INT: Joan Allen

Starring alongside Matt Damon in THE BOURNE SUPREMACY is Oscar-nominated actress and newcomer to the Bourne franchise, Joan Allen. Allen plays Pamela Tandy, the head of a CIA team charged with the task of sorting out the whole Jason Bourne mess – not an easy task, considering the CIA’s notoriously dodgy and often adversarial hierarchy. Standing in her way is shady character Ward Abbott (played by Brian Cox, reprising his Bourne Identity role), whose career hinges on eliminating Bourne. Allen received her first Oscar nomination for her performance as Pat Nixon in Oliver Stone’s 1995 NIXON biopic, and was most recently nominated for her role in another work of political fiction, THE CONTENDER. Last week, she stopped by the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to talk about her experience making THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, opening this Friday.


What kind of research did you do to prepare for this role?

I did some research. I read about this woman, Stella Remington, who was the head of MI5 in England. That was a helpful book to read because it sort of talked about a woman's experience in their version of the CIA. So I did some reading about that and I also met with someone who had been in the CIA at one point in his life and sort of asked things like what kind of person goes into this sort of work. It requires people who have a lot of different kinds of skills. I mean, you might meet someone who's great in languages and then you might meet someone who's great with technical things. So it sort of covers a wide sort of spectrum and you have to have people who, I think, are sort of risk takers and get sort of an adrenaline rush. The one guy that I talked with said that it gets very addictive because people are giving you literally bags of hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash or tens of thousands of dollars and you're distributing it around and you're in these exotic places. But it's also someone who has a lot of confidence and intuits other human beings really well.

It was a tricky character and it was more difficult than I thought that it'd be. The material, this kind of material and Brian Cox talks about it because he had been in the first one and it was helpful for me because he said, “There's no fat on this material. There's nothing. You can't kind of fudge it.” With something that's more emotionally based, you can't sort of screw the line up a little bit and adlib and something. This is all just like really focused and driven material and it's technical and specific and you're giving orders and all of this stuff and I'd never really done that before. So it was an interesting challenge. It was a challenge. It was more challenging than I thought it'd be. I thought, “You don’t want to put me on CSI. I won't do well. You don't want me doing that.” (Laughs)

How did you handle all of the technical jargon?

I would drill as much as I possibly could and had a wonderful director, Paul Greengrass, who would say, “Just get this part of it right. It's going to be really fast paced anyway. I'm cutting it very, very quickly.” And we got lines, sometimes (he’d say), “It's lunchtime. Here are your lines for after lunch.” They tried to stop doing that after a while when they realized it wasn't working so well at least for me. So anyway, the director was really helpful.

How were you able to keep the character from becoming some sort of Gorgon?

I just didn't want her to sort of be that way. I just wanted her to be effective and good at her job. She's more introspective about things, sort of always thinking and trying to figure out what's going on. Sometimes I think that you can be more effective and more powerful the less overt kind of force that you use. So that's been my take on it.

Can you talk about the fact that your character isn’t the girlfriend or the villain in this film? Because typically in films like this, those are the only parts for a woman.

Yeah. I liked the fact that she isn't one or the other. She's just a thinking person, and ethical given that world and I guess within the context of the CIA which I understand is stretching it a little bit. She's good at what she does and she's really smart. At one point, it was really interesting because in one version of the script, they wanted to put some kind of scene in where I say, “Oh, I don't have a husband, and I don't have this and I don't have that,” and all the other guys in the CIA had wedding rings and stuff like that on.

I just said, “I don't want to go there.” I don't want to say, “Because you're a woman and you have this position of power, of authority, you can't be married and you can't have children.” Actually, the guy who I interviewed from the CIA said that that wasn't really necessarily true, that you had to be like a nun, a CIA nun because you’re a woman in this profession. I just didn't want to go there. I said, “Lets not tell her history at all.”  And I didn't wear a wedding ring, but I was like, “I think that Pam probably has a pretty good time at some of these things.” I think that she enjoys herself. (Laughs) So she's not some kind of button down sexless sort of thing. I think that she just happens to be really good at her (job) and she happens to be a woman and so that's kind of the way that I look at it.

You don’t have any on-screen time with Matt Damon, except in a few scenes that were cut. What was your experience working with him?

He's so smart and so personable. I think that there's a vulnerability to him. I don't know how he plays Jason Bourne because the set of given circumstances are so complicated. It's like he forgot, but he really is a super killer and so you get into a situation and you do this. What's up with that? You're confused too. I think that I get this sense of torment that's not overplayed. It's very subtle. A tormented soul in this incredibly intelligent and subtle way. And I think that makes the audience really care about him. I mean, he's so wonderful to the crew and he's really personable. So on a personal level, he's fantastic and very, very smart. He's really, really smart in terms of the whole film and all of that stuff. I wish that I had more stuff to do with him in the movie. Maybe someday.

When you approach a role like this or like the one in The Contender, do you feel the weight of women’s issues on your shoulders, or are you able to separate yourself from that?

I think that I do separate myself a fair amount. And I don't feel like am representing women. That's up to however people interpret it once they sort of see it. So I don't really go into it looking at it like that. That's the job of the story really, to sort of put that out there. I just try to do it the best that I can. I know that with The Contender, I was concerned about being too much like a martyr, too perfect and stuff like that. That was something that did concern me. I didn't want her to come off as unrealistic. I wanted her to have some human qualities too.

Can you talk about your film, The Upside of Anger?

It was great. We had a great experience. It was written and directed by Mike Binder, who did Mind of the Married Man, and Mike and I had acted together in The Contender. That's how I met him. I said to him, we were sitting behind a table like this when we were shooting, and I said, “Mike, I know you do comedy. Someday would you consider putting me in one of your comedies?” because I hadn't really done much on film. So he wrote it with me in mind. So that was really, really cool, and Erica Christiansen, Evan Rachel Wood, Kerri Russell and Alicia Witt all play my daughters. It's a comedy and my husband I think has just dumped and left the family. I am angry and drunk most of the time and setting a very bad example for my daughters and they're going through all kinds of things that I'm not paying attention to. Kevin Costner is a neighbor who starts hanging out more and more and he's an ex-baseball player.


(Laughs) I was the ex-baseball player and he was the drunk wife. No. So he starts hanging out more and more with the family because he kind of has this lonely life of a single guy who's never gotten married and has a trashed out house and is kind of burned out. He hangs out with us more and more and sort of wants to have a relationship with me and I'm like, “I don't know. I'm heartbroken over my husband that's left me.” It's really funny and it's kind of what happens to the family.

What’s Off the Map?

Off the Map is a film that Campbell Scott directed with me and Sam Elliot and J.K. Simmons, a wonderful young actress named Valentina de Angelis and an actor name Jim True-Frost. It takes place in New Mexico. It's about a family that lives off the grid on about five thousand dollars a year. Sam and I are married and he's going through a depression. The family is trying to figure out how to cope with it. This guy who Jim True-Frost plays is an IRS agent. We haven't paid our taxes for many years and he comes in from the outside trying to collect our taxes from us and gets stung by a bee. He has this horrible allergic reaction. I start taking care of him. He ends up starting to live with the family and he sort of gives up (his life) and gets totally sucked in by the landscape and starts living with the family. It's a beautiful film on the order of like Days Of Heaven. It's that kind of a feeling type movie.

What were your feelings about the CIA before you made this film and did working on this change them at all?

I hadn't thought a lot about the CIA, to be honest. I'm glad because almost any film that you do is an opportunity to open you up and make you more aware of an area that you might not be thinking about. That's what is kind of cool, or one of the cool things about this profession. It's very complicated. There's a lot of stuff going on now too. I don't know how to comment on it really except that I know it's really complicated. I think that I am more interested in it now having played someone who's been a member of that agency than I was before.

Source: JoBlo.com



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