Making things right with the world

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 25, 2007 - 3:03 PM

As a pregnant sister-in-law to an unusual man, Emily Mortimer preaches, and practices, acceptance and unconditional love.

In "Lars and the Real Girl," English actress Emily Mortimer ("Match Point,"The Pink Panther") plays the title character's pregnant sister-in-law. When he introduces her and his grouchy brother to his new girlfriend, a latex love doll, she is dumbfounded but almost immediately supportive, guiding him through a comic journey back to reality. Mortimer took a few minutes from filming the "Pink Panther" sequel in Boston to talk about her role, the attraction of dangerous roles, and the film's rubbery ingenue.

Q Ryan Gosling has the title role, but you play a much more dynamic and extroverted character, his doting, pregnant sister-in-law. Why do you think she devotes so much energy to reaching out to him, even when it puts her in opposition to her husband?

A She has a very vested interest in making things work in her family and as a mother I understand that. When you're about to have a baby you feel a very urgent need to reconcile every difference and every problem and make the world as perfect as it can be before you introduce your little baby into it. It goes along with washing down the cupboards and painting all the walls.

Q The film's key question is whether the main character is deluded or barking mad. What's your feeling?

A What's good about it is it does make you think about difference. People who seem crazy are often working out some problem in a way, working out some confused response to the world. And it takes those people to show we all are confused and in need in some way. It takes someone acting out in a dramatic way like Lars, and once the community gets over its shock, it understands itself and him much better. By the end it doesn't seem he's crazy at all, just that he's worked out his issues in a rather original way.

Q Every scene in the script could be played either for laughter or tears. Was there a lot of discussion of how to approach it?

A There was a lot of confusion about it! Maybe that lends the movie its sort of unique tone, because as we were making it we didn't know what we were making, whether it was funny. There were moments that were and we let them be and there were others that weren't and we let them not be funny but we were not completely sure of what we were making, we were just completely committed to it. We didn't know how it would turn out, and I think that's the experience of watching it as well. You're not quite sure what kid of a movie you're watching and I think that's part of the pleasure of it.

Q You and Paul Schneider, the actor who plays your husband, have a very natural relationship onscreen. How did you achieve that?

A Paul and I were convinced we needed to make that as real to ourselves as we could. I'm not one for method acting, but we went out shopping at Wal-Mart and then went out for a burger. That sealed it.

Q Church-oriented rural towns are often portrayed in movies as small-minded and judgmental. Did you like showing a very different picture of small town life?

A They're in some ways more understanding because they can't turn their back on someone they've lived their whole life with. It's kind of nice to see that depicted in a movie because your expectation is that a guy is going to show some extreme behavior that is shocking, and being ridiculed and dismissed by society. But in this film the acceptance is almost immediate. It really subverts your expectations and then the journey becomes a much more personal one for him, working out his relationship with his love, with this doll. And then finally putting it to rest.

Q Do you think this would have turned out to be a much different film if it had been written by a man?

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