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Kenneth Lonergan On The Inspirations, Performances, Resonances & Structure Of 'Margaret'

Photo of Jessica Kiang By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist July 11, 2012 at 11:56AM

“There are some characters you think of and they’re really vivid to you and they’re easy to write and it doesn’t really matter who or what they are." replies Lonergan. "I don’t know why whatever this is fed itself into the life of a teenage girl. But I had been very interested in teenagers and that combination of sensitivity and dramatisation that they have. And very, very strong reactions to things that adults are more accustomed to, and not necessarily in a good way. They somewhat enjoy the drama which adults also don’t do because we understand it’s all very serious and nothing to enjoy.

Margaret Anna Paquin Matt Damon
How did it feel to have the film take so long to come out?
“When I thought the movie would vanish from screens I was very disappointed and very upset naturally and when it came back to life I was extremely pleased. It was only a few months -- September and October were bleak and then in December, I think, is when we opened in the U.K. and the Twitter campaign started (I don't know what Twitter is, I can almost send an email). I was shocked. It was wonderful...I was very happy for the actors, especially Anna [Paquin] because she's so wonderful and she worked so hard...She knew the script comma by comma, every sentence...Within ten, fifteen seconds of missing some little thing she would want to go back and start over again. And she shot every day, for 48 days out of 50."

Are you bitter on her behalf that she didn’t get an Oscar nomination?
Lonergan shrugs dismissively. “That's all show business. All that's very nice when it happens but you have to tell yourself that it doesn't matter. It’s especially hard to do that when it's going your way, but I was taught it's more important to do good work.”

Margaret Mark Ruffalo
Speaking of actors, here you reteam with many people you’ve cast before. Are you forming a troupe?
“Only out of cowardice. They’re all very good actors and I’m conservative, so I prefer to work with people that I know are going to do well. But it slowly grows because you can’t always find everyone. But yes, most of the people on the film I had worked with before... Actors who are that good are rare so try to find them and work with them again if you can.

Do you improvise and/or rehearse?
“We don’t do improv but we did rehearse for 4 weeks about 4 hours a day which was very valuable because there’s no time to rehearse on a movie set in any meaningful way... And then, yes, within the boundaries of the story if you don’t give [actors] freedom to do what they know how to do there’s no point, you should be a novelist...And some actors like to work alone -- Matthew and J, my best friend and my wife, don't like me to speak to them. And Anna Paquin likes to have a lot of direction."

Margaret Anna
You yourself have taken roles in both your films. Is acting something you’d do again?
“When I lose some weight,” says Lonergan sheepishly. “I liked to act in high school, though I never wanted to be an actor -- I have very limited range --- but I like to do it and no one else will cast me...In fact, my three most enjoyable days on the film were the two days where we did the opera and the day when I was acting because Matthew Broderick came in and was the director for the day. I didn’t have to do anything but do my scenes so it was wonderful.

It’s been a long haul. Was it hard to let go of “Margaret” after all these years?
Lonergan smiles ruefully and shakes his head. There is definite relief in his voice. “Easy. It was easy.”

This article is related to: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Interviews, Kenneth Lonergan, Margaret

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