'Animal Kingdom' Star Jacki Weaver Hopes She Never Meets Someone Like Her Character
By Denise Warner Posted Dec 2nd 2010 04:00PM
If you haven't seen 'Animal Kingdom,' make it a priority this Oscar season -- Jacki Weaver's name is more than likely to pop up among the nominees.
In the film, Weaver plays Janine 'Smurf' Cody, the matriarch of an Australian crime family who is not as sweet as she looks or sounds. PopEater chatted with the 63-year-old Aussie star, recently named Best Supporting Actress by the National Board of Review, about the role and how she inhabited such an awful character.
"If you are playing bad people, you mustn't make outside judgments of them, otherwise it's going to be too hard to get into their skin. You've got to just concentrate on working out what motivates them rather than making a moral judgment," Weaver tells us. "But then afterward when you let go of it and you watch it up there on the screen, I think she's just despicable. I can't stand her. She's horrible. I hope I never meet someone like that." Read our full chat after the jump!
What happened when you first read the script for 'Animal Kingdom'?
Well, I read the script a long time ago, it was sent to me by the director [David Michôd], whom I'd never met and he'd only ever seen me on stage, because I work mostly in the theater. And I just thought it was a terrific script -- I loved the story, I loved the way it was told. The characters weren't two-dimensional; they were complex and full of contradictions, like people are in real life. I e-mailed him back straight away and said, "Yeah, I'd love to be involved in this." Of course, being an independent film, it took quite a while for him to get his budget. When he finally did, some years later, he said, "I hope you still want to do it because I don't want to do it with anybody else." Which was very flattering; people hardly ever say that to an actor, so I was thrilled.
I read the role was written for you. Considering Smurf is such a cruel, almost heartless character, how did you feel about that?
I was very flattered, even though she is quite a despicable, horrible piece of work. I usually do get to the play the very sweet charming roles -- I've played my share of villains -- but I'm not an obvious kind of villain. I don't have a Cruella DeVille look about me. As the story unfolds, David wanted the audience to be shocked how far this woman will sink to get what she wants. How she's happy to sacrifice her own flesh and blood if it's going to make her life more comfortable. It's like if Lady Macbeth was played by a really sweet woman, it's all the more shocking to be condoning murder.
I'm so glad you mentioned Lady Macbeth, because that's what came to my mind about her.
It's a fairly classic sociopathic study of a person in that they are callous, without a conscience ... and cold-blooded about how they go about things, not caring who they hurt along the way. It's been put to me a few times that she's okay because she loves her boys. I think true mother-love is unselfish, and I think hers is totally motivated by how it's going to be the best for her. Of course I didn't keep telling myself she was bad when I was playing her, because it's a classic drama school thing that you learn. If you are playing bad people, you mustn't make outside judgments of them, otherwise it's going to be too hard to get into their skin. You've got to just concentrate on working out what motivates them than making a moral judgment. That's what you're doing when you're playing a role -- working out what makes them tick and why this character is like this. But then afterward when you let go of it and you watch it up there on the screen, I think she's just despicable. I can't stand her. She's horrible. I hope I never meet someone like that.
It's a contradiction to watch her because she's beautiful and has the sweet voice, and yet she sits there and calmly plots the death of her grandson in order to save her sons from prison.
She wants to keep the sons going, because she sees them as a stronger part of the animal kingdom, who will make life most comfortable for her. She pulls the wrong reins. And even though I love a film that doesn't tie up all the loose ends for you, that leaves you guessing and making your own decision about what will happen, I've been asked many times about what I think happens afterward and I think the grandson is now top dog. I think he's the top lion in the animal kingdom and she's going to have to adjust her life accordingly. She'll still prosper because she's a survivor. She's like a jackal. She'll still get by. But she's going to have to switch allegiances. And she just better pray that he doesn't find out she tried to have him killed.
Now I hate to mention the O-word, but there has been a lot of buzz around a possible Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for your work in this film.
My heart rate has just increased threefold, just you mentioning the O-word. It's something people started way back when the film was at Sundance and I just laughed it off. I'm 63 years old, I've been acting for 48 years. I've never been out of work, but I've never been known in America and it's not something that was ever on my agenda. I love America -- I used to go to New York every year for 20 years and I'd see every show. I play a lot of Americans on stage. Last year I was in 'Death of a Salesman' and 'Prisoner of Second Avenue,' and the year before that, 'Steel Magnolias.' I'm very soaked in American culture and I love American movies. As far as being a participant, that was never on my agenda, especially now. If someone had said this 30 years ago, it might have been a bit less bewildering. I'm absolutely thrilled, I have to say -- I'm over the moon. I'm trying not to think about it too much, in case I get disappointed.
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