Feature Interviews K to O > Laura Linney
THE EXORCISM OF
by Brad Balfour
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
September 10, 2005.
Within two years, Oscar
nominated Laura Linney has had several remarkable films released such as
Kinsey and now supernatural courtroom drama, The Exorcism of
Emily Rose. Once again the 40-something actress grapples with lives in
profound transition, this time playing a lawyer who defends a priest [Tom
Wilkinson) after performing an exorcism gone bad. And though the film has
the requisite scare sequences, it's as much about the struggle a lawyer
and client deal with between winning a case and examining the truth.
DO YOU CONSIDER THIS A HORROR FILM?
I never thought of it
like that. I tend to go for the scary creature horror films. Like Alien
or the real sort of unknown, where you don't know what you're dealing
with. That sort of segues into this, but I've never seen a movie that
combined these two genres before--a courtroom drama and a supernatural
scary, exorcism movie sort of thing--and I really didn't know if it was
going to work.
YOU INITIALLY SAID NO TO THIS BECAUSE YOU WERE A LITTLE CONCERNED?
I was a little
concerned. I wanted to make sure that this movie was going to be balanced,
that both sides of the argument would be fully represented. I wanted to
make sure that it was a movie that was not going to try and tell people
what to think, but just have them think in general.
DID THE EMILY ROSE EXORCISM SCENES FREAK YOU OUT?
My role is to freak you
guys out because I'm making a movie. This is a movie to freak you guys out
for those of us who are making it. I mean, it's delicious fun when you're
making all of this.
DID YOU SPEAK TO A REAL EXORCIST?
I didn't. The research
that I did was more in line with what I felt she would do, the more sort
of academic stuff. I went to Amazon.com, I went to Google. There are tons
of books and stuff out there. I did the good old basic research stuff.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT DEMONS AND THE SUPERNATURAL?
I contradict myself
about this all of the time and I really don't feel confident saying one
way or the other. I wish that I did and I know that we're living in a time
where to be certain is to show strength. And I think that it's okay not to
know and not to be sure. I don't know. Really.
IF THERE'S A GOD, DOES THERE HAVE TO BE A DEVIL?
Well, I don't know
exactly. That's my thinking. I know that there are some things that I do
believe in and I've seen a ghost once. And I'm a skeptic. I'm not someone
who lives my life by the winds of things that are beyond. Let me just say
that I saw a ghost at the Balasco Theater when I was doing a play called
On or Off. I've spoken about this in the past and I'm not a
believer in ghosts, but seeing this ghost was really nice experience. The
theater is notoriously haunted. Being a theater person, I've heard about
the legends for years. They usually show up when the play is about to open
and sure enough we were doing a final run through and I looked up and
there in the upper balcony which is a balcony that you can have no access
to. It's locked from the street. There was a woman standing at the
balcony, at the edge of balcony which is very, very high up in a very blue
satin dress, baby blue satin dress and blonde crimped hair. I saw her and
I didn't stop. It didn't scare me. I didn't freeze. I just saw her there
and I just thought, “Hello.” And then I turned and took a line to Jane
Alexander and I looked back up and the ghost was gone. I didn't say
anything to anyone about it because it didn't scare me and it felt like it
was sort of special--as if it was my little visitation. I waited a few
days and then went to the house manager and I said, "I think that I saw
one of the ghosts." He said, "Male or female?" I said, “Female.” He went,
“Blue dress, blonde hair?” I was like, “Yeah.” He was like, “Yeah. You
did.” The Balasco is a famously haunted theater. The Con Ed guys will not
go in the basement. David Balasco supposedly shows up. This one woman
clearly shows up. So I believe in that and I've experienced that. The
other stuff is harder for me to grasp for some reason.
AND WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE DEVIL?
You know you look at
all… I can go round and round on this. I don't have an answer for it. I
think about it and there are times where I think absolutely not and then
there are times where I'm like, "Am I open to the possibility of it?
Maybe." When you do the research and you hear about these exorcisms and
people's heads splitting open in front of people, what do you with that
information? Then there's also the sort of thing where, there's a part of
me at least with the good stuff it's either reality or something that my
brain chemistry is creating and if it makes me feel better and helps me in
my life I don't care if it's real or not.
EMILY ROSE SAID, 'LET MY DEATH SERVE THIS PURPOSE.' WAS AN AIM OF THIS
MOVIE TO BRING SPIRITUALITY INTO A WORLD THAT REJECTS THOSE THINGS?
Yeah... and she might've
been crazy. There are people who sell grilled cheese sandwiches on eBay
that have the Virgin Mary on it. I don't know. I just think that it's
interesting. I have no agenda as far as promoting or encouraging the
religious aspects of this movie. I have deep respect for religion in
general. But I am in no means trying to sway anyone in thinking in one way
or another, but just to think.
DID ANYTHING EERIE HAPPEN ON THE SET WHILE YOU WERE SHOOTING?
On the set in Vancouver,
no. My TV at the hotel would go on, on its own which was weird. Not at 3
am. I am always asleep at 3 am. 4 am is my witching hour if I'm going
through periods of stress or anything like that. 4 am is always when my
eyes will flap open.
WERE YOU BOTHERED BY THAT?
No. You know, it didn't
bother me. It would turn on and I would just start to laugh. It happened
once and I thought that it was weird. Then it happened again. It happened
three or four times and Jennifer's [Carpenter] stereo kept turning on. I
thought, “Well, okay. Faulty wiring. Who knows.”
THEN WHEN THE TAPE RECORDER WAS ON AND YOU WERE WALKING...
Right, of course. But
when we did it there was no tape recorder. They couldn't run the sound so
I had to pretend.
YOU SUGGESTED JENNIFER FOR THIS ROLE?
Jennifer and I did
The Crucible together on stage with Liam Neeson three years ago. She
was Mary Warren. I have never been as impressed with anyone in rehearsal
as I was with Jennifer regardless of their age. She was poised. She was
brave. She would listen. She would connect. She was extraordinary. And she
was extraordinary every single performance of that show. I also love her
to bits personally. And then I've seen her in a whole bunch of other
stuff, smaller theater productions and things like that. We kept in touch
and when I signed on to do this I knew that that part was the most
critical piece of casting in the entire film. I knew that they really
needed an actress who could attack it from a realistic standpoint who
would also attack it and not skip steps. You can just scream, scream,
scream and contort and be dramatic in your contorting and not have it
rooted to anything. So I threw her name in the pot and said that they
should look at her and she did the rest. She's just phenomenal. She's
physically capable as well. I mean, she's an athlete, really. She's
unbelievable. She's very thin and willowy, but is strong and all of that
stuff she did on her own. She's also vocally really an expert. You cannot
scream like that without losing your voice for 14 hours a day. You really
have to know what you're doing. I think she's fantastic and was thrilled
they took my suggestion seriously.
WHEN YOU WORK WITH A PERSON LIKE CO-STAR TOM WILKINSON, DO YOU GO OFF
WITHOUT THE DIRECTOR AND WORK THINGS OUT?
Sometimes. Yeah. You
talk sometimes. Tom is a wonderful, wonderful man.
ARE YOU PLAYING A REAL CHARACTER?
No. I'm fictional. I'm a
completely fictionalized character.
DID YOU RESEARCH BEING A LAWYER AND HANDLING A CLAIM LIKE THIS ONE?
Well, I pulled out my
file and my diaries that I kept when I was making Primal Fear.
WAS THAT THE LAST TIME YOU PLAYED A LAWYER?
No. In Absolute Power
I was also a driven lawyer although there were no courtroom scenes in
that. I remembered all the trials that I sat in on when I was making
Primal Fear. Then I also watched a lot of trial movies. If you have
not seen Inherit the Wind recently, see it. You will do yourself a
favor. It is a wonderful movie. The courtroom stuff in that is just
fantastic and it's so hard to do. Courtroom stuff is hard to shoot because
it can be really boring or so grandstanding that no one listens. It's a
real balance between trying to expose certain character stuff and yet keep
the story and the plot and the logic going and all of that. The strategy
of the thought that the two teams are pitting against each other. So
that's what I did.
PRIMAL FEAR WAS
REALLY YOUR FIRST BIG BREAK, RIGHT?
Well, I wouldn't
wouldn't underestimate the grand power of the ape.
WHEN YOU THINK BACK ABOUT THE TEN YEARS IN BETWEEN THIS MOVIE AND THAT
HOW HAVE YOU'VE CHANGED AND LEARNED?
Certainly as you grow
and you have more experience you do sort of learn a little bit and you
learn how you can be helpful. I mean, it's not about---it's really about
how you can be helpful. And you have a first time director and you realize
that you can maybe help them out a bit and really try and encourage them
to trust that we can contribute what we can contribute and that they don't
have to do all that sort of stuff. Not so much with the bookends of these
two lawyer pieces. Where I really felt that sensation was last year when I
did a play called Sight Unseen. I was in the original production of
that play twelve years ago in a different role. But that's really where I
had a few moments of feeling a real parenthesis around that chunk of time.
I really, really did.
DO YOU GRAVITATE TOWARDS HORROR MOVIES?
Well, I've done two out
of 30 films [laughs]. Good try. I do like being in them though.
ARE THEY DIFFERENT FROM DOING OTHER FILMS?
Of course, they're
different because they're technical. You're dealing with suspense and in
some cases you're dealing with special FX. You're dealing with camera and
lighting and timing and is all that much more weaving in I think in a much
stronger way. That whole sequence of walking down the hallway that's just
fun. It's fun to do scary, scary stuff.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A PROJECT?
It's different in each
case. Sometimes it can be the character if the role is fantastic.
Sometimes it's the director. Sometimes it's the script itself. Sometimes
it's the overall movie. Sometimes it's the location.
YOU'VE GOT SOME MORE FILMS COMING OUT, RIGHT?
I made four films this
SO YOU'VE HAD NO LIFE RECENTLY?
THE SQUID AND THE WHALE? THAT WAS AT SUNDANCE...
That's one of those
movies like Kinsey that took four years to get made. You just wait
and hope and it changes and then it's going to happen and then it's not
going to happen and so on. So I'm very happy about it.
WHAT ARE THE OTHER FILMS?
There's a film called
Jindabyne which is their tagline for it. I don't quite understand that
as a tagline, but that's what it is. It's based on a Ray Carver short
story called "So Much Water Too Close To Home." They've taken it and
placed it in Australia and Ray Lawrence who directed Lantana is
doing that. It's a large ensemble cast with me and Gabriel Byrne heading
it up. I had a great time. We were in the middle of the outback doing that
for two months. Then I did a film called Driving Lessons which is
with Rupert Grint and Julie Walters. It's written and directed by Jeremy
Brock who wrote Mrs. Brown and that's a movie that I had fun doing.
So it's been a very good year.
LESSONS A COMEDY?
I would assume that it's
going in that direction. Having just wrapped it one never knows what
happens with things in the editing room. There are comic things in it.
It's a sweet, touching, wonderful story. So I'm very excited about that
ARE YOU GOING TO KEEP BALANCING BETWEEN STAGE AND THEATER?
Yes. And that's not
because I'm a Julliard trained actress. It's because it's what I do. I
have a rule with myself about doing a play every other season.
DO YOU LIVE IN
I don't really live
anywhere at the moment. I really sort of am the actress gypsy queen.
DO YOU GET TO THE THEATER WHEN IN NEW YORK?
I try to. I'm very upset
that I can't go this weekend.
HAVE YOU SEEN
Yes. I have seen
Doubt. I was in a very early play of John Patrick Shanley's. It's
fantastic and wonderful.
WITH AN ACTORS CAREER THOUGH IS THE BEST YET TO COME IN YOUR LIFE?
Yes. But you never know.
There's no guarantee about anything. I know that I'm happier now than I've
IS THAT BECAUSE OF THE WORK OR WHERE YOU ARE PERSONALLY?
I think that it's all of
it. I think it's a combination of those things. I've worked with amazing
people this past year. I've had four amazing jobs… five amazing jobs back
to back going even further back -- Kinsey, Sight Unseen, Squid and the
Whale, Exorcism, Jindabyne and Driving Lessons. Nominations up
the wazoo. So work has been more fulfilling beyond my wildest dreams and
the people have been fantastic. I think that you get older and don't worry
about certain things. You're okay about other things and you don't abandon
your own opinions. And people tell you one thing. They go, “You have to do
this.” You go, “No. I don't.” And you're right. You're just sort of more
comfortable in your own skin and less afraid and it's all sort of good.
WHAT DON'T YOU WORRY ABOUT ANYMORE?
I'm just easier with it
all. There's one thing about this business that they don't tell you about.
In order to be successful in it you also have to have the disposition to
deal with it and fortunately for me I think that I've always been pretty
good about that. I can get really hot under the collar about certain
things and I think that you just learn to let go and it's not that
important and some things like an Oscar nomination can mean absolutely
everything and can mean absolutely nothing at all and you just have to
enjoy it. It's a really nice thing and you sort of have to take every
experience like that.
WOULD YOU GIVE UP YOUR CAREER TO HAVE A FAMILY?
I'm not in that
situation, but under the right circumstances I can see that. You get to a
point and this life is wonderful, but it is demanding and it is taxing and
you're never centered and you're never in one place and it's hard to keep
relationships and it costs. It gives you an enormous amount and then it
costs some in other ways. I can certainly understand people walking away.
I've thought about it. We've all thought about it, of course.