Laura Linney Goes Crazy for 'The Details' and Remembers Her Wild Child NYC Past
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Laura Linney can hardly contain her laughter.
“Someone once wanted me to play Mother Theresa,” she giggles, working the words out just before cracking into hysterical reminiscence. “It was a long time ago, actually, after The Truman Show. It was a television movie. I just laughed, I laughed for a half hour. I mean, c’mon. I’m almost 5’8 and very blond. It’s hysterical. They were going to put prosthetic makeup on me. I just had this image of me, you know – she was like 4’10 or something. Tiny, little… it was just so funny.”
To be fair, by her own admission, Linney is hard to pigeonhole; she’s done costume drama (winning an Emmy, one of her three, for playing Abigail Adams), foretold the future of reality TV as a stepford-style wife (in The Truman Show) and has come to represent a new generation of cancer survivors (in her Showtime dramedy, The Big C). And this winter, the New York native’s resume will only becomes more varied.
The Details: Film Review
Well-publicized is her role in Hyde Park on Hudson as Daisy Stuckey, the distant cousin, companion and maybe-mistress of President Franklin Roosevelt, who is played in the film by Bill Murray. That film, a Focus Features release set for December, will earn plenty of buzz on its own; in this late fall afternoon in a hotel just a 6 train stop from her childhood home on the Upper East Side, Linney is doing her part to drum up attention for an indie comedy she made three years ago, The Details.
It’s one of those films that somehow gets stuck waiting for release, despite a big profile out of Sundance, a high-caliber cast and edgy approach to the modern bourgeois American affliction of suburban angst -- a subject matter that never goes out of style. Linney plays the crazy, hypersexual cat-lady who lives next door to the handsome couple of Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Banks. A shut-in who develops a crush on the one-time Spider-Man when he comes over to sweet talk her into allowing him to tweak her yard in a fight against racoons (and is anything more relatable than that?), she suffers a meltdown as the story goes on. She is equal parts deranged and seductive, with a wide-eyed smile masking the imbalance in her chemical equilibrium.
It’s hard to pinpoint when, if at all, Linney has taken an unsatisfying role for money, reading assigned lines to cash a check so she can pursue her more artistic ventures; her IMDB profile is remarkably clear of such summer clunkers. But working on an indie film as small as The Details gave her even more creative control than she’d be afforded normally, which meant re-working -- and spicing up -- the character to her own specifications.
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“I wanted her to have a little sort of fantastical sort of appeal,” she recalls. “I wanted a little Nancy Sinatra. So opposed to being more toward bag lady or just depressed indigent agoraphobe, I wanted her to be someone who had an active, active imagination. And someone who was alone and lonely and agoraphobic and a germophobe and all of that, and who had an imagination that just wouldn’t quit. And had an adolescent, innocent, penchant towards idolatry, but at the same time had a rabid, carnal sexual need that had to be filled.”
It’s a tall order, creating a vulnerable predator, but one she dived into with relish, using the ten days she had on director Jacob Estes’ set -- “good old independent filmmaking, it’s difficult and you roll up your sleeves and you get to work” -- to create a character Linney calls absolutely unique from anything else she’s ever done.
That it’s taken so long for the film to screen in theaters -- now, it’s in limited release, and available on demand -- is one of the more frustrating aspects of devoting oneself to an independent production. It’s an all hands on deck type of effort, from helping to secure financing to forgoing fancy accommodations, to shoehorning interviews into a busy schedule that had been set long before a last-minute promotional blitz is thrown together. It is symptomatic, she says, of Hollywood’s increased devotion to franchise, tentpole events rich in explosions and spandex.