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Oscars 2011: Best Actress & Actor Talk: Portman's "Little Dancer," Firth Threatens Dance Moves

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood February 28, 2011 at 6:01AM

Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King's Speech
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Thompson on Hollywood


Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King's Speech

ONSTAGE SPEECH: "I have a feeling my career has just peaked. My deepest thanks to the Academy. I'm afraid I have to warn you that I'm experiencing stirrings. Somewhere in the upper abdominals which are threatening to form themselves into dance moves. Joyous as they may be for me, it would be extremely problematic if they make it to my legs before I get off stage.

So I'm going to do my best to be brief with my gratitude first for being on this extraordinary list of fellow nominees. Something quite formidable and possibly the greatest honor of this. All the crew and my fellow cast members, those who are not here, and those who are, Geoffrey, Helena, and Guy, whose virtuosity made it very very difficult for me to be as bad as I was planning to be. And David Seidler whose own struggles have given so many people the benefit of his very beautiful voice and Tom Hooper for the immense courage and clear sightedness with which he interpreted that. The men who finessed this to the screen, Gareth, Emile, Iain, Xavier, and of course, Harvey, who first took me on 20 years ago when I was a mere child sensation.

Thompson on Hollywood

And all the people who have been rooting for me back home. Also Jessica Kolstad, my friend, Paul Lyon-Maris, and Chris Andrews for bearing with me through some of the less fortunate moments as well as the good ones and my very fortunate friendship with Tom Ford who to whom I owe a very big piece of this. And to the Anglo-Italian-American-Canadian axis, which makes up my family and Livia for putting up with my fleeting delusions of royalty and who I hold responsible for this and for really everything that's good that's happened since I met her. Now if you'll all excuse me, I have some impulses I have to tend to backstage. Thank you very much."

BACKSTAGE INTERVIEW

Q: The King's Speech has taken up so much of your time in the last few months, I wonder now that you've won the Oscar, are you actually looking forward to taking a break from Bertie?

A: "Yeah, I am.  Yeah, I've started having fantasies about what I'll do, I'll have to talk to you about.  No, it's lovely company.  No, I think I'm going to cook a lot.  I don't think I'm particularly good at it but I'm going to inflict my cooking on anybody within range, but I tend to find that's a very good way to decompress.  I'll probably be the only one eating it but that's what I'm going to do."

Q: What message do you think this story sends to people?
A: "I don't believe in messages in what I do.  I don't think we're preachers.  I don't think we're philosophers.  I personally happen to be an annoyingly outspoken person, but that's not because I think the storytelling involves prescribing what people should think or hear, so I'm not in that business. What has struck me is the emotional response to it seems to be very, very personal.  It's quite diverse.  Quite obviously speech therapists and people who have difficulties with their speech of whatever kind, have responded to it, and that is very powerful to me to be on the receiving end of that kind of feedback because what we do is very often, it's justifiably judged as completely and utterly frivolous.  I think frivolity is also very important.  That's a whole other argument.

But the fact is that it overlaps with something that has connected with or resonated with people who've, you know, feel they've been heard about something for the first time.  It's probably the most valuable thing of all to me.  I don't think it sent a message.  I just think maybe it shines a light on something which badly needed it."

Q: Why do you not support it [cutting the film to be PG-13]?

A: "Because I think the film has its integrity as it stands.  I think that scene belongs where it is.  I think it serves a purpose.  I'm not someone who is casual about that kind of language.  I don't relish    I take my children to see football games, soccer.  And I wouldn't be able to, if I wanted to protect them from those kind of words at the expense of all else.  I hate hearing that language around them, but I'm not going to deny them an experience of a live game.  You know, it does distress me to, you know, to hear that language bawled in the ears of my kids.  So I don't take that stuff lightly.  But the context of this film could not be more edifying, more appropriate.  It's not vicious.  It's not to do insult or it's not in any of the context which might offend people, really.

It's about a man trying to free himself through the use of forbidden words, and he's so coy about it.  I mean, I just can't I still haven't met the person who would object to it.  So I think the film should stand as it is."

Q: Re: Hooper's choice of lenses, the way he placed you in the frame helped you create the feeling of isolation that you got?

A: "In some ways, the way of working was conducive to the kind of tension and anxiety that I needed to draw from for it.  The very first thing that Tom shot on me was a single shot of me in the first scene where Bertie meets Logue.  That's kind of baptism by fire in a story like this.  Normally, you would kick off with something easy like walking down a corridor or getting out of a car and then the crew will get to know each other and once we're all safely in the zone, then you can start to get into the more serious stuff, and then you might eventually start with a wide master shot with two actors, three actors.  And you'll know that that    you're establishing the scene first, the critical stuff.

The stuff on your face, most of that, is not going to play on this shot.  So you get a chance, it's like a rehearsal.  Tom didn't do any of that.  He decided to take a ten minute scene which was basically a three act play and said kick off on my face.  And there is nothing for it but to commit.  And I think he made a very, very good decision, not just for me, but for him, where we thought, "Okay, you know, you don't have much time in film, I think, has a misperception that you try and try again until you get it right and you can keep doing it."

That's not how it works.  You get three goes, four.  It's expensive.  You know, it goes into the can and you move on.  It doesn't matter if you haven't really nailed it.  This is like a feeling of being pushed out in the royal upper house and told to sing on the first night without much rehearsal and you just have to dig for whatever you can.  And then, I think it was very good because I put both feet in and so did he and he committed to a style he wasn't quite sure about yet.  He still had a few options open, but after we completed that day which could have ended up being about ten percent of our entire film, he realized he had committed to a cinematographic style.  And I had committed to my approach and to be squeezed down in the corner of a sofa and Tom kept telling me to shrink myself physically because I'm much bigger than George VI.  He was very slight and he had a famous small disposition.

So Tom's note to me was, 'Try to disappear as much as possible.'  And I think that's partly why he put me on the edge of the big sofa and part of why he put me on the edge of the frame, surrounded me by what he thought was negative space.  And I could feel all that going on and so it definitely informed what I did.

Thompson on Hollywood


Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan

ONSTAGE SPEECH: "Thank you so much to the Academy this is insane and I truly sincerely wish that the prize tonight was to get to work with my fellow nominees. I'm so in awe of you. I'm so grateful to get to do the job that I do. I love it so much. I want to thank my parents, who are right there, first and foremost for giving me my life  and for giving me the opportunity to work from such an early age and showing me everyday how to be a good human being by example.

And I want to thank my team who works with me every day. Aleen Keshishian, my manager, for 18 years and my agents Kevin Huvane and everyone at CAA. Bryna and Tamar at ID, my friends who are everything to me no matter what's going on in my career. And everyone who has ever hired me, Luc Besson, who gave me first job when I was 11 years old. Mike Nichols, who has been my hero and my champion for the past decade and now Darren Aronofsky, you are a fearless leader, a visionary. I am blessed to have just gotten to get to work with you every day for the period of time we did.

So many people helped me prepare for this role. Mary Helen Bowers spent a year with me, training me, Michelle Rodriguez and Kurt Froman and Olga Kostritzky, Marina Stavitskaya, and my beautiful love Benjamin Millepied, who choreographed the film and has now given me my most important role of my life. And also there are people on films who no one ever talks about that are your heart and soul every day. Margie and Geordie who did my hair and makeup, Nicci, who dressed me, and Kate and Laura Mulleavy, who designed the beautiful ballet costumes, Joe Reidy, our incredible AD, first AD, and our camera operators J.C. and Steve who gave me so much soul behind the camera everyday you gave me all of your energy.  Most importantly, my family, my friends, and my love. Thank you so much."

BACKSTAGE INTERVIEW

Q: Natalie, as your was name called when you were walking up to the stage, what was the baby doing?

A: "Actually, I couldn't tell you.  I don't really remember anything that happened.  But the baby was definitely kicking a lot during the song portion of the show, a little dancer."

Q: So your movie has many different interpretations of the meaning.  What's your interpretation?

A. "Well, I think that one of the most beautiful things about the film is that it can be interpreted in so many different ways.  I really see it as this young woman's coming of age and that she becomes a woman.  She starts out a girl and becomes a woman by finding her own artistic voice and sort of killing the child's version of herself.  She becomes a woman.  So I don't see it necessarily as a death at the end like many people do."

Q: How does playing a role like this play out in your personal life?  Does it come out in your dreams?  What happens when you go home?

A. "You know, when I was working it was really so    it was so hectic.  We were just working such long days and sleeping five hours a night and then just starting a day again, and there was so much preparation and so much training that I didn't really necessarily have time to think about what was happening.  And dream wise, I was just so exhausted every day, I was literally just like falling into bed and waking up and going back to set.  And I think that sort of pace actually helped me stay so focused for the part.  I didn't have too many crazy dreams.  I'm pretty good at shutting off.  This one was a little harder to shake.  I think just the whole mood of the whole movie was so intense, it stayed with me a little longer than usual."

Q: How do you think becoming a mother is going to change the type of roles that you take?

A: "I have no idea.  I mean, it's one of the most exciting things about being pregnant is that I just I'm accepting the complete unknown, it's a complete mystery and miracle.  And, yeah, it's really just accepting that I have no idea, which is what all of us live every day."

Q: You made yourself bare for all the world to see in this film.  Can you talk about how you put your trust in Darren and especially Benjamin, to pull off this physically demanding role?

A. "Absolutely.  Darren, I think it's only possible to give yourself so freely when you absolutely 100 percent trust the person you're working with as your director, because they are responsible for everything.  In film it is absolutely a director's medium and you are completely subject to their artistry, and Darren's artistry is so extreme that I really felt free to try anything.  And Benjamin similarly.  You know, I think to be believable as a dancer, I just trusted in him fully to be honest with me, to choreograph in a manner that best flattered what I could do and best avoided what I couldn't do, and really was catered to making it believable.  And he was absolutely the key to credibility for the film, and that was fully on his shoulders."

Q: What is the next big dream you have and what is the dream that you have for your child?

A. "The next dream I have in terms of very short term future is staying in bed, not having to do my makeup or hair, and keeping my sweats on, relaxing.  And for my child, I mean, just to be happy and healthy I think is what every parent could ever wish for.  Thank you."

[Courtesy of the © Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.]

This article is related to: Awards, Directors, Headliners, Oscars, Darren Aronofsky, Tom Hooper, Natalie Portman, Colin Firth


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