FARMIGA FACES UP TO GUILT

Robert Downey Jr’s be­ing kissed while his wife is watch­ing, but that’s not the rea­son for the hurt and re­sent­ment his co-star is hid­ing

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES - TIF­FANY BAKKER

Vera Farmiga will tell you that do­ing love scenes is awk­ward enough (“it’s just weird”), but when your on-screen love in­ter­est’s wife is a pro­ducer on the film and is stand­ing just out of shot, it can prove down­right bizarre.

“I’m sit­ting on Robert Downey Jr’s lap, and the di­rec­tor is telling me to move this way and that, and his wife Susan is stand­ing there, nod­ding her head,” laughs the ac­tor. “The pres­sure was on me to please Susan. The first per­son I looked at was her, like, ‘Susan, is that OK?’ I mean, she kisses him on a daily ba­sis – she’s the ex­pert!”

Farmiga and Downey star in The Judge, an old-fash­ioned weepy (mixed with fam­ily re­sent­ments, grudges and things left un­said) about Hank (Downey), a high-fly­ing lawyer who re­turns to his small home town to deal with his gruff fa­ther (Robert Du­vall), the town’s judge, who’s fac­ing a mur­der charge. Farmiga plays Sam, “a solid, peace­ful gal” and Hank’s high school girl­friend.

“She’s pretty much the only woman in the film,” groans Farmiga. “So there was a lot of testos­terone fly­ing around. Ac­tu­ally, it was good that Susan was there!”

Farmiga reck­ons that “films like this” just aren’t be­ing made in Hol­ly­wood and that it took Downey’s star power to get the project across the line.

“I think there’s a very noble mes­sage here (about fam­ily). I know what it does for me in my life, I know what di­rec­tion it points me to. What it sort of deems me guilty of in my life.” Such as? “I’m not go­ing to tell you,” she laughs, “but in a gen­eral sense, I know where there’s anger and in­dig­na­tion and hurt and re­sent­ment that I’m not ad­dress­ing.”

Farmiga says work­ing with Downey (“he’s an ideas man, he has a big en­gine”) was com­fort­ing.

“I like peo­ple who make me feel good and he makes you feel good about your­self. He’s a gen­er­ous man, he has a gen­er­ous heart and he re­ally does en­ter your life full throt­tle,” she says.

“He cared im­me­di­ately about my fam­ily and my fam­ily’s needs. This is a su­per­star — he’s got a lot on his plate — but he makes you feel like you’re the pri­or­ity. He’s def­i­nitely not the norm in Hol­ly­wood.”

After praised per­for­mances in the 2000s ( The Boy in the Striped Py­ja­mas, The De­parted), Farmiga’s star rose thanks to her Os­car-nom­i­nated turn as a busi­ness­woman after a nos­trings-at­tached fling with George Clooney’s equally com­mit­ment-pho­bic Ryan in Up in the Air.

“That film changed my life,” says Farmiga, adding that it was that role which pro­pelled her to­ward di­rect­ing her own film, the crit­i­cally ac­claimed Higher Ground.

Still, she ad­mits her film ca­reer has been patchy.

“I have a medi­ocre film his­tory,” she smiles, adding, “There are a few films that I wouldn’t ad­vise any­body to watch.”

She also says that it’s a de­press­ing tru­ism that roles for women over 40 (she’s 41) in Hol­ly­wood di­min­ish.

“Look, I see things sag­ging and creak­ing, which seems to be a ter­ri­ble thing for ac­tresses, but which doesn’t seem to ap­ply to ac­tors.”

More re­cently, Farmiga has been seen on tele­vi­sion in Bates Mo­tel, a sort of pre­lude to Al­fred Hitch­cock’s Psy­cho (she plays Nor­man’s mother).

“The op­por­tu­nity for Bates Mo­tel pre­sented it­self and took me by sur­prise,” she says. “I didn’t nec­es­sar­ily an­tic­i­pate do­ing it, but I saw this character that I wanted to de­fend, and jumped on it.”

There were more prac­ti­cal rea­sons for tak­ing the role. “I have two tod­dlers (son Fynn, five, and daugh­ter Gytta, three, with hus­band Renn Hawkey, a pro­ducer), and I was cre­at­ing a no­madic ex­is­tence. My son has been on hun­dreds of planes. We are now ex­pe­ri­enc­ing rou­tine and en­joy­ing it.”

Th­ese days, she and her hus­band have “date nights on the sofa” and, when she’s not shoot­ing the show near Van­cou­ver, the fam­ily lives on a farm in up­state New York.

“Be­fore my chil­dren, my baby goats were my kids. That was when I had time for hob­bies, like de­sign­ing and knit­ting sweaters. Now the goats are just pets. ”

Next up, she’s to star in the se­quel to The Con­jur­ing and is get­ting set to start film­ing the next sea­son of Bates Mo­tel. She says she’s sur­prised when she gets another role. “At the end of the day,” she ex­hales, “we’re all just wing­ing it in some way.”

Pic­ture: CLAIRE FOL­GER

Robert Downey Jr as Hank Palmer and Vera Farmiga as Sa­man­tha Pow­ell in a scene from

The Judge.

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