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Sarah Polley Talks The Complicated Characters Of 'Take This Waltz,' Magical Creatures & Memories Of "Video Killed The Radio Star"

by Katie Walsh
July 9, 2012 11:56 AM
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The choice of “Video Killed The Radio Star” for two of the most important moments in the film was an obvious one to Polley for a number of reasons.
Polley has fond memories of The Buggles’ classic, saying “I used to spend many hours with my brother when I was 6 or 7 and he got his license and had this little hatchback second-hand Honda. We used to drive around and he would blare ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ because it was his favorite song. As I got older, I started listening to the words and realizing how complex it is and how complicated it is. It sounds so poppy and fun but actually it’s heartbreaking and strange and there’s a million stories in it; ultimately I think it captures what the movie’s about.” Not to mention realistic, as Polley says, “that ride on Center Island, they actually play that song really often when you’re on the Scrambler.”

Polley always had comedians Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman in mind during the writing process for this romantic drama.
Even though Polley describes herself as as “crazy rabid” Sarah Silverman fan, it was her brother and casting director John Buchan who suggested Silverman after Polley finished the first draft of the script, Polley saying, “after that, I started writing it for her, got more and more excited, and then was really shocked that she was at all interested in playing it,” and “I’ve just been so interested to see her in every aspect, and I’ve never seen her play a dramatic role, but she was so obviously a brilliant performer, I couldn’t imagine she wouldn’t have been brilliant.” Regarding Rogen, she said “he has a sort of authenticity and a groundedness that I wanted the film to have, so using him as a muse, I anchored the whole idea of the film around him, and imagining him in the role, gave the film a sense of place and an ability to like these characters even when you didn’t love what they were doing.”

Even though she’s a triple threat writer/director/actress, Polley probably won’t be directing herself anytime soon.
Polley says she’s keeping directing and acting separate for now because “the idea of spending time in an editing room with myself is my idea of Hades,” but also “it’s really important to be able to fall in love with your actors and I’m too frustrated by myself as an actor to want to deal with my own problems.” If it ever does happen, “I would never give myself a leading role and I think I would take a supporting role I can easily cut out if it doesn’t work. I care about my own films too much to take that kind of a risk.”

She has a new project lined up, an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s “Alias Grace,” which may take a back burner to family for the time being.
While promoting “Take This Waltz” (and possibly gearing up for awards season?) Polley is “taking time off with the new baby right now.” The Atwood project “will be a big project both to write and get financed so I’m not sure how soon it’ll be. But I think about it every day, so hopefully it won’t be too long.”

“Take This Waltz” is in theaters, on VOD and on iTunes now.

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  • Leovilch | July 10, 2012 5:51 PMReply

    oops - Margot not Maggie.

  • leovilch | July 10, 2012 5:49 PMReply

    The film is great and I loved it for all the reasons critics pick, but it also has a possible subplot that is a really interesting commentary on women and empowerment. The story could be read as a woman's struggle to learn how to make decisions. In a very old-school way, Michelle's character, Maggie, fits a 1950s profile of a philandering wife - enticed by the neighbour, she is drawn by pleasure toward betraying her husband, etc. What a femme noir! And, as in a 1950s film, she gets her due. The husband seems to be blameless in this tragedy, and we never really know the inner life of the man who plays bait. In that regard, this film stands among the truly great quality films of the femme noir genre, and Michelle Williams' play of Maggie is outstanding. But her journey can also be read in a more contemporary way as the challenges faced by a woman who has never really made her own decisions. Cut to the early scenes, post-airport, when she describes the anxiety she has about the space in between, and then follow her a she slowly enters that space and is drawn toward decision. She both triumphs in being able to arrive at a decision, and then stumbles over her choice. Would she/would we, wish she had never made a choice? Did she choose well the first time? All sorts of deeper questions are raised by focusing on the space between and the role it plays in her. What is the dizzying ride, for example, except a journey into and an escape from that space between? It is an excellent movie, and I am betting it will age well as we get to know it better. Congratulations to Sarah Polley.

  • Katie Walsh | July 11, 2012 12:54 AM

    Great points, Leovilch. I like to think of this as a kind of feminist film, as Margot begins to find her true self without using the men in her life to define her. I think this is particularly highlighted in how she ends up at the end of the film. Of course, it's not so straightfoward in it's message, and that's what makes it great, but I definitely think those are the main guiding issues behind it, about Margot being her own self and making her own decisions, consequences and all. I

  • The Playlist | July 10, 2012 11:51 AMReply

    Love this film, great piece.

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