INT: Joan Allen
Acclaimed actress Joan Allen gets a chance to showcase her comedic side this week with the release of her latest film, THE UPSIDE OF ANGER. Thrice nominated for Oscars for her roles in NIXON, THE CRUCIBLE and THE CONTENDER, Allen has more than proven her skills in the dramatic realm. Upside, written and directed by Mike Binder and co-starring Kevin Costner, allows her to add a little humor to the mix. Allen stars as Terry Wolfmeyer, a once-happy housewife turned acid-tongued hydra with the sudden disappearance of her husband. Most of her alcohol-fueled venom is reserved for her four daughters and her new drinking buddy Denny (Costner), but there's plenty left for pretty much everyone else in the film. Good times!
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What challenges did you face in making this character sympathetic?
Well, I think we wanted to push that a little bit because I think Mike [Binder] and I would talk about how society isnt very comfortable with womens anger in general, and so it was out there a little bit to show a ticked-off woman whos really in a bad situation and not handling it well. But a I think the certain amount of self-awareness she has at times, where she goes, "Gee, I really hate the way I came off to my girls- I cant help it. Why do it do it?" She does sort of come around at the end, even though it takes her time, [and] we were balancing that and talking about how drunk is she- is she loaded, is she toasted, is she sauced, is she hung over- so that element as an actor was so much fun to actually do. Funnily enough, because it was so demanding, I did not drink at all during the entire shoot of the movie, because it was like having to be an athlete to get up and do that. We had long days and so I thought, all I can do is pretend to be drunk and then go home and look at my lines and sleep and work out and go to work the next day. So it wasnt actually- -
How was your character able to drink so much and stay so thin?
Well, she probably wasnt eating very much. I think people in that situation, you know, I think shes probably smoking a lot and drinking quite a bit at that particular time, and some people react very differently to stress, I mean, some people are eaters when they stress out and I actually cant eat when Im upset and so I know there are a lot of people who bounce back and forth between those two.
How was it working with all of the actresses who play your daughters?
Fabulous. It was wonderful. Theyre just amazing actresses and wonderful people. Theyre very down to earth.
How many months were you shooting with them?
About two and a half. We had a couple of weeks of rehearsal and then we shot for like seven or eight weeks. We had a great time together.
Whats it like working with a director whos also acting in the film?
I could see him change when he had to act. On the days when he acted, he was more preoccupied about his own work and what he was doing and being very self-critical about it and more absorbed with what he was doing.
Working with an actor like Kevin Costner, how do you establish that chemistry, that intimacy, when youre jumping into bed with each other, getting naked, etc.?
We didnt have very much of that, actually, in the story. I mean, there were those two shower scenes where I come out, (and) I actually have a bathing suit underneath everything. And then the scene in bed, too, was one after a couple of hours, and then out of an eight week shoot, it really wasnt much time. It was really (the) right role for Kevin. Kevin wasnt there for the rehearsal, but we just he really wanted to do it and he liked Mike a lot, and we all would play around and be able to talk and it was very sort of relaxed.
He came into after wed all been together for like three weeks. We had a couple weeks of rehearsal and wed been shooting and then he came in and we had a weekend of sort of rehearsing a little bit and he was kinda thrown into it.
So we know your characters take on older men dating much younger women. Whats your take on it?
(laughs) I wouldnt be in favor of my daughter brought home an underage child bring home a 40 year old man? I would not encourage that.
What was it like doing comedy?
Oh, it was brilliant. I loved it. I really, really loved it. I mean, I was a bit nervous in the beginning, because I hadnt really done it on film, you know, to that degree. And so that was why the relationship with Mike (Binder) was really important. I had known him from The Contender and so that helped a lot. I really respected his work and his taste.
Any possible future collaborations with Mike?
Weve sort of talked about it a little bit. We dont really know what that might be, but he is prolific; he loves to write and he loves to work. I know he and I would like to work together again.
You have a daughter in real life. Are you gonna let her see this movie?
She read the script when she was ten- my daughter is very hip- and fortunately she said, Mom, youre not like this, and I said, Thank God! Im so glad. I would not let her see it. Im pretty selective; she has a pretty strong stomach and she can put things in perspective. Shes pretty sophisticated. She will be eleven soon, and Im debating about it. I may not let her see it yet, but I did let her see Off the Map where I do have a brief nude moment, but its more like a National Geographic moment than a sexy moment.
Can you tell us a little bit about OFF THE MAP?
Id be happy to. Its a lovely, lovely film that Campbell Scott directed that actually happens to be coming out on the same day as The Upside of Anger. Its about a family who lives off the grid in New Mexico and Sam Elliot and I are husband and wife and we have a coming-of-age, this fifteen year old daughter and they live on like $5,000 a year. They go to the dump, they recycle things, they grow their own food, trade, they barter things. These people who live alternative lifestyles who live in Taos and places like that.
Do you see a connection between the two films?
I do, really, but I think thats the stuff that if youre doing family dramas, if everything is okay in the family, theres not much of a story to tell. Somebody has to be haywire, but Terry Ann Wolfmeyer is a suburban upper-middle class housewife, and Arlene in Off the Map is very earthy, ex-hippie probably. Gardens naked.
Upside of Anger is really an emotional tour-de-force for you. Do scripts like these come around a lot?
They dont come around a lot, no. And Mike wrote it for me, so I was glad I opened my big mouth when he and I worked together. I said, I know you direct these comedies and would you think about me sometime? And he was like, Ill remember that. And he wrote it really for me, so that was really, really fortunate.
Is it frustrating if a good performance done early in the year is ignored when Oscar time comes around?
I dont know what you can do. They had talked about bringing it out at the end of last year and I think they made the better choice. Because I think maybe it was not set up properly enough. I think maybe it could have gotten lost. I think theres something that smacks of, Consider us! Consider us! to bring it out for a week. I hope if if Kate Winslet is any sort of hope--
She opened in the Spring?
Yes. She opened in the Spring.
And there was Erin Brockovich.
Yes. So, there are the exceptions. But its hard for people to remember. They dont really remember.
Does that stuff matter to you?
It matters a little but not a lot, I would say. Yeah, if I could choose, I would like for it to come out, you know, next Fall or something like that, where its closer to fresher in peoples minds. But I think its hard. Im not trying to juggle schedules of film releases and all that stuff. I think its gotta be very difficult to target what you can do, whens the best and you just sort of go, well, the bottom line (is) I had a great working experience. I think people will really like the movie. I think word of mouth is gonna be great and I think people will see it.
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