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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rossiter Drake*

Linney is generating Oscar buzz once again
for her tumultuous turn in The Savages.

(Courtesy of San Francisco Examiner)

Laura Linney has been down this road before.

Twice nominated for an Academy Award – the first time, in 2001, for her portrayal of a single, struggling mother in “You Can Count on Me,” and again, four years later, for her supporting turn as a patient but put-upon wife in “Kinsey” – the New York native has heard so much Oscar buzz that it no longer phases her.

She will be hearing it again thanks to her brilliantly nuanced performance in “The Savages,” a darkly comic drama about a brother and sister struggling to cope with the failing health of their curmudgeonly father. Linney took the role knowing “Savages” was unlikely to emerge as the box-office hit of the holiday season – “How do you sell a movie about dread?” she wonders – but because she fell in love with the well-meaning but powerfully conflicted characters created by screenwriter-director Tamara Jenkins.

“I didn’t write the role with Laura in mind, but once she and Philip Seymour Hoffman signed on, I just knew it would be exciting,” says Jenkins. “There was a chemical reaction between them that this film needed, and I sensed it right away. Laura’s just so good and her instincts are so right. I was amazed to see the way she took what I had written and made it her own.”

For her part, Linney was immediately intrigued by her character, whom she describes as a deeply flawed jigsaw puzzle. And despite a grueling shoot that left her physically and emotionally drained, she relished the opportunity to work alongside Hoffman and Philip Bosco, a theater legend who served as one of her earliest influences.

“It’s hard to say no to good work, because I’m fortunate that working is coming in my direction,” she says. “I have enormous fondness for my character in ‘The Savages.’ She’s fractured and scared yet creative and full of life, and she presented me with an exciting challenge. And I loved working with the two Phils – I remember watching Philip Bosco on stage as a child, and he seemed bigger than life. There was even a chocolate syrup called Bosco, and I always called it Philip Bosco. That’s how much of a presence he was in my world.”

Linney, a Juilliard graduate and the daughter of playwright Romulus Linney, admits that working with one of her childhood heroes was at once thrilling and slightly intimidating, helping her play a character who remains in awe of her father despite his emotional shortcomings. If her performance earns the attention of Oscar voters, that’s a welcome bonus, though it hardly validates the experience.

“Acting isn’t instant pudding,” she says. “You have to put in the work and hopefully make the right choices along the way. You need to help the person that you’re working with, feed your acting partners and bring a story to life. You can’t just show up. Most of the actors I love and respect are perpetual students of their craft, and working with them is the biggest reward to me.

"Awards are very nice, and as a human being you can't help but think about them. But I don't think about them too much -- they could never be as valuable to me as the connections I make with the actors I work with."

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