Monday, March 29, 2010

Laura Linney In Conversation

I had the opportunity to attend “Laura Linney in Conversation” last night at the 92nd Street Y. They often host celebrities in their spacious auditorium and I knew better than to turn down the invite this time around. The last such function I neglected involved Glenn Close. I opted out on the grounds that I had Things To Do and that the night wasn’t about Ms Close (she was the interviewer) but apparently the interviewee convinced her to sing one of her big Sunset Blvd numbers for the crowd. Argh. To think I could have been there!

TLLL's last theatrical outing, Donald Margulie's Time Stands Still

No such impromptu singing erupted from The Lovely Laura Linney though the subject of musicals did come up. She absolutely loves them --- particularly big dance numbers -- but doesn’t have those gifts, can’t sing at all. The evening was a bit awkward with the moderator, theatrical producer Jordan Roth, occassionally waiting long stretches after Linney was done with an answer to move on, in which she would be forced to meander through a reiteration of what she’d just said. But for those who enjoy actorspeak and talk about “the craft” and the importance of art and culture, it was a totally engaging evening. I am one of those people. Duh.

Linney isn’t a celebrity that we know a lot about in terms of her personal life. I wasn’t aware, though maybe I should have been, that she is an absolute hard core stage actor. It’s how she defines herself. It’s clear that she wants to be treading the boards till she drops. (Mysteriously, I’ve missed all of her Broadway appearances.) She considers TV & Film to be strange things that happened along the way… she’s grateful for them, but she is all about the stage. She even described film as a medium that sucks things out of you without giving back. Stranger still, she’s scared of cameras and had to conquer that fear to do it. (She still hates to be photographed. Imagine!) She also talked a little about the differences between stage and film in terms of “rehearsal”…getting a laugh when she said that “rehearsal” for film should actually be called “negotiation.” She advised young actors to not get caught up in making choices for their “career” but for the material and the acting itself. There’s only so much control you have over a career.

Let’s see what else did we learn about TLLL? Her favorite costumes for any of her roles are the ones for John Adams – but she also kept her You Can Count On Me jacket. In her first Playbill they misspelled her name “Lavro Linney” and it taught her to not take herself too seriously since she had hundreds of playbills at home and was desperate to see her name in one. This story was very funny and she says her friends still call her “Lavro” if she starts taking herself too seriously. That first gig was an understudy for the younger female roles in Six Degrees of Separation and she watched Stockard Channing perform it every night for a year, completely enraptured. Every time she thought that Stockard couldn't take the role any deeper, she would.

That’s enough trivia!

She has zero interest in directing but she recently moved into the exciting world of producing for her new Showtime Series The Big C (see previous post) and she thinks she’ll be good at it. She talked a lot about understanding actors well enough to be very smart about call times, set environment and especially casting ‘No, cast this person. They have more range. It’ll inspire the writers and the show will be better.’ She also shared a theory on why when some actors emote you feel nothing and others will make you go all puddly (she believes the difference is that some actors knit their emotions specifically to the material whereas others are just accessing their own stuff... which is less thrilling.) More than anything else when the night ended, I wanted a private “Conversation With Laura Linney.” Which actors are which for you LAVRO? Spill. Show me your personal Oscar ballots!!!


James T said...

Lucky you!

I have to say. I'm almost unrgy with her. She is one of the best American actresses alive and she prefers to give her magic to only a small fraction of the world population? I don't live in the USA, Laura! Less theater please! :p

I can't really complain. She has done many movies and good ones at that.

James T said...

I'm also angry on top of unrgy :p

Anonymous said...

Periods and commas go inside of quotes!

OtherRobert said...

Oh goodness, yes. Laura Linney is a stage actress. An amazing stage actress. She was wonderful in the rather misguided The Crucible revival back in 2002 (other smart choice: Angela Bettis's underrated Abigail Williams) and her turn in Time Stands Still is the thing of theater legend. And to those not in NYC: suck it. She's ours and you can't have her. Stay back, damn you, stay back!

Now if she'd only share the goodwill and get Elizabeth Marvel more leading film work, we could have two phenomenal stage actresses hopping coast to coast and winning awards every time they step on stage/in front of a camera. Or, better yet, why not star in a show together? It'd be a guaranteed hit.

Better yet, get T-Bone Streep back on the boards (are her kids all out of school yet? that's the condition of her possible return to a long term NYC production) and make it a real extravaganza.

Jess K. said...

You Can Count On Me has been in my DVD queue for a it's at the top of the list!

Thanks for sharing your experience!

Franca said...

Hi there,

First time on your blog and am loving it! I too enjoy the lovely Laura Linney and claim her to be one of the actresses I enjoy watching the most! I did happen to catch her in The Crucible on Broadway years ago w/ Liam Neeson and definitely enjoyed the combo (play & actors)! But, am still so glad we get to see her in films. "You Can Count on Me" is one of my faves and I just adored her story line in "Love Actually."

Thanks for sharing!

"The Rekindle Project"


Franca... wow, and welcome!

Jessica ... you won't regret it. There are few performances as adorable as Linney's in that movie.

James T... I am often unrgy as well as angry AND hungry. maybe it's a good combo word

lylee2 said...

The Lovely Laura Linney is one of the few actresses who IMO has (at least at this moment) exactly the career she deserves...and I mean that with all praise. She may not be a superstar, but she still gets good parts and has earned mucho, mucho, well-deserved RESPECT from her peers and the industry, as well as critics. Here's hoping she's still going strong in 10, 15, 20 years!

Nathaniel, if you haven't run across it yet you should definitely check out her Studio 360 interview with Alec Baldwin:

Sounds like a fair amount of overlap with the event you attended (including her abiding love for theater) but it's still worth listening to - and the Baldwin/Linney dynamic is rather charming.

Volvagia said...

Considering Linney's career choices, I'd question whether her actress ballot even had Sandra Bullock. She probably would have had Mulligan, Rockwell, Tucci (LB) and Mo'Nique as her winners. I'm not saying they're all over the top, but they are the kind of performances that would be considered perfect in stage productions.

joy said...

Loved her in The Crucible revival. Can't wait for The Big C!!!!

BTW, Nat. I'm trying to decide if i should go to a NBR screening for "After.Life", do you think it's worth it???

par3182 said...

but did you tell her i love her...?

Lucky said...

I love that we're talking about her! She's one of my favourite actresses, and I haven't seen lots of her films, but she's been great in the ones I've watched.

I still remember when her nomination for the Savages was announced in 2008. I almost jumped I was so happy!

Janice said...

You had an opportunity to see Glenn Close and you passed it up? Are you DAFT? Seriously, I'm not sure you realize how lucky you are with all the opportunities you get to pass up. (I live in CT - two hours away from NYC - and I might as well live in Iowa.)

Glad to hear you enjoyed the night with Linney - I would love to see her on stage, as much as I adore her on film, I imagine my head would explode. (She was fantastic, as always, in The Savages.) Interesting, her comment that film is a medium that doesn't give back (to the actor). I assume it has to do with that quality that actors are always speaking of with theater - you have the immediate response and energy of the audience, whereas filmmaking is primarily about the technical aspects (lights, camera, waiting, waiting, waiting....)

I think it would be fantastic to hear Linney and, say, Meryl Streep, discuss this. Come to think of it, Linney/Streep is a casting idea that someone needs to get on RIGHT NOW.

Billy D said...

Laura Linney is just one of those actresses I don't get. She may be THE actress I don't get. And it's not really her, it's the adulation surrounding her--I don't get the type at all. In every role I've ever seen her in, she's been no better than dully competent. And don't get me started on her "Les Liasons Dangereuses" performance on Broadway--criminally boring and one note.

Don't hate me.

Billy D said...

Laura Linney is just one of those actresses I don't get. She may be THE actress I don't get. And it's not really her, it's the adulation surrounding her--I don't get the type at all. In every role I've ever seen her in, she's been no better than dully competent. And don't get me started on her "Les Liasons Dangereuses" performance on Broadway--criminally boring and one note.

Don't hate me.

Caden said...

Don't forget Squid and the Whale. Pickle! Chicken!

Agustin said...

I hope you'll read this
I just came back from Time Stands Still and got Laura Linney to sign me as the Lovely Laura Linney!!!
I'll scan it and send it to you
she didnt put the trademark logo though ha!