Lost and Found
Published December 21, 2009
In Jodie Markell’s upcoming The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond–the recently uncovered screenplay for which was written over forty years ago by Tennessee Williams–Fisher Willow joins the playwright’s canon of bold, complicated heroines with the help of actress Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays the fragile, volatile young woman. With an unrestraint altnerately fueled by the attention–positive and negative–her eccentricities receive, Willow, who is burdened by her father’s self-seeking past and baited by 1920s Memphis debutante society, finds herself further separated her from a world to which she barely belongs. I spoke with Bryce about playing an original Willaims character and escaping reality in Louisiana:
CHEW-BOSE: It’s crazy that this script was lost for forty years!
HOWARD: Crazy. Totally crazy, crazy, crazy. Because it was fully developed–that’s the thing. It was developed for Elia Kazan. Although I can understand because I work with a lot of writers and there are projects that we shelf. And sometimes it’s done but the writer gets swept up in something else. If you think about it, it’s totally possible that there are things that writers wrote and that just never got produced. But with Tennessee Williams it’s crazy because you think everyone would want to produce everything he ever wrote.
CHEW-BOSE: Were there changes made to the script?
HOWARD: There weren’t changes, I think that speaks a lot to the brilliance of Williams and the timelessness of his writing. I mean he wrote this film with the intention of it being a film, not a play that was adapted. So he wrote in a very visual style and described these sequences where there wasn’t dialogue and it was a cinematic piece naturally. The Williams Estate trusted Jodie [Markell] because she didn’t have a desire to change it. Her only desire was to portray the material honestly.
CHEW-BOSE: Was there that moment after rehearsing, when you were finally in costume and on location when everything seemed to come together, as if you were Fisher?
HOWARD: Yeah. It think because the character looked so different from me it was kind of great to give myself over to her. With the wig, and the make-up and the costume, and even the body…She was very, very, very, very different from me. She’s totally unapologetic, she’s–
CHEW-BOSE: She’s everything.
HOWARD: Exactly, so you just kind of have to go for it and let it go and not be that precious about it. I felt a heavy responsibility to honor the Williams text, but you have to be bold with it in order for it work. I remember when I was rehearsing, I was on my own and it was intimate and cinematic, and I started watching a lot the portrayals of Tennessee Williams heroines on screen and I was like “Whoa, I need to be a heck of a lot bigger.” You know, those performances are huge, and by today’s standards over the top.
CHEW-BOSE: The shoot was in Louisiana, right?
HOWARD: My family’s from Louisiana so it was wonderful to be back there because I had spent so much of my childhood there. We shot in Baton Rouge which is so gorgeous.
CHEW-BOSE: Your role was a veritable escape from your reality.
HOWARD: I know, it’s crazy! I kind of felt like I was actually losing my mind a bit because I would come home from shooting and a lot of this movie was night shoots, so I would come home from shooting and immediately go to Theo because he was sleeping through the night and then he’d be waking up at six AM. And then I’d stay up with him and only get two or three hours of sleep which is very, very common for a new mom. It was kind of helpful in regards to this character because her sanity is teetering.
CHEW-BOSE: There are a number of scenes where Fisher is suddenly being watched, or ignored, by an entire room of people because she’s too much of a presence. Are moments like that something you’ve experienced in your own life?
HOWARD: Well I’m not really a social person so I haven’t really been in a lot of social circumstances. I don’t always feel comfortable in those situations with a lot of people.
CHEW-BOSE: Neither does she [Fisher].
HOWARD: Yes, neither does she. I’ve never felt the sense of being watched.
CHEW-BOSE: Fisher wants bigger things and feels stifled.
HOWARD: And stuck.
CHEW-BOSE: And every day she’s trying to reconcile with simply being herself.
HOWARD: The tragedy of this character is that she so longs to be an artist and go back to Europe because she felt like she was at home there. But then you learn that she had a breakdown when she was in Europe so obviously she couldn’t handle herself there, so really she doesn’t feel safe anywhere. And I always thought of this character as Blanche Dubois, ten or fifteen years earlier, when she still had a chance. And what you’re seeing is a short period of time in this character’s life when she’s either going to go over the edge and lose herself to her delusions, and succumb to insanity. Or, find a way to face reality in a way that’s honest and true to heart where she can somehow find happiness.
The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond will be released December 30th.