Katie Holmes tackles what could be the most challenging role of her career in the upcoming indie drama Touched With Fire. She plays a poet suffering from bipolar disorder who chooses between love and sanity when she meets a fellow poet (Luke Kirby) who has the same mental illness. (Watch the exclusive first trailer above.) Touched With Fire’s writer-director Paul Dalio has talked about his own bipolar disorder and how he found inspiration in the book Touched With Fire that examines great artists and mental illness. Dalio also got an assist from his NYU professor Spike Lee, who’s an executive producer on the movie. The film — which was originally titled Mania Days — premiered at SXSW last spring to some positive reviews and hits select theaters on Feb. 12.
Yahoo Movies spoke this week with Holmes, who gave her first interview about the film and what it was like playing someone who finds troubling inspiration in her mental illness.
What did you know about bipolar disorder going in?
I didn’t know much about it, quite honestly. Our director is very open about having the disorder and this was very much his experience. When I sat down with him, I was really inspired by what he was saying. I’d never done a part like this before. The challenge of that was very enticing. I know there are so many families affected by this, so it became something bigger than just an acting job.
Did he help keep things authentic?
Yes, very much so. He’s obviously very passionate about it. I depended on him a lot in terms of the pacing of it.
How did you prepare?
I worked with an acting teacher. I read a lot of books on the disorder and just threw myself into it.
This is obviously a serious topic. Were there ever any lighthearted moments on set?
It was a very intense experience, but when we shot at Washington Square Park in New York, [Luke Kirby and I] were in the fountain [for one scene]. We had worked so hard [up until that point], it was just really fun to do that.
How did the role end up affecting you?
I came to understand the pain that is involved. It really is a hardship. I walked away from the picture with a great amount of empathy.
What roles are you attracted to at this stage in your career?
There are things that are pure entertainment, and there are things that mean something to me. Touched With Fire — this really means a lot to me. I’m really proud of this.