Greening Hollywood: An Academy Grand Master And A Few Oscar Virtuosos

By Paige Donner

Michael Shannon, Academy Award nominee, Best Supporting Actor, Revolutionary Road Photo by Paige Donner

Strong beams and powerful spotlights are shone on a handful of actors every year during Hollywood’s Awards Season. Here we get the chance to speak with some of these hard-working actors nominated primarily in Best Supporting Actor category…oh, and, one Hollywood film legend, too!
Clint Eastwood, Grand Master and Film Legend, Director of Changeling Photo by JAL

Paige Donner: Congratulations on Angelina Jolie being nominated for an Academy Award for your film, Changeling.

Clint Eastwood: Thank you.

PD: What drew you to make a movie about a woman who was labeled mentally unstable because she was fighting for someone she loved and something she believed in?

CE: She wasn’t unstable. She was just…the Los Angeles P.D. just wasn’t responsive, especially in those days, to a single mother who had her son missing.

Clint Eastwood, Photo by JAL

Eastwood added that Changeling is a movie about factual events, not a story based on fact, but a story that tells the facts.

Paige Donner: I’ve heard you comment that this nomination is a culmination of years of hard work. What has brought you to this point?

Michael Shannon: I’m just stubborn. I never stopped trying. I just love doing it so much. I think it’s the only way you can endure some of the pitfalls and hardships of the profession. That you just can’t imagine doing anything else. So It’s blind, stubborn determination for what I do here.
2009-02-14-OscarNomMichaelShannon1HuffPo.JPG Michael Shannon, Oscar Nominee, Photo by Paige Donner

PD: You were nominated for an Oscar for a role in which you played on screen for less than ten minutes. Can you comment?

MS: I never count my lines. I look at every day on a movie set as a privilege…whether I’m playing John Givings or a busboy or whomever….I’m getting to be on a movie set, I’m getting to act and that’s what I love to do. I just rode the wave of this incredible energy that this group of people was creating. And those scenes are as much about Sam and Kate and Leo and Kathy and Richard as they are about me. I guess I just say the most in them or something.

PD: How can an actor hope to parlay a nomination like this to better and further your career?

MS: [Sigh] I don’t know. It’s the first time it’s ever happened to me. It’s interesting because I think people imagine it endows you with some sort of superpowers or something but you still have to…it gives you a little bit more of a profile, people obviously they know about it and they’re impressed by it but you still have to fight for what you want. It’s just happened so it’s really hard for me to tell what the ramifications are going to be.

PD: Are you still internalizing it?

MS: Yeah. It’s my natural impulse to just shrug it off and stay humble and tell myself it’s no big deal and I know that’s antithetical to the whole season and what it’s all about. I actually took a break and just went and did a job. I went down to Peru and I was shooting a scene and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m a little rusty. I’ve been going to too many red carpet events.’ I needed to get back and remember how to do this, so…It’s not like you walk around thinking that you’re the best actor in the world, but it’s nice to get an acknowledgment.

PD: What were you working on in Peru?

MS: I’m working on a Werner Herzog movie…

PD: Love Werner Herzog…!

MS: Yeah, that’s what I mean. I was down there and I was like, uh, what am I doing? I was totally unprepared… It’s called “My Son, My Son What Have You Done?” It’s really an amazing, bizarre script. It’s really hard to describe. We’re going to shoot the rest of it in March in San Diego.

Leonard Maltin and Paige Donner, Photo by JAL

Leonard Maltin on interviewing Clint Eastwood for the Lucky Brand Grand Master’s Award recently in Santa Barbara:

Paige Donner: Will you ask Clint Eastwood any eco-themed questions tonight?

Leonard Maltin: I’m going to stick to film career tonight. It’s not that that isn’t crucially important for our world, but I have a limited amount of time on stage and he’s been making movies for 50 years [sic actually 55 years] so I have so much ground to cover I think I’ll have to stick to the subject.

Amy Adams, Oscar Nominee, Best Supporting Actress, Doubt poses recently with Paige Donner

Viola Davis, Best Supporting Actress Oscar Nominee, Doubt, Photo by Paige Donner

Paige Donner: How was that to act with Meryl Streep?

Viola Davis: Like going 15 rounds with Mike Tyson never having fought before. That’s what it felt like. Even though I know I’ve fought at least one or two. She calls me a lioness. She’s a lioness.
It’s like anything. When you’re working with the best you know you have to be your best. So, I was terrified. But in a great way.

PD: If it brought out the best in you, did you hit marks that you hadn’t seen in yourself before?

VD: Yes. BecauseI had no choice as an actor. Otherwise I would have looked bad [laughter]. She gives 150% and so you have to give 150% if you want to embrace the experience. It was the most fantastic acting experience of my life. I can’t be any more inspired by another actor than I am by Meryl Streep. I’m watching her in Sophie’s Choice when i was in college. Once again I said, ‘I wanna do that. I wanna work with her. I wanna do what she does. I wanna feel what she feels. I wanna be Meryl Streep.’ And here I was, working with her. And she couldn’t have been any more generous.

Richard Jenkins, Oscar Nominee, Best Supporting Actor, The Visitor, Photo by Paige Donner

Paige Donner: So you’re an Illinois guy? Any comments on the recent election?

Richard Jenkins: Yes, I’m a Midwesterner. Yes, I’m as happy as anyone about the election. I love it.

PD: The public at large must see this as a big highlight for an actor’s career. Is that how it feels from the inside?

RJ: It does. It feels like a gift. It’s also so overwhelming that I just don’t have any perspective on it yet. I haven’t stopped going since the announcement was made. It’s a little humbling and kind of weird.

PD: Is it because it comes from your peers?

RJ: Yeah. You spend your life watching the Academy Awards, watching the Academy Award nominated actors and these guys and the actresses are so brilliant. I’m a member of the Academy and even when I became a member I was thrilled. It’s just an honor. I mean the history of movies. It’s very cool. It’s still there in front of you. You can still watch Spencer Tracy, you can still see these guys. I respect that tradition. The Oscars are part of that tradition.

2009-02-14-OscarNomRichardJenkins2HuffPo.JPG Richard Jenkins, Photo by Paige Donner

PD: When future generations are watching The Visitor, what do you want them to take from your role?

RJ: How do you treat people? I mean, that’s a simple question but just how would you want your son or daughter to be treated? That’s the question. How do we treat people here in America?

PD: What’s up next for you?

RJ: I’m doing a Joss Whedon movie in May called Cabin In The Woods, a horror flick with a twist. Very cool. Nice script.

Melissa Leo, phenomenal actress and Academy Award Nominee, Best Actress for her role in Frozen River pictured in the background. This virtually unheralded, as yet, actress is up against Streep and Jolie this year for an Oscar. Rosemarie DeWitt pictured in foreground. Photo by Paige Donner

Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married, whose star, Anne Hathaway, is up for a Best Actress Oscar this year for her role in the film.

Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married, Photo by Paige Donner

Paige Donner: You have some concurrent projects airing right now?

Rosemarie DeWitt: I have a show on ShowTime called the United States of Tara, which I’m very proud of, starring Toni Collette who is amazing in the role of Tara to say the least. So yeah, that’s on the air.

PD: Is that a juggling act having two projects getting that amount of attention right now, Rachel Getting Married, a film whose lead actress, Anne Hathaway, has been nominated for an Oscar, and this new series on ShowTime?

RD: It’s great when the projects come on at the same time and you’re proud of them. I imagine it would be really hard if you had some crazy, embarrassing project lurking in the sidelines so that’s been kind of lovely that there’s two things out there right now that I really want people to see.

PD: Anne Hathaway has given you a lot of props for the role you played in Rachel Getting Married. Any comment?

RD: She’s lovely, first of all. And I think that we just loved working together and I think there were moments when that felt like one performance to us, like we really needed each other to sort of do our jobs well and I think we really created a lot of space to do that. She’s just beautiful in the movie and I’m so excited that she’s got an Oscar nomination and she’s receiving all the attention because she deserves it. She’s such a generous performer.

PD: And what’s next for you?

RD: I don’t know. It remains to be seen. I’ve got to get out there and start auditioning!

Greening Beauty