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I Know This Much Is True: Rosie O’Donnell on Acting with Mark Ruffalo


From author/director Derek Cianfrance and based mostly on the award-winning novel of the identical title by Wally Lamb, the six-part HBO restricted sequence I Know This Much Is True follows similar twin brothers Dominick and Thomas Birdsey (performed in two stand-out performances by Mark Ruffalo) on their very own very completely different life paths. It’s a household saga of sacrifice and forgiveness which begins of their current — the early 1990s — and digs into completely different levels of their lives because it highlights how psychological sickness impacts everybody, together with the particular person instantly coping with it.

Rosie O’Donnell, who performs social employee Lisa Sheffer, spoke to Collider in a 1-on-1 cellphone interview through the digital press day for the restricted sequence. In the chat, we spoke about her name to satisfy with Cianfrance for this venture, how her work on SMILF led to this function, what impressed her efficiency, essentially the most difficult day on set, and far more.

COLLIDER: How did this come your approach? Was this one thing the place you simply obtained one script to learn, or did you get all the scripts?


Image through HBO

ROSIE O’DONNELL: I didn’t get any of the scripts, really. It was a really fascinating course of. I obtained a name from my agent that there was a name for me to go meet with a director, Derek [Cianfrance], about this venture. I used to be acquainted with the ebook, however I didn’t understand how he obtained to me, or knew what I used to be able to. So, I went to satisfy with him. It was a two-hour assembly in an workplace, and we didn’t speak in regards to the script actually, in any respect. The solely factor he mentioned, associated to the script, was to ask whether or not I might be prepared to chop my hair very quick. And I mentioned, “Of course, I would.” Then, it turned out Mark Ruffalo’s spouse, [Sunrise Coigney], had seen me in SMILF and beneficial me for this function. That’s how I obtained in to see the director, after which obtained the half.

At what level, alongside the best way, did you really get scripts to learn and discover out extra about this character?

O’DONNELL: I knew who the character was from studying the ebook. I additionally had a trainer in junior highschool who took me beneath her wing after my mom died and have become a mother to me. She left instructing and have become a social employee in the direction of the top of her profession, so I used to be acquainted with social employees, what they did, what it entailed, and the way a lot emotional output it required to be in that occupation.

I didn’t actually get the scripts. We obtained them, one by one, as we had been doing them. That was scary to me as a result of I had by no means had a lot dialogue. I had by no means performed pages and pages. The first day was a 12-page scene with Mark alone, and it was very scary and overwhelming. I keep in mind saying within the first jiffy, “Line?” And Derek mentioned, “What’d you say?” I mentioned, “I forgot the line.” And he was like, “No, if you forget it, just keep going. Just make something similar up, and I know you’ll get there. You’ll go around, and you’ll get there.” So, that’s what we did. He allowed improvisation, in a approach that was very releasing for me, and for Mark, as properly.

We get to find out about all of those different characters by their relationships to each of those males, Dominick and Thomas Birdsey, and a number of that’s by scenes between simply two actors having a dialog. As an actor, is there a pleasure in attending to discover the quiet and emotional moments like that?


Image through HBO

O’DONNELL: Yeah, and Derek inspired us to take each second of actuality that we might from it. He mentioned, “As long as it’s authentic, I don’t care what you do. As long as you can justify what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and as long as you can be real, constantly, then I’m golden.” So, that’s what we did. We adopted his lead. He’s one of the best director I’ve ever labored with. I really like working with him. I believe he’s an absolute genius, the best way he sees the film in his head and is aware of the best way to do the double scenes with Mark. I discovered his filmmaking and talent to be extraordinary, and I beloved working with him. You can see his voice, his aesthetic, and the best way he lives his life, as you watch this movie. Everything is up for dialogue and exploration. He lives a really sincere, truthful life, and I believe that comes by within the movie.

Was there a number of dialogue, as actors, as you probably did every scene, or did you get right into a rhythm the place you didn’t actually need to have these conversations anymore?

O’DONNELL: In truth, we by no means actually had the dialog, besides that first day when he informed me, “Be free, and be real.” That’s all he ever needed to say, on that first day, and everybody appeared to observe his steering. He has such a presence, and he’s but so unassuming and sort of shy. He’s so related to folks and to relationships. Everyone on the movie had labored with him earlier than, in addition to me. The crew would inform me what they’d labored on with him earlier than. All of the movies that he’s performed, he stored the folks that he was pleasant with, all through. I can think about having an extended friendship with them. I actually love him. He’s a really nice man.

It says rather a lot a couple of filmmaker, when folks maintain coming again like that, venture after venture.

O’DONNELL: Yeah. And it’s not simply the actors. The hair and make-up guys have been with him for all of his films. The craft service folks have been there. Everyone was part of his household, in a roundabout way. It created a extremely stunning atmosphere to work by such heavy materials.

When you’re doing such heavy materials, how does that have an effect on the ambiance on set? Was it a relaxed vibe as a result of everybody was so acquainted with one another, or does the heavy materials make it really feel extra weighted?


Image through HBO

O’DONNELL: It was a little bit of each. He’s so pleasant and chatty. While they had been altering the movie, he’d sit down subsequent to you and simply chat. There was a really informal and household really feel there, however the materials was undoubtedly a mountain, by way of feelings. There was a lot that was required of every actor on this. I solely actually labored with Mark. That’s it, apart from one fast little scene with everybody. But it was heavy, and we knew it was heavy. It was heavy as a result of we had been in a psychological establishment that had been used for a lot of, a few years, after which closed down and deserted. That’s the place we shot, in an precise psychological hospital. That was trippy and heavy and creepy. When had been pulling in there, within the morning earlier than the solar got here up, it was fairly daunting, to say the least. But although it was a really heavy movie, it was a really stunning ambiance that was created by Derek. He created a complete household there, and that’s the way it felt.

There’s one thing so fantastically pure about your character. She’s utterly sincere and makes it clear that she’s probably not concerned with taking shit from folks, however she’s additionally so compassionate. Was that one thing that you just had wished to convey to the character, or was that on the web page?

O’DONNELL: I believe I introduced that from that trainer who turned a social employee. She was so loving and so compassionate, and he or she cared about everybody, however she didn’t undergo fools, in any approach. She simply discovered what she wished and gave what she requested for. She required a stage of honesty and dedication that she was prepared to provide, as properly. The scenes with Mark felt like an incredible ping-pong sport that you’d watch within the Olympics and suppose, “How were they able to hit that ball?” That’s what it felt like, doing these scenes with Mark, which was actually a privilege for me, appearing smart, and a problem. They made it really easy to suit proper in there. Somebody who spends their life making an attempt to assist mentally unwell folks has to have a number of compassion.

It actually takes a really particular sort of particular person to have the ability to do a job like that. Why do you suppose this girl was somebody who actually simply cared so deeply about folks, and in addition discovered herself drawn to this man, specifically?


Image through HBO

O’DONNELL: There was a part of it that I don’t suppose made the ultimate reduce, the place Dominick says to Lisa, “Why do you care so much?” And she says, “Well, you’re not the only person in the world who has a mentally ill family member.” So, I believe that her mom, her father, anyone in her life was mentally unwell, and he or she grew up inside that atmosphere and is aware of the best way to transfer and reside inside it. I believe she cares a lot about Thomas and Dominick as a result of she met Thomas and will see that he was a really, very sick man along with his hand reduce off, after which the subsequent day, she met the brother and he appeared similar to him, and it throws her. I don’t suppose she ever had shoppers who had been twins, and I don’t suppose she ever had a member of the family, who was so invested in serving to their brother. By the time folks get to be locked up for his or her psychological sickness, relations are normally actually worn out and weary, and so they don’t nonetheless have that drive to combat for them, however he did, and that was completely different about him, which drew her in.

Was there a most difficult day or scene, on this shoot?

O’DONNELL: The day of the funeral was actually difficult. It was raining exterior. It was moist, it was grey, and it was dreary. The home that we had been filming in was very, very small. And Derek is all for authenticity, so he’d by no means take away a wall. We did it in an precise home. That was a troublesome day and it was additionally so stuffed with grief. That scene that we had been taking pictures was “Grief 101.” You present up with your entire emotions, your entire regrets, and your entire needs that didn’t come by, and we shot that scene, the place everybody was going by that, on the identical time. So, that was the toughest day for me.

You went from doing SMILF to doing this, which was very completely different in tone. Was that one thing about that which was very intentional? After doing one thing that leaned extra in the direction of comedy, did you wish to observe that up with one thing extra heavy and dramatic?

O’DONNELL: Well, I additionally felt that after I obtained to my 60s, I might get supplied the heavy dramatic roles, like Geraldine Page or Colleen Dewhurst, or anyone like that, who actually had early life of their profession of their senior stage. I’m 58 years previous now, and I assumed by the point that I used to be 60, I might be getting these affords. The indisputable fact that SMILF was dramatic in addition to comedic actually obtained me in right here.

At this level in your life and profession, are there issues that you just nonetheless wish to do that you just really feel you haven’t performed, so far as genres, or forms of roles, and even perhaps a particular particular person from historical past or some type of supply materials, that you just’d actually love the possibility to get to discover?

O’DONNELL: Well, I simply like to be forged in dramatic roles, the place it’s not simply the humorous finest buddy coming in with the fast quip. I really like that I used to be in a position to do that function, which was dramatic with out actually any comedy in it. It actually was thrilling for me to have the ability to try this. I’m open to no matter comes. I’m hoping that extra roles like this are coming my approach, however you by no means know, in present biz in Hollywood. One day you’re forged as one factor, and the subsequent day, it’s one thing else.

You’ve actually had a diversified profession. Have your emotions in regards to the work modified, through the years? Are there various things that get you enthusiastic about it now?


Image through HBO

O’DONNELL: It’s actually about what you’re seen as, in an effort to be forged in one thing. For a very long time, I used to be typecast because the humorous buddy, which I’m not complaining about. That’s what gave me my whole profession. But there are usually not a number of deep dramatic roles for girls of their 30s and 40s, that don’t go to the starlets. All of these roles normally go to the beautiful girls that society makes use of in all of their movies. I used to be simply so comfortable and fortunate to get a dramatic function. I might like to do any sort of dramatic function. When I see movies with somebody in a task that I might have performed, I at all times name my agent and go, “By the way, didn’t I get to read that? Why didn’t I get an interview for that?” But as issues develop and as your experiences construct up in your profession, I’ve performed a number of various things. I’m very fortunate that I’ve continued to work since I used to be in my 20s, and I’m now nearly 60. That’s onerous for me to imagine. It’s onerous to even say, however it’s true. I’m 58 years previous, and I’ve been very lucky to have the profession that I’ve had and to get to work with the folks that I did. All of it builds as much as no matter is coming subsequent.

The I Know This Much Is True sequence finale airs Sunday, June 14, on HBO at 9/8c.

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Vishal Singh
Vishal is The Flick's editor. His interests include product UX designing and search marketing. He can be followed on Twitter at @Vishal7Singh.

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