Chris Cooper and Patricia Clarkson Interview – MARRIED LIFE

     March 6, 2008

Opening tomorrow in both New York and Los Angeles is the new film from Ira Sach and it’s called “Married Life.” The film is about a husband named Harry (Chris Cooper) who decides he must kill his wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson) because he loves her too much to let her suffer when he leaves her. Harry and his much-younger girlfriend Kay (Rachel McAdams) are head over heels in love, but his best friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan) wants to win Kay for himself. As Harry implements his awkward plans for murdering his wife, the other characters are occupied with their own deceptions. Like Harry, they are overwhelmed by their passions, but still struggle to avoid hurting others.

Anyway, to help promote the film I got to participate in a roundtable interview with both Patricia Clarkson and Chris Cooper. Both had a lot to say about the film and since Chris doesn’t do too many interviews, it was great to ask him questions in a small roundtable setting.

As usual, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio as an MP3 by clicking here. And if you missed the movie clips from “Married Life” you can watch them here.

Q: Were you channeling Katharine Hepburn/Tracy Lords kind of character?

Patricia Clarkson: Oh lord. No, the beauty of Pat, as you know I’ve played wives, I’ve done period movies, but Pat is – she’s beautiful in that her wit and her sense of humor, her choix de vie, she’s sexy, she’s clearly a woman well into her forties and she’s still got somethin’ going on, she’s got little somethin’ somethin’. And so probably somewhere in my psyche are all of those great actresses from those eras. I do admire many of them and I a teenager I was influenced by them. But I found Pat kind of her own gal and quite frank and honest. What she says about sex I found refreshing. And love. So it was exciting to play her?

Q: Did you go back and watch forties movies to get the moves and feel of the era?

Patricia Clarkson: No.

Q: How hard was it to walk that line where it’s dramatic but does have a sense of humor?

Patricia Clarkson: Great humor. That’s what’s fun is to see this film – we were just at the Miami Film Festival with a packed big house, and just rolls of laughter and gasps. No, but when we shot it we shot it for broke, Chris and I, those scenes were shot as Bergman, I’m still recovering. They were shot full out, and hardcore. And that’s the thing, Ira really wanted – it’s a period movie but it’s not a period piece, so to speak. A lot of the clothes we wore were the real clothes from the late forties. I think we approached it naturalistically. Ultimately its tone and what you see, it does have style, it has a lift, it is a smashing of genres, he took the thriller, he took the melodrama and a dark comedy and kind of came up with this new cocktail.

Q: Is it a cautionary tale that you need to get to know your significant other better?

Patricia Clarkson: And be careful what you drink.

Q; Are you sure about that water? Did Chris send it in?

Patricia Clarkson: I know.

Chris Cooper enters the room and sits down

Patricia Clarkson: Chris.

Chris Cooper: Are you entertaining everybody?

Patricia Clarkson: Where have you been all day?

Chris Cooper: Sneaking peeks at you. Hello everybody.

Patricia Clarkson: I told them I murder you, that’s why I’m here and you’re not.

Chris Cooper: Or about to.

Q: Can you talk about working with Ira because it’s a close story with him as a writer and director.

Chris Cooper: How did we work? Well, personally for me early, early on, way before we started cameras rolling, I was working on another job in Mesa, Arizona, and Ira was kind enough to come down and this was for this particular script, it was a situation where I wanted to go line by line, a breakdown, make sure we were on the same track. My discipline that I learned early on is that time is money, and we had a tight budget on this film and a lot to accomplish and I realized the load that a director puts on his shoulders during production, so I don’t want to waste during set ups or before scenes to work out any problems. Over two different sessions we went over the script twice and found that we were very much thinking on the same lines, and then when – [to Patricia] Pick up any time you want to.

Patricia Clarkson: I’m just wondering, he had this whole pre-life with Married, because he was the first involved –

Chris Cooper: Yeah, I was attached to this for like a year and a half trying to get it off the ground.

Patricia Clarkson: I think you know it’s similar to what we’re saying is, and what I was telling you is, when we shot these scenes it was like intense, we shot them for broke. It was a very kind of serious, dark set, we had a lot of giggles too, but we came in really kind of loaded, ready to go, we had done a lot of emotional homework, we had rehearsed – Ira is a man after my own heart, doesn’t rehearse a lot and I don’t like to rehearse, but we had worked together [speaking of Cooper], we would run our lines together, which was great seeing that we knew one another, we’ve known each other for a long time, it was just us coming together and spending time together and getting comfortable and safe and all of that, and the learning of the lines kind of helped us I think become Pat and Harry as this couple

Chris Cooper: Yeah, we had a little bit of concern about the lines, this is an adaptation from a British novel, and some of the writing had that British tinge to it.

Patricia Clarkson: A little bit, but Ira was good, we’d say, ‘The only thing missing is tea cakes.’ Sometimes there was a little bit of British there, and he was good, Ira really listens, he’s a director who really, really listens and he’s very specific, and he knew what he was doing. He knew what he wanted and if we had difficulties he would change and there were some things in the script that he was adamant that he would not change.

Chris Cooper: We just had to work through it.

Patricia Clarkson: For the most part it was a pretty great script. It was a beautiful script, that’s why we wanted to do it.

Q: Chris, do you think your character was just naïve, or did he just have tunnel vision about his wife?

Chris Cooper: I can say that now that we’ve done the film, I think he was very naïve to assume that his wife wasn’t strong enough to handle the confrontation of the idea of a divorce.

Patricia Clarkson: He wanted to murder her! You know I was just thinking the other day, hmmm, maybe I should murder ….

Q: It does sound ridiculous the way you put it.

Patricia Clarkson: But that’s the beauty of this movie, it has a lift, it has an edge. It’s different. You have to accept the premise; it is Hitchcockian in its structure and somewhat in its tone and then it kind of smashing it.

Q: But it does seem like this could happen in the ‘40s more than now.

Patricia Clarkson: Marriage was much more of an institution in the forties than it is now, not that it isn’t still important in many people’s lives. But I think it helped.

Q: Was it hard to balance the tone of the film between being dramatic and humorous?

Chris Cooper: No, I don’t think it was hard in that way, we played the moments for real but when you put it together, and what I realized and what I saw when I saw it at the Toronto Film Festival for the first time with a theatre crowd, we’re not patting ourselves on the back, but it’s like the experience of watching this with a crowd is like when I went to the theatre in the fifties. People are very vocal and gasping and laughing

Patricia Clarkson: It’s crazy.

Chris Cooper: And the intensity of these scenes, there’s just a comic aspect to it that’s over the top.

continued on page 2 ——–>


Q: Can you talk a little about working with Pierce?

Chris Cooper: It was delightful; Pierce and I had a little private get together over dinner.

Patricia Clarkson: I had a little private get together too.

Chris Cooper: And we just talked about our personal lives and we found some similarities in that and just that evening spending together was just a great, great help in that the first thing we shot was the opening scene of the film, that luncheon at the Sky Bar restaurant, and not to make it happen but I felt like we had a nice feel with each other; the same thing with Rachel. I realize I didn’t do that many scenes with Rachel, we just established the relationship in the film with just a handful of scenes. Everybody was very, very comfortable with each other.

Patricia Clarkson: I did have a – like I mentioned, dinner – we got Vancouver, I didn’t know Pierce, but he’s my confidante in the film and I do clearly have a past with him, and we really clearly like one another, and so getting to know him was lovely, and he’s incredibly talented and a real gentleman, and lovely to work with – the two of them, it was dreamy to go to work every day. Seriously, sometimes I couldn’t sleep at night I was so excited.

Chris Cooper: And whether it was a collaboration with Ira and Pierce, I think of all the four main actors, Pierce early on saw great humor in this script and he found those moments brilliantly where he discovers the deal with Pat.

Patricia Clarkson: Shhh. Let’s just call it the deal. He discovers the deal with Pat, that’s okay.

Chris Cooper: I thought it was great the way he handled the scenes.

Patricia Clarkson: Shooting that was so fun. Yee hee.

Q: What do you guys have coming up?

Chris Cooper: It’s embarrassing, I think it’s something called Love in New York, it’s a companion piece –

Patricia Clarkson: American to the French – all those vignettes. (They’re talking about Paris, je t’aime)

Chris Cooper: So I’m going to be doing a little two or three minute piece with Robin Wright and it’s an interesting piece, we’ll be shooting it later this month, but other than that, after the writers’ strike the scripts are just starting to come in and I’m reading material, but haven’t come up with anything yet.

Q: Which director’s doing that segment?

Chris Cooper: [He makes a face and we all laugh] Oh man it’s embarrassing, I think he’s from Tel Aviv, I think he’s name is Ateel, never let him hear this.

Patricia Clarkson: I’m going to work with Scorsese next, which is pretty [someone says great] yeah, on Shutter Island, I shoot in May I guess.

Q: Can you talk a little about your character in the film?

Patricia Clarkson: I can’t. It’s a cool character, it’s a great character. It’s cool, it’s surprising and odd, it’s a challenge, but obviously I’m looking forward to working with Martin Scorsese.

Q: And you just finished a Woody Allen film.

Patricia Clarkson: I did, I did. Yes, I worked with Woody Allen over the summer and he was fantastic. I really loved working with Woody Allen, just his rhythm, his energy, his improvisational quality, it’s a free ride, it’s like a free lunch every day you get to the set and you can kind of – it’s great to be on the set with him. I was honored.

Q: You enjoyed Barcelona?

Patricia Clarkson: I did, Barcelona, by great-grandfather is from Barcelona, people don’t realize I have a lot of Spanish blood in me.

(after the junket ends Chris Cooper says that the New York version of Paris, je t’aime will have a way of interconnecting the stories…which the Paris version didn’t have)

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