of the film is totally silent. When you are working with an auteur like Ang Lee, what did he tell you to get that great shot where you are sitting out there waiting for Randy Quaid to show? How was setup built?
Heath Ledger: It's an interesting example because the way Ang directs, I have separated the experience of the two. Like when he's in preproduction, he's very thorough and voices his opinion and observations to you that he has on your character and the story and loads you up with all this information. You go away and digest it and process it and come out with your character; and during that process we don't sit around as a cast in a room roundtable and openly discuss everyone's plan. His plan as a director is very private. He'll take us to the side and give me little bits of information and then take Jake aside and do the same thing. Essentially, when we are outside the office and our characters are looking at each other and thinking, "Who's he" and "What's he been told", that's when our character meet on film. Ang set it up as situations that capture as oppose to recreate.
Question: What's next for you?
Heath Ledger: Nothing really, just raising my daughter and that's enough work and has been most enjoyable.
Question: How would you feel if you got an Oscar nomination for your performance?
Heath Ledger: I think it's a great honor to be in a movie that's been well received. The only time it's presented to me; the idea of a thought is like today. Michelle and I definitely don't really sit around worried about it. It's also a little surreal; kind of a strange concept to me that one performance or one movie can be compared or competed against another and that's what this strange little season does. Each performance and each movie is running a different race. It's a different sport. We all train for different sports and we all start from different points. There is no one finished line at the end. It's an award season of opinions, so it's full of false sense of success and failure.
Question: If you win, would you say something profound? Like Tom Hanks did for his win in "Philadelphia".
Heath Ledger: No. I'm not going to pretend to be some great wise person. I'm just a kid from Perth who's acting. I'll probably thank my mom.
Question: Did Jake put on weight for the aging process? On screen, it seemed like you didn't and he did.
Heath Ledger: Going into the movie, Ang really wanted me to build up. He wanted me to get bigger and stronger and I was trying to convince him that masculinity come from maturity and I thought that Ennis was a poor dirt ranch-hand. He doesn't go to the gym and he certainly doesn't eat big meals. In fact, when you get older, you get thinner. I thought he would look more desolate and lonely than someone would be in a Calvin Klein commercial.
A sad, melancholy ache pervades Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee's haunting, moving film that, like his other movies, explores societal constraints and the passions that lurk underneath. This time, however, instead of taking on ancient China, 19th-century England, or '70s suburbia, Lee uses the tableau of the American West in the early '60s to show how two lovers are bound by their expected roles, how they rebel against them, and the repercussions for each of doing so--but the romance here is between two men. Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) are two itinerant ranchers looking for work in Wyoming when they meet and embark on a summer sheepherding job in the shadow of titular Brokeback Mountain. The taciturn Ennis, uncommunicative in the extreme, finds himself opening up around the gregarious Jack, and the two form a bond that surprisingly catches fire one cold night out in the wilderness. Separating at the end of the summer, each goes on to marry and have children, but a reunion years later proves that, if anything, their passion for each other has grown significantly. And while Jack harbors dreams of a life together, the tight-lipped Ennis is unable to bring himself to even consider something so revolutionary.
Its open, unforced depiction of love between two men made Brokeback an instant cultural touchstone, for both good and bad, as it was tagged derisively as the "gay cowboy movie," but also heralded as a breakthrough for mainstream cinema. Amidst all the hoopla of various agendas, though, was a quiet, heartbreaking love story that was both of its time and universal--it was the quintessential tale of star-crossed lovers, but grounded in an ever-changing America that promised both hope and despair. Adapted by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana from Annie Proulx's short story, the movie echoes the sparse bleakness of McMurtry's The Last Picture Show with its fading of the once-glorious West; but with Lee at the helm, it also resembles The Ice Storm, as it showed the ripple effects of a singular event over a number of people. As always, Lee's work with actors is unparalleled, as he elicits graceful, nuanced performances from Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway as the wives affected overtly and subliminally by their husbands' affair, and Gyllenhaal brings surprising dimensions to a character that could have easily just been a puppy dog of a boy. It's Ledger, however, who's the breakthrough in the film, and his portrait of an emotionally repressed man both undone and liberated by his feelings is mesmerizing and devastating. Spare in style but rich with emotion, Brokeback Mountain earns its place as a classic modern love story.