Spotlight By: Stephen Snart
After fifteen years of making movies, Laura Linney has accumulated two Oscar nominations and mainstream attention without sacrificing her reputation as an indie darling. A perfect example of her ability to combine commercial filmmaking with her artistic intentions was her supporting work in this past February’s Breach, a studio film that managed to be equal parts thrilling and intelligent.
Her latest film is a low-budget Australian drama entitled Jindabyne. Adapted from a popular short story by renowned author Raymond Carver, the film is a stirring meditation on consequence and accountability. Linney stars as Claire Kane, a mother and medical assistant whose husband Stewart (Gabriel Byrne) discovers the body of a murdered girl floating down a river. The discovery is made while Stewart is on an annual fishing trip with three of his pals and instead of interrupting their fishing to inform the police, they wait until the end of their trip to announce their finding. In Claire’s eyes, Stewart returns home a different man and she embarks on a quest to find resolution for the callousness her husband and his companions displayed in the mountains.
When asked if she herself could understand what the male characters in the film do, Linney responds sharply without hesitation, “No, not at all. I just can’t.” Do their actions make them bad people? “No, it makes them flawed people,” she responds quickly.
Linney is an actress who pays keen attention to character and tries not to let the idea of an overarching theme or message in a film muddy her performance. “I don’t think about things thematically. I can’t. Because if you do, you become very result oriented and then you skip steps.” When pushed to comment on the theme of Jindabyne, she states frankly, “I think it’s just that danger exists.” She pauses for a moment before continuing, “And sometimes people are not held accountable. And how do someone’s actions
One of the most remarkable things about Jindabyne is the complexity of the ensemble of characters presented in the film. “Every single character in this movie you can write a book on,” Linney proclaims without exaggeration. As every character is multi-faceted and there is barely any pretense for exposition in the film, the actors are required to convey a bounty of information about relationships through subtleties and nuances. But there wasn’t the luxury of time for Linney and the other actors to get to know each other and explore their characters together as the film was shot on a tight schedule. “We rehearsed a little bit. Not a lot. The women rehearsed separately from the men, Ray [Lawrence, the director] did that, which I thought was interesting,” she says commenting on the film’s subtext about gender relations. “And you do a lot of good old, basic actor homework and then you just pray it bleeds through,” she adds with conviction.
Linney explains that participating in a film as layered and complex as Jindabyne demands a lot of intense preparation followed by faith in one’s self. “You do all the work on it and then you let it go. And then it bleeds through. You can’t actively play something like that. It has to sort of just bleed naturally through.” In many ways, Linney found this character to be one of the most multifarious she’s had the opportunity to play. “There’s layer upon layer upon layer. She’s saturated, like a sponge, just filled with so much stuff. I had no idea how much would come through, if any of it would come through. So it was also just a real sort of acting lesson. The entire time we were making
In addition to grappling with the complexities of the character written by Beatrix Christian in the screenplay, she also had to contend with director Ray Lawrence‘s style of filming by using only natural light and almost exclusively doing one take for each shot. Reflecting on the experience, Linney explains poetically, “You have to just let the sand go thorough your fingers. You can’t try to hold on to anything. You’ve gotta let it just go. And it can be really hard,” she says with a laugh. “It’s a very non-result oriented way to work. I think that’s fantastic, I love that! But you have to have complete faith in your script â€“ that your script can hold it â€“ in your director, in your editor.”
Linney recounts that Lawrence’s deliberate process did not make for a frantic shoot but rather for a calm and centered one. “As opposed to being sort of hyper alert and ‘on’ you actually have to do the opposite. You have to be very relaxed because when you get up-tight and tense everything narrows. The more relaxed you get, the more opportunity there is. You receive things differently and you’re more able to respond to things like that. It was all about letting go.”
Despite the film marking her first collaboration with Lawrence, his approach was not completely foreign to her. “I’m lucky because I’ve made two films with Clint Eastwood and he works very much in the same way (Absolute Power and Mystic River). I’ve done that kind of work before so I was completely comfortable with it. The crew, it made the crew crazy,” she admits. “You could see them all panic. We’re moving on? What do you mean?”
As an actress who is frequently in such high
Given the rigorous time commitment that a film demands, Linney has to be very careful about which films she can choose to participate in. Her main reason for committing to Jindabyne is a deceptively simple one. “It’s actable. A lot of times you’ll read scripts and they’re not actable. They’re written to be green-lit, they are not written to be acted. They’re not put together to become a three-dimensional thing. They’re written to convince someone to give them money to make itâ€¦ Some people are fantastic at it. I can’t do it.”
While she is one of the rare independent-minded actresses with the ability to permeate the mainstream film, one gets the impression she is most comfortable on a low-budget set. “On the independent movies, people are not as afraid of each other. Everyone sort of works together. There’s a much more interdependent feel on an independent film set. The bigger movies are just not as interdependent. Sometimes, sometimes they are,” she adds with optimism. “But as a stereotype, I would say it’s a much more ensemble feel â€“ with the crew as well â€“ on an Independent film.”
However, as she has displayed with films like Love Actually, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Truman Show, she is able to adjust to big-budget
John Adams is scheduled to air during the 2008 elections and will cover a fifty-year period of America’s nascence. In addition to starring Giamatti and Linney as John and Abigail Adams, the miniseries also features such talented actors as Tom Wilkinson, Danny Huston and David Morse. Considering the immense hype around the project and Linney’s impeccable track record, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Linney will net her third Emmy Award for the project, following her Outstanding Guest Actress for an episode of the final season of Frasier and her Outstanding Lead Actress for the Showtime miniseries Wild Iris.