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The Fretts on Film Interview: Laura Linney

December 3, 2012

You can count on her: I’ve never seen Laura Linney give a bad performance, and her unbroken streak continues with her achingly subtle work as Daisy Suckley, Franklin Delano’s distant cousin and reputed paramour, in Hyde Park on Hudson. As part of my New York Daily News story on the film, I talked with Linney about working with Bill Murray (as FDR), “snuffling” the role of Daisy away from Olivia Williams and potentially conflicting with The King’s Speech.

When you were cast in the role of Daisy Suckley, did you travel to her home for research?

Hyde Park is just a fantastic place to go, to visit the library and the home there and also Daisy’s home, which is also open and beautiful and most people don’t know about. They don’t realize it’s right down the road from Hyde Park. It’s this magnificent home on these beautiful grounds and there’s this whole history of a family there. Both places were incredibly generous in letting me snoop around—particularly Wilderstein. The staff were extraordinary with me. I got to spend some time in her room and that was incredibly helpful—seeing what was on her bookshelf and what was around her.

Did shooting the film in England add or detract anything?

I don’t think it did. The places do look remarkably similar with the exception of the odd tree here and there. I loved going there. I love working there, I love the people there. I had a wonderful time. As much as I would’ve loved for it to have been filmed here, it’s certainly an experience I treasure.

Bill Murray seems like such an elusive guy—was it hard to establish a connection with him on-screen?

No, actually. Regardless of who anybody is, when you enter into this sort of working relationship, it gives you a context that makes it very easy for you to connect to each other. I was just really happy to be there to help in any way, and he was incredibly helpful to me. We spent a lot of time in that car together, which I loved. He drove that car fast. He was not afraid of that car. Any of us who were in that car with Bill will have incredibly exciting memories to hold onto.

Olivia Williams told me you “snuffled” the role of Daisy away from her. Were you surprised when she was cast as Eleanor, considering how beautiful she is in real life?

That’s complete news to me. I had no idea. The hair and makeup departments on this movie were extraordinary on this movie. Hairs were crimped and curled. The skill with which they did that hair and makeup was really fun. And the costumes were beautiful. We all had tremendous help there. Olivia’s take on the role, seeing what Eleanor was like in private, in a world where she didn’t feel awkward, where she knew where she was and who she was, it’s a different view and an interesting one.

MV5BMjAxNzcxMjUxOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjU0OTU0OA@@._V1._SX640_SY444_Your costumes are rather plain, though. Were you concerned with appearing unglamorous?

No, I’m an actor so that’s what you do. And I enjoy that. It would be completely wrong to do it any other way. Because it wouldn’t make sense.

Do you think people will see FDR and Eleanor in a new light after this movie?

It’s just history they don’t know. It’s far enough away at this point that and American history never goes terribly in depth unless you study it in school. People don’t realize that any royals had never set foot in the US until they came from Hyde Park. I didn’t even realize that, but of course, it’s true. I don’t think people realize there wasn’t the warm feeling we had for England in the 30s. It was a real feat that FDR pulled off with the American public to gather the support to help England. It’s the start of that quote unquote special relationship, which is a phrase everyone has heard but I don’t think they realize came from that weekend.

Are you concerned about the film coming out after the same royals were depicted in The King’s Speech?

No, it gives journalists something to talk about. They’re interesting people and they’re worthy of time. They were a couple who were not given a whole lot of attention for a long time. It’s not surprising and I’m sure there will be more.

Director Roger Michell has compared the film to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Did you have that in mind when you were filming it?

It was just sort of evident because the evenings were beautiful there. With the music, there is a romantic quality to royal people coming to visit in the country in a weekend. There’s a poetic foundation for the film. Which is also what makes it cinematic. I think it’s probably the most cinematic film I’ve ever been in.

What’s your favorite Laura Linney film? Post a comment!

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