The usual reaction upon being told the leading lady of the film you are doing interviews about has to cancel is disappointment. Utter disappointment, coupled with the frustration of being a journalist who has to deliver a story without the central character. This is what happened on Sunday when Jennifer Lawrence cancelled her interviews for Joy, on account of her being ill, according to the publicity folks. Although I was disappointed, another experience I had that day softened the blow for me.
I was helping a friend out by doing interviews for the movie. Joy, which has been nominated for a few Golden Globes, including Best Actress for Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, is the latest pairing of Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper with director David O. Russell, in a story about the woman who invented the Miracle Mop. Not only did Joy Mangano invent that and a bunch of other super-useful items, but she also created the thin velvet clothes-hangers that have been a staple in my teeny-tiny cupboard, since moving to NYC. Although I found the film itself to be a little all over the place and lacking a clear tone, it’s an inspiring story of how Joy battled volumes of debt, bickering family members, misogyny and the era she lived in, to become richer than she ever knew she could be, and fulfill her life’s biggest creative ambitions.
The film has a large supporting cast, and the story incorporates women from 4 decades, which is fantastic to see. The junket had many of these cast members on hand for interviews. Junkets can be pretty hit and miss. The day before I spoke to Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg about Daddy’s Home, and I’ve never felt more unfunny or awkward than I did in the 6 minutes I shared with them. Hey, maybe I was trying too hard. But on the day that I spoke to the Joy cast, everything seemed to flow. Sure, there was much anguish when J.Law cancelled her interviews at the last moment. For me, it would have been my first time interviewing Ms Lawrence. Somehow in the years of her rise from Winter’s Bone to Hunger Games, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, I have not had the chance to speak to her.
Despite her not making the junket, I had a truly great time talking to rest of the cast, from 80-year-old Diane Ladd, mother of Laura Dern (who told me the dress with roses I was wearing was going to bring her good luck because roses are her lucky charm), to Edgar Ramirez who is a warm kind of soul, and even Robert De Niro, who, the last time I interviewed him asked me why my country was allowing Oscar Pistorius to go off the hook (this was before the new hearing).
But by far, the person I most enjoyed speaking to was Isabella Rossellini, who plays the woman who helps finance Joy’s invention dreams, Trudie. After watching the documentary about Ingrid Bergman in Cannes earlier this year,In Her Own Words, which takes letters and notes written by Rossellini’s late mother, I was happy to be able to get in a few words with her before the interview started about that film. Isabella said she was glad to see that the documentary presented her mother’s story using her own words and showed the full spectrum of her life. Bergman was the face of Cannes this past year and being in Rossellini’s presence felt like an extension of the celebration of her life’s work.
Added to that was something Rossellini said about Jennifer Lawrence that struck me too. She said she’d been thinking of the actress the day before and about her place in the movie business. “Her talent is huge, it’s another dimension,” Rossellini said. “It’s hard to talk about it in present time. But just like Marlon Brando had a rawness in his acting, and so redefined what it meant to be a man, and gave masculinity a new definition, I think it is the same with Jennifer. She is redefining what it means to be a woman.”
She went on to mention Marilyn Monroe for adding a clown-like quality to being a sex symbol, and Sophia Loren, who changed the identity of Italian women from being something ugly into beautiful. “So Jennifer is creating a new definition for what it means to be a modern woman. Someone who is strong, and still remains calm and never loses focus. It’s beyond acting,” she continued.
To hear Rossellini, who has lived in the film world since she was born to her mother and father, Roberto, in 1952 talk about names from bygone eras and relay her perspective of current trends today was indeed a joyful experience.