There’s that sense in “Black Bear” that your character is so repressed but she can only let things out in select moments, usually when the camera is running. Being in a movie that includes that, and is about that, what do you feel an actor needs to get those emotional bursts?
You mean like, what skills an actor needs?
Yeah, like what kind of homework.
Oh. Well! [laughs] Life experience, that’s one thing. I mean, I can conjure up lots of memories of being incredibly, unhealthily inebriated and intoxicated. I’m not proud of that, but I know what that feels like. And more than anything, I think for this movie in particular, it felt to me like the alcohol was this kind of acting out response to this situation with her husband. It became a symbol of her being like, “F**k you, I’m not going to listen to you anymore.” And I think we don’t really talk about, Is she an alcoholic? What’s going on with her drinking in the movie? But I of course had my own narrative about it, and in my mind it’s like, he thinks that she has a drinking problem, and she’s told her multiple times to not drink. It’s this rebellious act, I think, that just gets to a point of total self-destruction. Do I know what that feels like? Yes I do. If you don’t know what it feels like, I don’t know! I’m sure you could still act. You could always follow Michael Caine advice of, actors that play drunk the good ones know that when you’re drunk you don’t want actors to know how drunk you are, so you don’t play drunk, you pretend that you’re not drunk. This is not a good example of that. Because everyone knew I was drunk! From the minute I showed up on set. But Michael Caine. What an icon!
And also, I will say, and this is something that’s really dear to me. The first time I ever talked about this with an actor was with Anton Yelchin, when we shot a movie in Vancouver. He was doing a scene where he had to be drunk. And he was so worked up about it, and he wanted to nail it. And we watched “Under the Volcano,” and it’s one of the best drunk performances in the history of cinema. And we watched it together in our hotel. And I remember thinking like, “Oh yeah, you can watch incredible performances about this.”
Were there any performances then, that you watched or thought about before you made “Black Bear”?
Honestly, I thought a lot about Gena Rowlands. I thought a lot about “Opening Night” and “A Woman Under the Influence.” And Chris Abbott and I talked a lot about those movies, too. There’s something so real about those performances, and there’s a lot of connections we were making between the director and the actor, the cinema verité style. Those were two movies that I definitely thought about.
“Black Bear” will be available in select theaters and on VOD on December 4.