Interview : Laura Linney

Dressed to the nigh in black, as she embraces a chilly New York Friday morning, Linney is a bundle of energy for our brief chat in a plus Manhattan hotel room. The beautiful 38-year old has remained one of America’s busy actresses since making an impression on audiences and critics in the likes of Primal Fear, The Truman Show and of course You Can Count on Me. Never playing the same character twice, this is especially evident this year when Linney crops up not once, but twice, first as one of only two females in Clint Eastwood’s "Mystic River", and then as one of only two Americans in Richard Curtis’ ensemble comedy, "Love Actually".

“If you’re going to be in two movies, then what two movies these are”, the actress says laughingly. And of course she is right. In Mystic River, Clint Eastwood’s faithful adaptation of the best-selling novel, Linney plays the devoted second wife to a grief-stricken and revengeful Sean Penn, in the murder mystery, which partially revolves around the murder of the latter’s teenage daughter. Linney’s role in the film, which co-stars the likes of Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Hardin and Tim Robbins, may be comparatively small but nonetheless emotionally pivotal. Linney has no doubts why she wanted to do it. “For Clint [Eastwood] I would walk in the background, dust a table and walk out. That was the first thing and then number two; I wanted to work with ean. Also I just thought the part was so interesting”, she adds. In this male-driven drama, Linney doesn’t quite know what the role of the women in the film is, specifically, and pauses reflectively on the subject. “I think more than just women, when there’s a tragic event, I think the repercussions of how it moves through an entire family, I think is what this film is really about,” she says, not wanting to intellectualise on the whys and wherefores of the role of women in Eastwood’s patriarchal world. Linney found it difficult to relate to her character, “but I understood her line of thinking”, she says. “I don’t share it but I got her. She’s very far away from me,” she adds, trying to give away as little as possible.

As for working in such a testosterone environment, Linney didn’t seem to mind one bit. “I just LOVED being around these boys, it was just so much fun”, she exclaims with a genuine passion. “These are all men who know what they’re doing and not adolescent boys who don’t do their work. So THEY knew what a great environment they were in and were as excited about the movie as Clint was, so it’s wonderful when you can go in and just play ball really hard and know that’s somebody is going to catch the ball very easily at YOU at the other end.” The best ball player of them all remains the enigmatic Penn, whose severe media shyness precluded him from participating in these interviews. But Linney’s admiration forb the actor is unwavering. “My respect for him was huge before web made this movie, but it’s no=w beyond that. I have never seen an actor do what he did and I don’t think I’ll ever see it again. He’s also an unbelievably decent person.”

While Annabeth Markum in Mystic River is far away from Linney as one can get, then the love struck Sarah, the sole American character in the otherwise Anglophillic Love Actually, may have a stronger connection to the Oscar nominee, “though I don’t think I’m as romantically idealistic as she is”, says divorcee Linney, who most recently was dating actor Eric Stoltz. In Love Actually, a myriad of mostly comic tales of love and friendship, Linney’s Kate is madly in love with a fellow worker but is too shy to reveal her feelings. As one of the few Americans cast in the film [the other being January Jones of American Wedding fame who plays a Brit], Linney says that writer/director Richard Curtis contacted her directly. “He just wrote me this really lovely letter, one of the greatest letters I’ve ever received, asking me to be a part of it”, she recalls. “He’s just so clever and smart. You don’t getters very often; this one was so beautifully written that I fell in love with him right away.” It was a no brainer joining Curtis’ cast, which includes the likes of Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman. “I also love working in London, because I just love the city so much. I also LOVE working with the Brits.”

Even if it means having a wild sex scene in the film, though she is quick to point out that she is no stranger to on-screen nudity. “Oh honey, I’ve been so naked in so many movies at this point”, she exclaims laughingly. “But in this, it wasn’t real nudity, just a boob, no big deal, “she adds trying to keep a straight face but failing miserably. Sex scenes or not, Love Actually is, when all’s said and done, the ultimate romantic comedy. “It’s a film that looks at love at all its different incarnations, in every sort of viewpoint you can take of it. It’s a LOVELY movie, such great fun and I think somewhat needed right now,” she says. “It’s a hopeful movie.” And the perfect contrast to Mystic River “which is what I love about this profession.” Linney will also return to the theatre next year, having graced Broadway last year with a Tony-nominated performance in The Crucible. “I need to return to the stage once every two years because it reminds me of why I love being an actor.” Seeing her work in Mystic River and Love Actually reminds us of that as well.

MYSTIC RIVER OPENS IN LIMITED RELEASE ON WEDNESDAY.
LOVE ACTUALLY OPENS ON NOVEMBER 7.