57° Good Morning
57° Good Morning

Frances McDormand talks 'Olive Kitteridge'

Frances McDormand, left, with husband Joel Coen,

Frances McDormand, left, with husband Joel Coen, recently at the Venice Film Festival. She stars in "Olive Kitteridge." Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

Frances McDormand, who stars in Sunday's “Olive Kitteridge” (which wraps Monday night on HBO), was at the press tour over the summer. She spoke at length about the movie and her involvement in it in — and we have the quotes below.

Consider this post one last pitch to watch: “Olive Kitteridge” is a beautiful and deeply felt film with a string of performances that are remarkable — besides McDormand as Ollie and Richard Jenkins as her husband, Henry, these include Zoe Kazan, in the first hour Sunday, as Henry's assistant, Denise; the always great Peter Mullan, as the English teacher with the rip in his soul — disguised or obscured by endless quips or quotes from the masters like John Berryman ...

[Berryman's “Dream Song 235," in fact, provides a key to this film ...

"Mercy! my father; do not pull the trigger or all my life I'll suffer from your anger killing what you began."]

... And then there's this really nice surprise: “Gotham's” Cory Michael Smith (he's the Riddler) who is stunning in his brief turn Sunday night.

I love this film — and think you will too ... (The review, if you missed.)

What's the history of your involvement in “Olive" ...?

"About six years ago, a friend of mine gave me the novel 'Olive Kitteridge' by Elizabeth Strout, a great novel. If you haven’t read it, read it. I promptly put it aside, loved it. I love to read. I don’t read novels looking for material to make into movies, and that certainly was not a novel that needed to be made into a movie.

“I think often with movies about female protagonists, or not about, but that have female protagonists, a 90-minute time frame is not long enough to tell a good female story, and that’s why long format television has become so great for female storytelling and for female performers and directors and writers.

“When I read it, I started passing it around to other friends to read. Another friend of mine, who is also an actress, called me two days later and said, 'You want to play that part.' And I said, 'No. It’s not a movie. I don’t want to. I don’t want it to be a movie. Ninety minutes will diminish it too much.'

"And she said, 'Yeah, but you want to play that part,' which got me thinking, along with the fact that I was 52 51, at the time, I wanted to start generating my own work.

“I wanted to see what that was like. So I optioned it the week before the week it was nominated for a Pulitzer, Ms. Strout graciously remembered that after she won the Pulitzer for the novel and accepted my offer. So I had the option and then went about starting to meet writers. I soon met HBO after that. But Jane [Anderson who wrote the teleplay] and I met even after that, and through other circumstances that were very serendipitous that I won’t go into, but someday, we’ll tell that story and we started working on it, on the adaptation. And HBO helped facilitate that for over about a three-year period. So that’s how that part started."

How does the film differ from Strout's book?

“What’s really also really interesting technically about what Strout did is that it's 13 short stories. Olive Kitteridge isn’t even in most of them. She’s peripheral in some of them. In fact, the first short story, it’s called “Pharmacy.” It’s what we based our first hour of the film on. It’s about Henry. And Olive is his wife and the mother of his son.

“One of the things that I was really concerned about in the adaptation of the novel to cinema was how do you make it into a movie. It’s easy to take a peripheral character and, over the span of the literary medium, allow her to form in a reader’s mind. And how do you do that cinematically without telling a woman’s story chronologically, which I was really concerned about?

“The usual film form that you have of 90 minutes to two hours is never is enough time to really tell a woman’s story as far as I’m concerned, unless that woman is peripheral to a male protagonist, and, then, she can be more interesting.

“And I know that from experience, because that’s most of the roles I’ve played throughout my film career. I’ve been in supporting characters to male protagonists, and no matter what the success of the film is, I often have a certain success as an actor because they want to know, 'OK. That character doesn’t have a last name. She doesn’t have an apartment even, but she’s really interesting. Who is she?'

"Often what happens in women’s lives [is], we play a supporting role in male protagonists’ lives — whether it be our husbands, our sons, our bosses, and we ... systematically go about making sure you don’t forget us even on the peripheral edge.

“I think that that’s part of what our story is about — a woman who, under a lot of circumstances, is never is invisible [and] she makes sure she’s not. "

More Entertainment