INT: Vera Farmiga
Get ready to see a lot of Vera Farmiga. No, Im not referring to the short-lived online RUNNING SCARED game that featured an animated version of Paul Walkers character from going downtown on her character (it replicates a scene from the film). Rather, Im referring to the pair of films shell be in featuring Oscar-winning filmmakers: THE DEPARTED, directed by Martin Scorsese and BREAKING AND ENTERING, written and directed by Anthony Minghella. Both roles came as a result of her acclaimed performance in the independent film DOWN TO THE BONE. In the meantime, check Vera out in RUNNING SCARED, opening today. I got a chance to talk with her last week.
What was your reaction when you first saw the script for Running Scared?
I was weirded out by it. I thought it was so bizarre and so wonderfully odd. I had a very extreme emotional response to it, which I love. I couldn't decide if I hated it or I loved it. I couldn't. I knew I was definitely disturbed by it. It was gripping. I know that when you read it pretty quickly you know that something's there. And, to be honest with you, I thought it was so imaginative in a sort of weird fairy tale way. It's an adult fairy tale, yet told through the perspective of a child and I found that interesting. And I thought it was bold and I thought it was risky. Im attracted to risky things and I was interested to see what [director] Wayne [Kramer] would come up with next after The Cooler.
** Minor Spoilers **
The scene involving you and the child molesters was pretty intense.
That was the pivotal scene for me, I guess. I read that and I thought, Oh God, whats that about? What if I was in that situation? At first when I read it and I thought it was a victorious moment and then I think about it more and you think, What would Buddha do? (laughs) Seriously, is that the way to go? Is that vengeance or justice? Is that a way to go about doing things? We're confronted with evil, on much smaller level, every day and it's so easy for us to try to tip-toe away and sort of be apathetic about it all. Is that a good or bad thing, what she does? I find that moral complexity riveting. It's incredible, that scene we shot in one Steadicam shot from the moment she knocks on the door to when she makes her choice.
What about when you performed CPR with one hand? That was impressive.
No, it's most terrifying, because Wayne had asked at this point he's like this whole thing about her being the moral ballast of the film and shes after her husband and her son all the time about their cursing and this and that and, of course, push comes to shove, all those rules and regulations go out the window. And Wayne's like, Just scream every profanity you can. And so I'm trying to think of all the curse words I could think of and beat with one hand and who knows what came out at that moment.
Was that the scene that made you want to do the character?
Absolutely. Absolutely it was that scene.
** End of Minor Spoilers **
Do you get a lot of scripts that are just for the dutiful wife, without pivotal scenes like that?
You know, I don't know. I mean, honestly, as an actor, I mean, yes, there are a lot of roles like that. But listen, I think it's also our duty as actresses to flesh these characters out. It sucks, because it's seldom on the written page, but it's also what you bring to it. Dutiful wife I don't complain about that. The wives that I know in my life are pretty incredible women and they're not just wives and mothers. They're wives and theyre mothers.
Given the intensity of the film, what was the mood like on set?
Because of that fanciful, whimsical, comical, colorful quality to it, it's slightly larger than life, there was always this sense of this fairy tale. Yes, it's brutal, it's harsh this film, but also the team players were fun. There was no ego, so that's always a good ingredient.
With all of that wild stuff happening on set, what does the presence of the kids do?
That was tricky. Wayne's not gonna cast a bunch of 16-year-olds playing 10-year-olds. He's gonna cast 10-year-olds. And what happens inevitably is that the film is this sort of rite of passage for these two kids and the loss of innocence and inevitably it became that for the kids, but with as much tenderness and respect. And they're both very bright and mature for their ages.
What about working with Paul Walker?
It was great. It was great. It's just simply great. He's pure sunshine on the set, pure sunshine. And he's so relaxed and he is who he is. And he's I think he hasn't been... It's very exciting to see him finally have something to play and when he gets that, he's very inventive and it was good times. It was pure good times with him.
Would you move out here?
No. I don't need to. There's no need for me to be here. I like for my films and my characters, not to speak for itself, it always has. I like where I live. You know, I'm a country girl at heart and I don't know. I'm content, so why? It works, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
How stunned were you to get the LA Film Critics Award?
Beyond belief. Beyond belief. You know, I wanted people to see it. I wanted lay-audiences to see that film. There's such a dearth of female filmmakers and Debra [Granik], I've always wanted to champion her. My performance in that movie is the result of her tenets and her principals and her integrity as a filmmaker. That happened, that award happened because of Debra and that movie happened. And she trusted me with it. She could have easily gone to one of the 10 girls that can sell a movie, but she chose to go with the road less traveled. Its, funny, this town. It's a business. In the end it's a business. But it was nice to get.
Does that help your career now?
I think people were really bewildered by it. I think studio execs that had spent a lot of money on campaigns for their actresses. I think it confused a lot of people because not many people heard about it, even though for years, it seems like...we used to refer to it as Our Old Bone. Debra would call with news periodically some festival accolade or something and refer to it as Our Old Bone or Boner. It was Boner because this little film keeps resurrecting itself. (laughs) Every film thereafter was really a...Wayne cast me because he had seen Down to the Bone. He was also vaguely familiar with my work auditioning for The Cooler. Scorsese, too. Minghella. Everyone.
With the success of Departed and Breaking and Entering this year, do you feel on the brink of something?
I keep getting asked that question. No, Im so sober about that. I really have a sober attitude about that. I've just been steadily working for a long time. I've always steadily worked with very interesting people and directors, always, and scene partners and it hasn't really changed, it's just the movies are probably they're going to be slightly more visible. I don't know. I live in Upstate New York, you know? I don't know.
What was it like working with Scorsese?
Fantastic. Hes incredible. After how many years hes been making films, and hes still so curious about people, curious about what makes them tick. He loves people, and its infectious. He loves his actors that portray these characters. This is his film's signature. What do you remember about any Scorsese film? You remember the characters, not so much the plot. I don't. But his characters. It's a luxurious process. When you're with Marty you get six months and an extremely high budget.
What was the difference working with Anthony Minghella?
You know, their intense is very similar and their integrity is the same. There's just a minor personality differences, but it's still the same type, the same breed of director, it really is, except that Anthony had written his own script and that's always different, when you have a writer/director as opposed to a director/translator.
Were they checking up on how the other was working?
No. They were very discrete about that. I don't know. Maybe it was slightly competitive, I don't know.
Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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