Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Hollywood Reporter Roundtable: The Sisterhood


I've been posting The Hollywood Reporter roundtables on Sunday but I couldn't wait to share this one! It's the women. THR's The Actresses has Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniel's The Butler), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), Julia Roberts (August, Osage County), Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station), Amy Adams (American Hustle) and Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) all engaged in one fascinating conversation filled with amazing moments. 

Scroll down to view the video; it's almost an hour in length but I promise laughter and tears.

Here are some of my favorite moments ...

Oprah Winfrey with Terrence Howard, Lee Daniels "The Butler"

Early in the hour, Oprah bursts out with her honest loving support for Lupita Nyong'o as Patsy in '12 Years a Slave' - "We're all watching you now. We can't take our eyes off you" Oprah says with that glowing generous energy she has. Lupita, lovely and modest, is clearly taken by surprise. Only much later - almost at the end of the hour in fact, do we learn that Nyong'o first began to dream of being an actress after seeing Oprah in The Color Purple. Up to that point she had mainly seen Caucasian faces in films and not seeing herself, had thought she couldn't do it. Can you imagine what sitting next to Oprah must have meant to her?

Lupita Nyongo in 12 Years A Slave

Nyong'o also shared that she first worked in film as a production assistant on The Constant Gardener;when one of her duties was to walk Ralph Fiennes to set every morning. She reported that Fiennes was always dark and grumpy and she'd try to engage him cheerfully chatting. Fiennes would be polite but Nyong'o could see he wasn't having it; she said she finally understood when she played Patsy in 12 Years A Slave, a role so emotionally upsetting to play, she would find herself crying in a corner.

Amy Adams, American Hustle

Amy Adams had a similar experience on American Hustle, finding herself crying all the time. It sounds like David O. Russell who she termed a method director really pushed. Adams reports she would be in the middle of a scene, a complete crying emotional wreck and Russell would be yelling out specific lines for her to say. Russell has a reputation for having anger control issues which are reportedly in the past. There was a famous meltdown when he goes ballistic on Lily Tomlin during the making of I Heart Huckabees and it came to blows with George Clooney in the making of Three Kings.  Adams said she wasn't sure she could act again after finishing American Hustle, she was so devastated by the process! Her answer was to get back in the saddle instantly; she's playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's film about the artist behind those big eye paintings. Adams also talks about wanting to do a big splashy Broadway musical. 

Julia Roberts with Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Julia Roberts said she agreed to do August: Osage County only so she could watch Meryl Streep work without quite realizing that meant Streep could watch her too. She's kidding but obviously Streep is a legend, who Roberts says works her ass off. The experience was mixed as Roberts missed her children desperately; it was the first time she'd been away from them in their almost 10 years of life!


Octavia Spencer in Fruitvale Station

Octavia Spencer spoke of devoting herself to her career, not really thinking about having a family until it was too late, which she definitely calls her choice. The childless Spencer spoke of substituting her nephew for her son, played by Michael B. Jordan, in Fruitvale Station. Thompson asserted that it's important for some women not to marry, not to have children, but to do other work that sometimes does preclude having kids. Agreed!  

Thompson was also outraged that the panel was still being asked whether more good roles for women were being written; no matter if we have come a long way baby, and despite these half dozen great roles, there are still many, many more strong roles written for men. That's what happens when you have an industry dominated by men in all positions of leadership and power, from producers to directors to studio execs. It's still a big boys club with a few female outliers here and there. Imagine the size of the "cojones" of the women who fought and found their power within that system?And how did 'cojones' literally testicles, or 'balls' become synonymous with being brave? What male-centered thinking brought that about; as if - since women have ZERO balls - we can't be brave too. 

Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

 Emma Thompson - looking beautiful as a platinum blond - is my hero here; she's not afraid to be frank, barking back at moderator Stephen Galloway's question "What personal sacrifice have you had to make?"  I'm paraphrasing but "Bloody Hell!" about sums up her outrage. She's shocked they would be asked that question when clearly these actresses are the privileged few who would be quite selfish, in Thompson's opinion, to talk about sacrifice when you look at the lives they lead. Thompson - who Oprah announced would make the best dinner guest - shared that the hair stylist on Saving Mr. Banks assured her that the haircut she needed to play Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers in the film, would have her looking like Annette Bening. Instead, Thompson says, she ended up looking like a sheep for months and months. 

Ok, enough from me. I hope you enjoy this look at the women. They are, as Lupita Nyong'o says, a sisterhood. 


Read the full transcript at THR.

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