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Kristin Scott Thomas in “I’ve Loved You So Long”

Kristin Scott Thomas in “I’ve Loved You So Long” (photo)

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I can count on one hand the number of times the sight of a woman has completely taken my breath away: my aunt, drinking coffee in our home when I was a child; a teenage friend laughing in a parking lot, at night; a tired-looking French woman buying cotton balls in a Paris department store; my cousin, walking down the aisle at her Florence wedding; and Kristin Scott Thomas, turning from the window of a Manhattan hotel room to greet me. I don’t know what I was expecting — certainly not the drably dressed, makeup-less, slightly crabbed figure she cuts as Juliette, the tormented ex-con at the center of Phillipe Claudel’s “I’ve Loved You So Long” — but if, at 48, her beauty remains surpassing on screen, it’s a little crushing in person. Standing about six inches taller than her wont in an astounding set of black patent leather platform stilettos, Thomas seems to embody her rather towering year: after playing the role of Arkadina in the London production of “The Seagull” to awards and acclaim, she was asked to join the Broadway cast, which opened to only slightly less enthusiastic reviews this month; and her stand-out performance in this spring’s “Tell No One” was a precursor to perhaps her finest work, playing a French woman recently released from prison after serving 15 years for the murder of her son in Claudel’s small-m melodrama. After negotiating how to best lower one’s self into a deep-set couch while wearing such preposterously hot shoes (answer: switch to the armchair), Thomas offered some thoughts on the film, her character and New York audiences.

Is this the first time you’ve lived in New York for any length of time?

A long time ago my husband was sent here to do research, and I lived here then, but that was 16 years ago. And I’ve made various films here, but I’ve never done a Broadway show, you see, and I just love that. It is such fun.

How do you find the theatre schedule, as opposed to that of a film set?

With the theatre, your whole day is geared towards the evening’s show, and that’s the job. People usually go to work about 9 and come home around 5, or maybe 7. [In the theatre,] that’s what we do in a concentrated three or four hours. It’s very high pressure. But this particular piece, this Chekhov play is so brilliant and so extraordinary, and that’s a pleasure every night. And meeting the audience every night is a pleasure, especially New York audiences, they’re just so receptive and so reactive.

Does that differ from London audiences?

I think London audiences are more reserved. But also in London, it was a much smaller theatre, only 375 seats or something, so this is twice that size. The stage is much bigger, so you have to make everything a little bit bigger. But it’s a wonderful theatre, and of course, what’s so great is that because New Yorkers are so up front, they will accost you in the street and say they’ve seen your show and you were fantastic or [makes a blank kind of moue] not. I love that.

10232008_kristinscotthomas3.jpgYour performance as Juliette in this film is strikingly minimal, it’s interior and self-contained — in fact, much of it is silent. There couldn’t really be a more opposite end of the acting spectrum than what a stage performer has to do to draw an audience in — how have you mastered both and is it a difficult transition to go back and forth? Not many film actors can manage it so successfully.

I made this film directly after I finished “The Seagull” in London. I think working the theatre, on the stage with other actors, working with rock solid, beautiful language, just enables you to free up and become more confident as an actor. To play [Juliette] I needed a certain degree of confidence, I suppose, because there isn’t that much dialogue. There was more, but Phillipe and I decided to take it out because we felt that you could see it and not say it. I think working in the theatre builds your acting muscle, and you become fitter, so therefore you can go off and do something like this.

And maybe have the confidence to say to your next director, “I don’t actually need this line, I can give you what you want without it.”

Yes, maybe. But also, you know, I was a bit, I suppose, full of myself, because I’d made a certain number of films and Phillipe hadn’t, so I was able to say [bears up and holds forth] “Well, if I were you…” Which was probably poison for him.

What do you mean?

Well, he probably hated that.

I would think he’d be receptive, because you have had more experience.

Oh, he was very receptive, but I mean it must have been infuriating.

In some ways it fell to you to telegraph Juliette’s interior life bearing the full burden of information about what actually happened. The audience is let in on her secret slowly, over the course of the film, at the same time that her family is — the audience is not allowed to be your ally, in other words, and I wondered if knowing that came to bear on your performance at all.

But you see I don’t think that’s my job, I think that’s the editor and the director’s job. I deliver the raw the material and they put it all together.

You have mentioned that the one thing that can make you uneasy or hard to deal with on a film set is a lack of trust in your director. Because this was Phillipe’s first film and he is a novelist by trade, was achieving that trust a struggle or was it instinctive?

There was trust, because we all had confidence that what we were doing was heartfelt. Well-meaning is the wrong word, but it came from deep down. It’s true, in the beginning he was a little bit– because he’s used to writing, and writers use their head and then their pen and that’s that. He wasn’t used to delegating, but he picked that up quickly.

He has mentioned a technique that involved slipping you haikus and cryptic, kind of touchy-feely notes to get you into character, I was curious how that went over with you.

That happened because in the beginning I asked him not to talk to me. I wanted the first take to be mine, and then I said he could do what he liked. So I think out of frustration he started sending me these notes, and after a while, you know, he stopped.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.