INT: Joan Allen
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.
stopped by the Four Seasons in
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 isn’t very
comfortable with women’s anger in general, and so it was out there
a little bit to show a ticked-off woman who’s 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 can’t 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 wasn’t actually-
How was your character
able to drink so much and stay so thin?
Well, she probably wasn’t eating very much. I think people
in that situation, you know, I think she’s 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 can’t eat when I’m 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. They’re just amazing actresses
and wonderful people. They’re 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
What’s it like
working with a director who’s 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 you’re jumping into bed with each other, getting naked, etc.?
We didn’t 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 wasn’t much time. It was really (the) right role for Kevin. Kevin wasn’t 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 we’d all been together for like three weeks. We had a couple weeks of rehearsal and we’d 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
character’s take on older men dating much younger women.
What’s your take on it?
(laughs) I wouldn’t 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
Oh, it was brilliant. I
loved it. I really,
really loved it. I mean,
I was a bit nervous in the beginning, because I hadn’t 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?
We’ve sort of talked about it a little bit. We don’t 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, you’re not like this,”
and I said, “Thank God! I’m so glad.” I would not let her see
it. I’m pretty selective; she has a pretty strong stomach and she
can put things in perspective. She’s pretty sophisticated. She
will be eleven soon, and I’m 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 it’s more like a National Geographic moment
than a sexy moment.
Can you tell us a little bit about OFF
I’d be happy to. It’s a lovely, lovely film that Campbell Scott directed that actually happens to be coming out on the same day as The Upside of Anger. It’s 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 that’s the stuff that if you’re doing family dramas, if everything is okay in the family, there’s 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 don’t 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, “I’ll 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
I don’t 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 there’s 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
Yes. She opened
in the Spring.
And there was Erin
Yes. So, there are the exceptions. But it’s hard for people to remember. They don’t really remember.
Does that stuff matter
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 it’s closer to…fresher in people’s minds. But I think it’s hard. I’m not trying to juggle schedules of film releases and all that stuff. I think it’s gotta be very difficult to target…what you can do, when’s 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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