Happy Birthday, Melissa!

From my ’08 Chat with Melissa Leo about Frozen River, the film that moved her from the fringe to Hollywood’s “A List“:

“Women form alliances throughout time in odd and various ways. I’m thinking of people like Queen Elizabeth and her Ladies-in-Waiting. Who was really running that country? Was it Elizabeth and the men in the Council, or was it the ladies dressing Elizabeth that were really in charge?”

“I think that both of these women in Frozen River are women who know how to make do, and they’re not counting on anybody to be there for them. They make a very shaky arrangement, completely distrustful of one another, but like in life, I think that simply the doing of this rather dangerous task forms a bond; in spite of themselves a bond forms, perhaps a bond more trustworthy than any bond either of them has ever known.”

“With Homicide: Life on the Streets [the TV series in which Leo starred as “Detective Kay Howard” from 1993 to1997], I began by going through hair and makeup and doing the works, but eventually I saw an opportunity to be a woman on national television without makeup. Since I started working, some guys like to wear their makeup, but most of them don’t. Why is my face so different than their faces? Why does ‘the girl’ have to be pretty every time?”

“I’m the actor who’s willing to not be “pretty;” pretty, schmitty, it’s never played a very big role in my life. I think there are things about me that are very beautiful. I think that I’m a very beautiful person in many ways. But I’ve never been a ringer; I’ve never been a prom queen, not even close. So I don’t get those roles that the prom queens or might’ve been prom queens get. I have no regrets about that. I hope I continue being able to do all of it, from soup to nuts, A to Z. That’s what interests me.”

“When Courtney [Hunt] was trying to raise money for Frozen River, I would call her every three or four months and say: ‘We makin’ that movie?’ I come to find out three years later that I would often call, just like woman do, at that very moment when she was ready to give up, get a kindergarten teaching license, and forget about it. Certainly I have been given reasons to give up, but I won’t.”

7/16/08 interview conducted, condensed, and edited by Jan Lisa Huttner.

2011 Photos: Melissa Leo wins Screen Actors Guild award for her role in The Fighter, the same role that won her an Oscar a few weeks later.  Photo Credit: NewsCom.  All Rights Reserved.

 

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    But here’s the rub: Look at all the wonderful things that have happened to Melissa Leo since FROZEN RIVER, then ask yourself “What’s become of Courtney Hunt?” I don’t know Courtney Hunt, never met her, wouldn’t know her if I was standing next to her in an elevator, but this seems to be the paradigmatic case of how women filmmakers remain invisible even after the kind of success that would likely “launch” most male counterparts: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2581581

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