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November 2004
Kinsey: An Interview with Laura Linney

Kinsey: An Interview with Laura Linney

By Wilson Morales

Over the last few years, Laura Linney has stepped up her game and has rapidly increased her position from not only being a supporting actress in this industry but also a leading actress as well. From "The Truman Show", "The Life of David Gale", "Love Actually", and "Mystic River" to her Oscar nominated role in "You Can Count on Me", Linney has done numerous amount of solid work. Besides the work she has displayed on screen, Linney has done a vast amount of theater work, which is her first love, and recently won an Emmy for work on the TV show "Frasier". There's early talk that Linney may be nominated again either for her leading role in "P.S" or the role she plays opposite Liam Neeson in "Kinsey". In "Kinsey" Linney plays Clara McMillen, the woman who marries Alfred Kinsey and loves and supports his work to the fullest extent. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Linney talks about her character and working with Liam Neeson.

How is it working with Liam Neeson for the third time?

Laura Linney: Second time, really. We were both in "Love Actually", but we didn't actually [work together]. We also did "The Crucible" together. You're always thrilled when you get to work with someone again who you work well with, um, and Liam and I -- the production of The Crucible is one of the best experiences I've ever had. And I don't know if any of you saw it, he was unbelievable. It's some of the best acting I've ever seen in my life. I really didn't think that my respect for him could go any deeper than it already was. And then when we did Kinsey, I was like 'this man is a great actor.' He's also a movie star, but he's a great actor.

The scene you were in together that ties to you?

LL: Just the care and the work that he puts into everything. A lot of actors don't work terribly hard. I mean they work hard, don't get me wrong, but they don't actually do the actor work, they do other kinds of work -- and they do it very hard and they do it very well. But the real actor homework, a lot of people don't really do, they don't take the time to do. And it was an enormous advantage that we had, that we had worked together so closely just previous to making Kinsey. We just were ten steps ahead. And Liam and I don't even have to talk a whole lot. We don't discuss things. We don't discuss the work a whole lot. We just work very well together and we just sort of fall into it, and there's a safety and communication. When you feel safe with someone you can relax. And when you can relax, then you can act. You can't act unless you're relaxed. It's not possible. That's when things really start to go. That's when real interaction starts to happen on a very subtle, very deep level.

Are you friends?

LL: We're great friends. We were friends before we did The Crucible, socially, and then of course as we worked together more and more. I'm very close to his family, Natasha is a great friend of mine. We spend a lot of social time together.

What's he like as a person?

LL: He's a great human being. He's a great person. He's just a great, great guy. He's kind and he's thoughtful and he's understanding and he's hardworking and he's his own man and he's, you know, he's Liam.

From watching the movie, you get the impression that after the first problem between Kinsey and his wife, everything rolls rather smoothly. In other words, they get away with all the transgressions, so to speak, in many ways. And after that there doesn't seem to be much stress on their relationship. Do think that's actually what happened or do you think there was stress in this distinction between love and sex?

LL: You mean once Kinsey started sleeping with Clyde Martin...or are you talking about the wedding night?

There's tension after the incident with Clyde, right?

LL: Yeah.

Well after that one gets the impression that after that is was just smooth sailing.

LL: Well, I'm sure not. Who knows. I don't know. I mean, we don't know. This is a movie.

You give the impression she was a supportive wife.

LL: She was all of that. The real details, the much deeper details of their marriage are only for us to think about. But what did happen is they were lifelong partners and devoted to each other until the day he died.

In many ways, she would have reminded him of the distinctions between love and sex?

LL: I don't know. I really don't know. It's lovely to think. I'm sure there's truth to that. It's obvious that they loved each other deeply and completely, and despite the challenges that they had within their marriage due to their own sexual exploration. That was a really successful marriage in spite of all that. They were a very, very unusual couple. Clara and Clyde, their relationship changes as the movie goes along. Did your working relationship with Peter Sarsgaard develop also as the work went along to get to that level of relaxation that you're talking about?

LL: I had a ball with Peter. I didn't know Peter at all so we didn't really know each other, but Peter's great. For me to compare the two is difficult, because I've known Liam for so long.

How was Peter great?

LL: Peter has just such a fascinating quality to act with. And those eyes are so interesting. I don't quite know what you all want when you ask those questions. I just don't know what to say other than...

What is your next film? Is it the untitled Scott Derrickson project?

LL: It's called The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel. I leave for rehearsal tomorrow. "The Squid and the Whale" will come out next year, but that will come out first. And the Exorcism is based on a trial that happened in Bavaria in the late 70s. It will not take place in Bavaria, nor will it take place in the late 70s, but it'sabout a woman who went through a series of exorcisms and then died a young girl of 22. The priest was arrested and put on trial for negligent homicide. Tom Wilkinson is playing the priest. Campbell Scott is the prosecuting attorney, I'm the defense attorney. So it deals with all of that stuff.

And does it get into the supernatural aspects of exorcisms or is that a background to tell us a more dramatic story?

LL: I think there probably will be flashbacks to the exorcism and what happened there, because it's a court case and you're dealing with different viewpoints of the event, and that's basically one of the things that will happen is that you will take a look at an exorcism and how different people interpret what they're seeing.

If you look at the website, imdb, it says "drama/horror/thriller", so...

LL: You know, when you make movies, you don't know what they're going to be. I mean, they name the things to get them made. You label something so people can easily say...but when you're really making a movie, movies take on a life of their own and you don't really know which way they're going to go. You don't know how much humor will be in there, you don't know how much drama will be in, how deep the drama will go, you really don't know. Or you shouldn't know. I think if you do you're in big trouble. Because then you're predetermining what you're doing and you're not giving anything a chance to go. You're limiting something. Chemistry doesn't work that way.

When you saw this movie onscreen, was it what you thought?

LL: There were great wonderful surprises. The humor throughout...I knew there were sections that were going to be funny, but I didn't. Of course when you're in it and you're working you don't think about those things. Same thing happened when I saw "You Can Count On Me", I had no idea there were so many laughs in that movie.

That's one of the interesting things.

LL: You shouldn't really...it's not my job to determine what it's going to be. I had no idea about all the little heads that go into the United States and crisscross. I loved that section. You know, you just don't know. You have a sense that you think it's going to be good, sometimes you have that. It's so frustrating for people and I understand it's frustrating for people when I sort of say that I don't really think that way. I'm not being coy. Some people get frustrated and they want to pin me down. I don't know what to say. I just have learned from experience not to limit my thoughts about what something should or should not be. A lot of times I have no idea what it will be, and that's the fun of it. You know, you're actually creating something and you go 'oh, that's what it is' and you don't know that's what it's going to be.

Can you talk about the aging process in Kinsey? How does that work?

LL: I gained 22 pounds for the first part of the movie. They wanted a non contemporary body.

How did you do that?

LL: Walked away from my pilates machine.

You stop exercising and you eat a lot. Krispy Kreme?

LL: Lots of donuts. I love the donuts. You let yourself turn into a college student and eat whatever the hell you want and you eat it all the time and you feel sick and it's fantastic. I gained the 22 pounds for the movie, then there were three wigs, brown contact lenses, fake eyebrows, fat suits that then went on -- because she got much larger as her life went on. Eye bags, prosthetics. Four hours of prosthetics that they would put on and hand paint. It was a lot. And great fun. I've never worked from the outside in, so that was new and really interesting. I always heard about it but never had the opportunity to do it. So that was fun. And to lose the weight, because I had two days off between Kinsey and "P.S." -- I made "P.S." after. So I had the two companies, one company wanting me to gain more weight, one company saying 'you've got to be in shape for P.S.' and I said 'folks, I can't gain more weight for you...and I'm not going to be able to lose it all for you.' So once the fat suits went on for Clara, I went on a food delivery service thing called "five squares" and they delivered the food to the set. Actually a lot of people in the hair and makeup trailer went on it with me, to help give me a little support. I lost about half of it, but I wasn't able to lose all of it.

Still eat the donuts?

LL: Occasionally, you bet.

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