Capone has dreams of being a younger man when discussing HELLO I MUST BE GOING with its star, Melanie Lynskey!!!
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
Some of us here at Ain't It Cool News (cough, Quint, cough) have a soft spot for the New Zealand-born actor Melanie Lynskey. That being said, this is the first time I've actually gotten to chat with her. It's rare that one can actually say they've been a fan of someone since their first film, but when your first film is Peter Jackson's HEAVENLY CREATURES, maybe that's not such a stretch. Lynskey continued after that with Jackson's THE FRIGHTENERS, EVER AFTER, DETROIT ROCK CITY, SWEET HOME ALABAMA, SHATTERED GLASS, Clint Eastwood's FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, Sam Mendes' AWAY WE GO, UP IN THE AIR (as one of George Clooney's sisters), THE INFORMANT! (as Matt Damon's wife), WIN WIN, SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, and the upcoming THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.
It's almost impossible to believe that many Americans know her in her recurring role as Rose in "Two and a Half Men," but it's also hard to wrap my brain around most Americans only knowing Patton Oswalt from "The King of Queens." Of all of Lynskey's roles in both indie and more mainstream fare, her work in HELLO I MUST BE GOING marks one of the few times since HEAVENLY CREATURES when she has assumed a lead role, and it's a welcome and rare gift.
Director Todd Louiso (LOVE LIZA) cast Lynskey in the role of 35-year-old Amy, a recently divorced woman living with her parents and living in a paralyzing state of depression. She meets Jeremy (I believe he's supposed to be 19, played by "Girls" co-star Christopher Abbott), and the two start up a brief but passionate affair that triggers a series of both foreseeable and surprising events. The premise may be creepy, but Lynskey's take on Amy and the relationship keep it from becoming tawdry. HELLO I MUST BE GOING is a sweet movie about a damaged woman, and Lynskey carries this difficult balance like the fine actor she is. Please enjoy my brief chat with Melanie Lynskey, whom I believe was calling me from New Zealand, based the long delay between my questions and her responses.
Melanie Lynskey: Hi, how are you?
Capone: Good. I think in the past you have spoken to one of our writers at Ain’t It Cool several times, usually at Sundance. For the record, but I am not that person, so it’s great to finally get to talk with you.
ML: Oh, I know. [Laughs] It’s nice to talk with you.
Capone: Before this script found you or you found it, had you seen any of Todd’s previous films?
ML: I had seen LOVE LIZA.
Capone: Yeah, the saddest movie ever.
ML: I know. [Laughs]. It was so sad.
Capone: How did this movie come to you?
ML: I just got an email one day saying, “Do you want to do this reading for the Sundance Institute?” like the staged reading, and I was in Toronto at the time and I was like, “I don’t know if I want to come back for a reading." And then I read it and I loved it to much, so I was like, “Yes, I’ll fly myself back. Definitely I want to do it.” So that was all it was initially, just doing a reading of it and I didn’t have an expectation of being in the movie.
Capone: I’ve heard stories of these readings. I know that Jason Reitman likes to do them, but explain how that works exactly. Do they just literally call you to come and sit around a table read?
ML: Yes, sometimes there are readings that are just like table reads. Jason Reitman loves a reading. But sometimes there are readings where everyone is sitting at a table, and there will be different guests invited just to hear how the script sounds out loud and read it with different actors, but then sometimes there will be readings where the movie is presented and people are looking for financing, and so people are invited to the reading who might be able to get the movie made, and sometimes those are staged more like a play where you are still just reading it, but you’re up on a stage and there are 100 people there.
Capone: Okay, but it’s not in any way an audition, although I guess it sort of turned into one for you, but it’s not about the actors.
ML: Yeah, it’s for the script and it’s for the filmmakers, but it does end up being somewhat of an audition.
Capone: When you did read it, even though you weren’t really thinking that you were going to play the part, was there something about Amy that you connected with or felt you could build on?
ML: Oh absolutely, that was why I would come back from another country to read it one time. I identified with it so much. I was like, “Even if I did it just this once…” there was something about her. I just love what a mess she was, you know? How the script allowed her to be so many different things, and it was such an exploration of depression as well. I had never really read anything like that, and I was like “God, that’s very interesting,” and then it became a love story. There was just so much to play in it that I was very excited.
Capone: How did it happen that Todd actually came back to you and said, “We actually want you to play this now”?
ML: It was after the reading, like a few weeks after the reading, I think my agent said, “Todd and Sarah [Koskoff, writer] want you to do that movie if it ever gets made,” and I was like “What?!” I guess the reading had been great, and it was me and this young actor who was playing Chris’s part, and we had really wonderful chemistry and he was super talented, this kid, and it just went great. So I think they were like, “We want to capture whatever happened on that stage and put it in our movie.” So he and I both got offered the movie.
Capone: So not Chris.
ML: No, it was a different actor, who had to drop out like two weeks before we started, [Laughs] which threw everybody into kind of a panic.
Capone: I’m assuming you shot this film before Chris made "Girls," because his profile has certainly skyrocketed since he shot this film.
ML: He was shooting "Girls" while we were making the movie.
Capone: Were you shooting it near New York?
ML: We were shooting it in Connecticut, so it’s a couple of hours away, and I think it was a thing where he did an episode, and either they wrapped their season or he had some weeks off and then he came and did our movie. The timing worked out perfectly.
Capone: What I love about the movie is that it presents this relationship with no judgment. There’s no sense that we're supposed to think this relationship is inappropriate. There are people in the film that think that, but we as an audience don’t ever really buy into that version of the morality of the relationship. It’s actually presented as a real relationship. Is that one of the things you kind of liked about it?
ML: Yeah, definitely and thank you for saying that. That was one of the things I loved about it so much. I think the beautiful thing about their relationship is that they're at the exact same point in their lives, and sometimes you’re going through a crisis and just wondering who you are, and somebody can come along who’s going through the exact same thing, and you’re connection is very strong because of that, and I think that’s what happens in the movie.
Capone: You're right in what you said before about Amy being this sort of perfect mess of a person. What is it you thought she was getting out of the relationship?
ML: Yeah, I don’t know how to not sound cheesy, so I’m just going to sound cheesy. A lot of it has to do with being seen. She spent many years with her husband, who didn’t really see who she was. Her life was sort of lived in service of this other person and trying to make him happy, and she became kind of a housewife and she just let everything go, everything that she loved and she lost her identity. At the beginning of the movie, she doesn’t have an identity. She’s kind of a nobody and she meets this person who looks at her and sees her and switches the light back on and she starts to put the pieces back together, and she’s like, “Well, I like this and this makes me happy,” and looks at who she is, which is a very powerful thing. And also I think sex. It’s always nice to have a whole lot of sex. It doesn’t hurt. [Laughs]
Capone: One of the centerpieces for the film, certainly for the marketing, has been that pool scene. Tell me about that day and the thrill of singing naked.
ML: It was terrible. [Laughs] First of all, I was completely naked for most of the shooting of that, and when I saw the movie, I was like “Thanks Todd. I could have had a swimsuit on, because they're not really showing anything.” I got in a lot of trouble with my agent, because she was like “Were you naked in this scene?” I was like “Oh my God, I was naked all the time. I was naked for the three days.” She was like, “What is wrong with you? Talk to me about that.” So I assumed that that whole thing was going to be all kinds of nakedness, but it was not, which was a relief. So that was my experience. I was walking around naked in front of everybody singing. It was tough, you know? It was freezing cold, and Chris and I were nervous. It was a weird couple of days, but I think it’s nice in the movie, that sequence.
Capone: I have to be honest, I thought you were going to tell me that you weren’t in anyway naked, and it’s actually kind of cool to know that you were.
ML: More naked than I needed to be. Yeah, it’s a weird feeling to be disappointed that you’re not naked in the movie, but I was like, “I was so ready!” And then there’s barely anything.
Capone: I’m such a huge admirer of seeing you in anything, but the idea of you in a lead role just made me really happy. Can you talk about the added responsibility of carrying a film?
ML: That’s so nice of your to say that. Thank you. Yeah, it’s a scary thing. There’s a part of me that’s very used to having my five scenes, and showing up and doing a little thing, but it was scary to be like, “Well I guess I’m kind of carrying this. I’m in every scene of it.” But you know like the actual work of it was wonderful. It’s nice to have so much work to do and it’s nice to have to maintain that kind of focus, and it was exciting to me.
Capone: As a result of you doing what you just said--coming in and doing like four or five scenes--you have become this mistress of conveying a great deal of information about a character with just a few scenes. Can you talk about how you’ve perfected that process?
ML: [Puts on an artificially actor-y voice] "Well, I’ve perfected the process…" No, no. [Laughs] You’re so sweet. I think when you’re doing a little part in a movie you just have to really be in service to the story, you just have to do something that’s appropriate and be honest and show up and listen to your fellow actors. There’s always the impulse to be like, “I have to do something really crazy with this,” and then it’s like “No, people are watching a movie and looking at a story, and you don’t need to show up and do some charactery thing, just be a person.” So I just try to fit in. That’s not a very exciting answer.
Capone: When you are selecting any role to play, does fear ever play a part in that decision-making process? For example, with Amy, if you play her wrong, she could come across as slightly creepy, but you don’t do that. Is there ever an element of “I’m not sure I can do this, therefore I must try to do it?”
ML: Kind of. I guess more for me, if my instincts tell me that there is something I can really bring to it, that’s when I want to do it. If something resonates on an emotional level, you feel like, “Oh, okay I get what I can bring to this.” Most characters that I have played have been going through something that’s familiar to me in some way, and so you yourself are working out your own emotional baggage by getting to play the part, which is weird how the honesty comes out. So I think a lot of actors do do that. They are like “I’d love to play…” I don’t know, some crazy thing, because it’s like a challenge, but for me it’s more like, “How does that feel within me? Does that feel like something I can bring something to?”
Capone: Todd is an actor as well as a director, but you’ve worked with several directors who are also actors. Have you noticed a difference in their approach to directing other actors?
ML: Not really. I mean they're all so different, like Clint Eastwood doesn’t say anything to you, and Tom McCarthy will talk and talk and hug you and talk some more. It’s like a very different experience. He’s a very huggy director. I don’t know, everybody is different. That’s kind of the fascinating thing about it.
Capone: Melanie, thank you so much for talking.
ML: Thank you. It was so nice to talk with you.
-- Steve Prokopy
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Sept. 18, 2012, 6:44 a.m. CST
But seriously, this sounds like it will be a good movie. Don't take my comment at face value.
Sept. 18, 2012, 6:44 a.m. CST
Sept. 18, 2012, 6:48 a.m. CST
Sept. 18, 2012, 6:48 a.m. CST
Sept. 18, 2012, 7:13 a.m. CST
by Balkin Flabgurter
i would really like to know this.
Sept. 18, 2012, 7:14 a.m. CST
by Vladimir I. Lenin
Phil Collins must be happy wherever he is now.
Sept. 18, 2012, 7:30 a.m. CST
If you were Harry Knowles I'd blow you.
Sept. 18, 2012, 7:34 a.m. CST
by The StarWolf
Shouldn't this then be "actress" (as in "female actor"), rather than the neutered "actor"?
Sept. 18, 2012, 11:54 a.m. CST
by the barking dog
...that Kate Winslet went on to fame and stardom, while Melanie Lynskey is basically best known for a terrible sitcom. That's not to slight Kate, who is very talented, but the two of them were equally excellent in Heavenly Creatures.
Sept. 18, 2012, 1:37 p.m. CST
It's bad enogh she will ALWAYS be compared to Kate Winslet, but now she's doing retreads of Kate's movies (The Reader sounds a lot like Hello I Must Be Going witht eh whole May/December thing).
by R Howell
But to find out that she was buck naked and it DOESN'T show up on screen is simply inexcusable! Boo Todd Cockblocker!
Sept. 18, 2012, 4:51 p.m. CST
Perhaps it's time to revisit. As I recall it was quite good—one of his better non-Genesis efforts.
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