The title of her new film might be “The Savages,” but Laura Linney proved quite the opposite. The actress co-stars with Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman in a film about two siblings who suddenly getting yanked out of their self-obsessed lives to deal with a an ailing father now entering a nursing home.
Linney has been nominated for two Academy Awards, and her role in “The Savages” could be a third, but her name still isn’t immediately recognizable. She’s able to dive into characters in films such as “The Squid and the Whale,” “Kinsey,” and “Love Actually.” And beyond all of that, she complimented me about the questions I asked, and I decided she doesn’t do that to everyone … right?
Bayer: Did you find this script or did it find you?
Linney: It found me. I have no idea how. I had known Tamara (Jenkins, the writer/director) in the past. I had met with her on another project that didn’t work out for either of us. She knew me and thankfully thought I would be a good match. It was sent to my agent, and I read and it loved it. We started talking and then it took a long time to get it financed.
Bayer: Did you come on board before Hoffman?
Bayer: Any influence on him coming on board?
Linney: I don’t think so, no. I didn’t kidnap him and tie him up to a chair.
Bayer: With the character of Wendy, what did you like about playing her?
Linney: What I loved is that the borders of her character are so wide apart. They are such extremes. She’s narcissistic on one side and empathetic and sympathetic on the other. She’s psychically nervous and manic and can be very still. What it did was give me a huge range in-between.
Bayer: With that range, did you find yourself playing the same scene with totally different emotions?
Linney: Hopefully you always do and it brings its own life. There were many places to go, you could almost do anything and it would work.
Bayer: What was it like playing off of and with Hoffman?
Linney: It was heaven. He’s just a great actor. Fun to work with, and he’s giving. And honestly, I don’t know where my work starts and ends. Mine is so intertwined with his. He’s an ideal acting partner.
Bayer: “The Savages” ended the Chicago Film Festival and you walked the red carpet. For someone whose job doesn’t normally consist of walking a red carpet … what was it like the first time? And what is it like now?
Linney: It’s a strange, strange thing. I don’t remember the first time. I remember falling. Someone stepped on the train of my dress at the premiere of “The Truman Show.” I fell flat on my face. I was down! Scraped knees, blood on the dress, the whole thing. I turned to see who it was and they were gone, like the white rabbit. Some coward. To the photographers’ great credit, they put their cameras down and didn’t photograph it. I don’t know if the same thing would happen now. (The red carpet) isn’t amusing, it’s really strange. It’s a little violent and it’s hostile. You don’t feel like it has anything to do with your work or that they really want to photograph you for any reason. They scream and there is anger and it’s not done with a sense of celebration. It’s turned into a business all unto itself. It sells magazines and promotes designers, and, in some ways, it carries on the traditions of Old Hollywood and glamour. And people don’t know who you really are, and they probably haven’t seen the movie.
Bayer: Do you get confused with other actresses a lot?
Linney: Not so much anymore, but I certainly used to. Joan Allen, Helen Hunt, Jodie Foster and Laura Dern.
Bayer: You’ve been in so many movies and done a little TV as well. When people recognize you, what do they tell you they know you from?
Linney: It depends. It’s all across the board. It also depends where I am, if I’m out of the country. “Love Actually” is very popular out of the country. “Life of David Gale,” which is actually obscure here, is a big movie out of the country. There’s the “Tales of the City” crowd, the indie crowd. I’m the kind of person that you can’t really say I’m known for one thing. I’m proud of that actually.
Bayer: With two Oscar nominations …
Bayer: That’s amusing to you?
Linney: It is. It always makes me giggle.
Bayer: You never get to hear an actor say, “That’s something I am pursuing, I want to win in the future.” What do you say?
Linney: I just giggle. You know? It’s an amazing thing to be nominated; it’s exhilarating. I’ll never forget those mornings when the nominations came through. It’s wild.
Bayer: I try to have an ongoing question chain and this question is to you from Wes Anderson …
Linney: Oh, he’s asking me a question? Oh this is so cool. Good idea. OK, what does Wes want to know?
Bayer: Did you meet Noah Baumbach’s father while filming “The Squid and the Whale”? And how did Jeff Daniels’ performance compare to Baumbach’s father?
Linney: Yes, I did meet Jonathan Baumbach. I did not meet his mother until after we had filmed the movie. There’s a similarity in rhythm. Jonathan was on set a lot during filming and he would come up to me and say, “You’re a lot like her.”
Breakfast this morning?
Fruit, yogurt, bagel, latte
Favorite piece of fruit?
A combination of all the berries
Last album you bought?
Michael Chekhov teaching a master’s class
Waiting tables. Tiring but not bad.
Favorite recent film?
“Into the Wild”
Favorite place in the world?
My home in Connecticut
Mexico for a wedding
Favorite sports team?
Knicks because of my childhood
Something you can’t wait to do?
The gift of communication (all species)
Book you wish you’d written?
Last time you cried?
Habitat for Humanity and The Actor’s Fund
Age of your first kiss?
I think 11
Who would you be for 24 hours?
A great slalom skier, have no fear and just go