‘It’s what you re­ally hope for and more’

‘Maudie’ di­rec­tor talks about film and pub­lic’s re­sponse to it

Cape Breton Post - - Arts/entertainment - SALTWIRE NET­WORK

Within the first few pages she knew.

Be­fore she had even fin­ished read­ing the script, she had emailed her agent ask­ing what they would have to do to make this film hap­pen.

And the first name she wrote down on pa­per be­longed to ac­tress Sally Hawkins.

“I knew maybe 30 pages in that I wanted to do it. It felt right,” says Ir­ish film di­rec­tor Ais­ling Walsh when asked about her re­ac­tion to read­ing the script for the movie “Maudie,” writ­ten by New­found­land screen­writer Sherry White.

Walsh, speak­ing to the Tri­County Van­guard in a phone in­ter­view from Lon­don, Eng­land, says she im­me­di­ately con­nected with the story of renowned folk-artist Maud Lewis. And she had the strong feel­ing that oth­ers would too.

“You just feel some­times you’re right,” she says.

She cer­tainly wasn’t wrong. Asked how she feels about the over­whelm­ing re­sponse to the film, Walsh says, “It’s what you re­ally hope for and more.”

In Yarmouth, the place where Maud Lewis (then Dow­ley) was born, and just an hour from Digby where she lived and painted, the film is in its fourth week of show­ings at the Yarmouth Cine­plex, where au­di­ences have flocked for re­peated sold-out shows.

And the film has seen strong re­sponse through­out At­lantic Canada.

“Peo­ple have re­ally em­braced it and re­sponded to it in an amaz­ing way. I’m blown away by it,” Walsh says. “You re­al­ize that the story means so much to peo­ple.”

WHO WOULD BE MAUD? Hav­ing worked with her be­fore, Walsh im­me­di­ately knew she wanted Sally Hawkins to play the role of Maud. Within a week of hav­ing read the script, she had sent the ac­tress a photo of Maud, taken by Yarmouth res­i­dent and pho­tog­ra­pher Bob Brooks, along with pho­to­graphs of Maud Lewis’s paint­ings.

“I said ‘What do you think?’ and she wrote back and said ‘Yes, I want to do it.’ She hadn’t even read the script at that point.”

Ethan Hawke — who plays the role of Everett Lewis, a fish ped­dler who be­came Maud’s hus­band — came on board nearly a year later af­ter Hawkins had met him dur­ing an awards sea­son event and spoke to him about the film. Hawke al­ready had a Nova Sco­tia con­nec­tion, as he owns a prop­erty near Guys­bor­ough.

Walsh says the film is as much about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Maud and Everett as it is a story about Maud her­self. She calls it a jour­ney that movie­go­ers not only get to ob­serve but ex­pe­ri­ence.

“He’s the out­sider. The in­di­vid­ual who’s lived a very dif­fi­cult life and is cut off from the world. It’s in­ter­est­ing that they share that fate,” she says, not­ing the au­di­ence’s feel­ings to­wards Everett evolve as the film does.

Maud, on the other hand, you love and ad­mire from the start.

“She brought this colour and love and life into that world and into that house,” Walsh says. “I don’t think she would have painted as much with­out him, he gave her free­dom to do that, in a way. That re­la­tion­ship is re­ally in­ter­est­ing, the ups and downs and she’s gutsy enough to re­ally hang in there.”

FILM DE­CI­SIONS Maud suf­fered through­out her life from rheuma­toid arthri­tis, which left her hands de­formed later in life, mak­ing paint­ing

hard but not im­pos­si­ble. Walsh says it was im­por­tant to both her and Hawkins that the film not fo­cus solely on Maud’s con­di­tion. Yes, it was part of who she was, the women felt, but by the same to­ken it was never the only thing that de­fined her.

“We talked about that a lot. When she’s a younger woman you see her limp­ing a lit­tle, as she gets into her mid­dle age, it is more pro­nounced,” Walsh says. “But there are peo­ple who have dis­abil­i­ties, and they still get on with their days and with their lives.”

Maud was one of them, she says.

In prepa­ra­tion for the film, Walsh vis­ited Maud Lewis’s house that is on dis­play at the Art Gallery of Nova Sco­tia in Halifax. She also vis­ited where the house had been in Mar­shall­town and also vis­ited Digby.

Much has been said about the fact that the movie was filmed in New­found­land and Labrador as op­posed to Nova Sco­tia. Walsh is asked why it was this way. She says pro­duc­ers had tried to find a fund­ing part­ner in Nova Sco­tia, but weren’t suc­cess­ful. Another pro­ducer thought he might have bet­ter luck rais­ing money for the in­de­pen­dent film in New­found­land. As time went on, since Walsh and staff with the film are from Ire­land, they also got fund­ing from there as well. Money was also sourced from On­tario.

“We tried to find a part­ner in Nova Sco­tia and we couldn’t. And then your govern­ment, I re­mem­ber the day it hap­pened, took the tax credit away,” Walsh says. “This film, had we been in Nova Sco­tia at that time as we were in pre-pro­duc­tion, this film would have never been made, be­cause it would have col­lapsed.”

Still, she thinks the movie will have im­pacts for Nova Sco­tia as peo­ple will want to see the area that Maud lived in. And they’ll want to she the house at the art gallery in Halifax.

The movie opens in the United States June 16 and will later open in Europe and the U.K. Walsh is ex­tremely pleased the film will in­tro­duce Maud Lewis and her work to peo­ple around the world.

The di­rec­tor says this film has achieved ev­ery­thing she wanted and more.

“It has brought peo­ple back to the cin­ema, that’s what I think is fan­tas­tic. You re­al­ize that peo­ple do want to go to the cin­ema and have a nice ex­pe­ri­ence and see a movie and be moved and laugh and cry and go on a jour­ney, this movie seems to do that for peo­ple,” she says, feel­ing thank­ful to have been in­volved with it.

“Some­times you get lucky,” she says. “I was so for­tu­nate the script was sent to me.”

MONGREL ME­DIA PHOTO

Maudie di­rec­tor Ais­ling Walsh.

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