PROOF - Q&A with GWYNETH PALTROW
An Oscar winner for her performance in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, Gwyneth Paltrow is reunited with director John Madden to star in PROOF. She plays Catherine, a young woman who has put her own life on hold to care for her ailing father Robert (Anthony Hopkins), a once brilliant maths professor.
Adapted from the play by David Auburn - which Paltrow and Madden collaborated on at the Donmar Warehouse in 2002 - the story deals with the bonds between father and daughter, and what bittersweet legacy might pass between them.
Paltrow's other films include FLESH & BONE, SEVEN, EMMA, SLIDING DOORS, THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY, DUETS AND THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS. Married to musician Chris Martin, and a proud mum, her most recent films include SYLVIA and SKY CAPTAIN & THE WORLD OF TOMORROW.
Is Catherine an emotionally draining role to play?
I was completely and utterly exhausted by it every day. When I was doing the play I was tiring and absolutely using up all of my resources but that was a two-hour period in the evening and then it was finished. And also there was one trajectory, one arc, it was from beginning to end. There were some really emotional bits but you got through them and that was that. But what I found so difficult about the film is that we would be doing one scene that was really emotional and we'd be doing it all day long and there was no end to it. It was hard to be in that state for hours and hours at a time.
Given that was it easy to switch off and relax between takes on this?
I actually didn't really get much of a chance to do that because I was very much in the thick of it. Plus the first anniversary of my father's death was right in the middle of shooting, so I wasn't in a great place emotionally in my real life when I was doing the film. I was pretty bereft, I was newly pregnant and I felt really, really sick. So it wasn't a case of 'oh the day is done' and going out for a nice meal or something. I couldn't even have a glass of wine. I'd just go back to my hotel, eat a sad grilled cheese sandwich and watch something depressing on television.
You've worked with John Madden three times now. What's the key to your relationship?
I think he is super intelligent, very intellectual, very well educated but he's also emotionally intelligent. He's a real family man, very warm. He's very specific and very exacting in what he wants from his actors. It's just a very fulfilling experience, he's just a lovely guy to work for, and I feel like we just collaborate well together. I hope we work together again some day. He's really fantastic.
The film deals with those things you inherit from your parents - was there any doubt about your choice of career considering your father, Bruce Paltrow, was a director and your mother Blythe Danner is an actress?
My parents were gently discouraging of me becoming an actor, they never really wanted me to do it. They wanted me to do something more academic, or more noble. But I wanted to do it from the time I knew what it was. My father said that he never remembered a time when I didn't want to be an actor. It's funny because in some families there are children who are absolutely disinterested in what their parents do and then there are some that really connect with it and find it appealing. Not only in this kind of world but in accounting, in physics or whatever. So in my mind there was never any doubt that I was going to do it. I was very sure that I would. I don't know where it came from but I always had a really strong, burning desire to do it.
Was it a daunting prospect to be working with Sir Anthony Hopkins?
Probably in any other circumstances I would have felt more trepidation about it, but because I had done the play and I was so prepared I felt, not so much confident, but I knew what I was doing. I knew what my approach was, I knew the words, I knew the character really well. I was just really excited about it. I admire him so much, he has so much power as an actor and he's a lovely guy. We had a really great chemistry together, and I definitely think it raises the game any time you work with someone who is better than you. It was great, I felt very lucky to work with him.
Is there any comparison between your screen relationship and the one you shared with your late father?
I think the only way in which it compares is that my father and I, in real life, understood each other very, very well. We were similar creatures, and I think Catherine and her father are similar creatures. There's a lot of love between them, and the same with me and my father. But I think the similarities end there. My father was very much my parent figure and I think Catherine is her father's guardian in a lot of ways.
When you first met him did you call him Tony, or Sir Anthony?
I called him Sir A. I thought it was halfway between polite and casual.
Sir A plays a maths genius in the film - were you any good at the subject?
No, terrible. I was really, really bad.
So did you ever cheat?
No! Are you crazy? My father would have killed me. No way. I'm sure I would have wanted to but I never had the guts to actually do it. I was terrible, really, really bad. Especially at geometry. When do you ever use that?
Without giving too much away PROOF retains the integrity of its original ending. Is that hard in the face of Hollywood pressure to make it more straightforward?
I think that because the play won a Pulitzer Prize and was highly regarded in America you're kind of safe from the sort of tinkering that happens all the time. I've been in films that have been ruined by that kind of thing. But luckily it was a little safer because it would be like trying to change the ending to The Cherry Orchard where everybody knows how it ends. You have to be as faithful to it as you can.
Has the character of Catherine changed much in her journey from stage to screen?
The play was such an amazingly intense experience, I spent such a long time being with her and thinking about her and studying her and being in her skin that by the time we got to do the film I felt very comfortable. I felt at one with her and I got to understand her experience in a lot of ways. I felt very blessed to be able to do it in two different mediums. It's hard for me to see how my performance might have shifted from one to the other because obviously I'm so close to it. But John Madden, when he talked about it, said it was very similar in terms of how I did it and how it was built. It was strange and very exhilarating to do the film. It just made me feel that I never rehearse anything enough when I do a film. How can I ever do a film again without doing the play of it first? It's like I'm so under prepared.
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