The gypsy in her soul

Los Angeles Times - - SUNDAY CALENDAR - By Mered­ith Blake mered­ith.blake@la­times.com

NEWYORK— In the 35 years since she landed her first paid gig, Holly Hunter has proven her­self an actress of al­most un­par­al­leled range. Her ver­sa­til­ity was show­cased vividly in1993, when she starred as a mute, 19th cen­tury bride in Jane Cam­pion’s “The Pi­ano” (for which she­won an Os­car), a sassy sec­re­tary in “The Firm” (which earned her an Os­car nom­i­na­tion) and a homi­ci­dal house­wife in HBO’s “The Pos­i­tively True Ad­ven­tures of the Al­leged Texas Cheer leader-Mur­der­ing Mom” (which earned her an Emmy).

Thisweek Hunter, 57, ap­pears op­po­site Al Pa­cino as a kind­hearted bank teller in David Gor­don Green’s “Man­gle­horn.” On the hori­zon are roles in Ter­rence Mal­ick’s “Weight­less” and Zack Sny­der’s “Bat­man v Su­per­man: Dawn of Jus­tice” aswell as a re­u­nion with Anna Paquin, her costar from “The Pi­ano,” in the fam­ily drama “Break­able You.” Your up­com­ing projects could not be­more dif­fer­ent from one an­other.

Do­ing all th­ese dif­fer­ent kinds of wildly dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences, it just adds to feel­ing very alive, and they each make me feel ex­cited in dif­fer­ent ways. With “Man­gle­horn” and “Bat­man,” you have two di­rec­tors that are com­fort­able in their mi­lieu, you know? David Gor­don Green knows and un­der­stands Austin [where the film is set]. Hewent to col­lege with tons of the guys that he works with, so it’s re­ally nice to be on the set where there’s that level of com­fort and trust. And Zack should be di­rect­ing gi­ant movies, he flour­ishes un­der that pres­sure. How was it work­ing with Al Pa­cino for the first time?

He’s lovely. He­can still be very vul­ner­a­ble, very open to an­other ac­tor. I loved see­ing that. Aswe get older, peo­ple close down. We get less adap­tive, less flex­i­ble— lit­er­ally. Cu­rios­ity can di­min­ish, and youwant safety. Youwant what you know. Fa­mil­iar­ity. This is one of the rea sons I like to act— it’s be­cause act­ing forces you into sit­u­a­tions you don’t know. I like the gypsy as­pect of [act­ing] – I feel that it keeps me much more adap­tive. It does seem like you’ve con­sciously tried to work with a wide ar­ray of film­mak­ers.

Ac­tu­ally, that’s not true. One of the things that I loved so­much about [the TNT se­ries] “Sav­ing Grace” is that I got towork with the same peo­ple over and over again.… But I also re­ally like to go from stage to tele­vi­sion to movies. That’s such a nor­mal thing now. When I first started in1980, that­was not the norm, to bounce back and forth in that­way. Iwas do­ing tele­vi­sion, movies and theater all the time. I cer­tainly did my share of bounc­ing. The pre­vail­ing wis­dom th­ese days is that TV is more hos­pitable to women than film. Doyou agree?

Yes. I’m hit­ting a seam right now where I don’t par­tic­u­larly feel that­way, but sta­tis­ti­cally it’s true. There are, in terms of num­bers, more lead­ing roles for women in tele­vi­sion than there are fea­tures. That’s ab­so­lutely cer­tain. And it used to be that women went into tele­vi­sion when they got older. Now, women are go­ing into tele­vi­sion, pe­riod. Is there a “Holly Hunter part”— a type of role you’re of­fered a lot?

I am of­ten of­fered roles or women who are very strong, un­com­pro­mis­ing. But it’s fun to do “Man­gle­horn,” where I’m play­ing some­body who’s very open, very op­ti­mistic, very pos­i­tive. I don’t want to bore my­self. G.J., the spir­i­tual leader you played in the Sun­dance minis­eries “Top of the Lake,” was a sin­gu­lar cre­ation. How­did you and wri­ter­di­rec­tor Jane Cam­pion de­velop that char­ac­ter?

We re­hearsed a lot. Jane loves to re­hearse, to play theater games, Simon Says, mu­si­cal chairs, tal­ent con­tests, dances, a lot of im­prov.… I de­duced some el­e­ments of her that felt like home. And when we started shoot­ing, it kind of fell into place, you know? The char­ac­ter pre­sented her­self. Itwas re­ally a kick to do that and a great group of women at that women’s camp, to be hang­ing out with every­body. And Jane was just a blast. She’s so silly and fun. You’ve built a long ca­reer while mostly avoid­ing typ­i­cal lead­ing-lady roles. Howdo you think you’ve man­aged to stay around?

It’s some­thing I’m proud of, to have longevity in a ca­reer that is as chal­leng­ing as this one is. There’s some­thing mys­te­ri­ous about the whole process of ham­mer­ing out a ca­reer; there’s a lot of serendip­ity. I don’t knowa whole bunch of peo­ple who have the [pro­duc­tion] shin­gles, and they’re reel­ing out great projects for them­selves to star in. Gen­er­ally, ac­tors hang around on the sur­face of the wa­ter wait­ing for some­thing to hit, and I’ve al­ways en­joyed that. There’s re­ally a lot to be said for stick­ing around. Were there mo­ments when you wor­ried about what might come next?

No. I am not built that­way. I know bril­liant ac­tors who feel they will never work again, and I’ve never had that. Some­times I go into a very mi­nor de­pres­sion about, like, why can’t I get bet­ter stuff? And then I’ll do some­thing kind of great. And my own life is in­ter­est­ing enough where ifmy ca­reer is not gal­va­niz­ing and riv­et­ing, some­thing else is. I have many neu­roses, but one of them is not I will never work again. What do you see as the ma­jor break in your ca­reer?

[Meet­ing] cast­ing direc­tor Joy Todd. She did that mag­i­cal thing that you wish as a young ac­tor or actress might hap­pen.... She got me in a hor­ror­movie called “The Burning,” which Har­vey We­in­stein pro­duced. Itwas film­ing there in North Ton­awanda, N.Y., just out­side of Buf­falo, and Iwas mak­ing like a thou­sand dol­lars aweek. Itwas un­be­liev­able money! I was rolling in dough, sleep­ing in cash. I think I said one sen­tence.

Carolyn Cole Los An­ge­les Times

HOLLY HUNTER says although ac­tors like her­self jump rou­tinely from stage to TV to­movies, it wasn’t the case when she started.

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