Laura Linney has been down this road before.
Twice nominated for an Academy Award – the first
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
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
"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."