The Couple That Works Together...

Jessica Lange talks gays, marriage, Big Edie, and parading around with Drew Barrymore like a happy lesbian couple while promoting Grey Gardens.  

BY Corey Scholibo

August 09 2009 11:00 PM ET

 JESSICA LANGE DREW BARRYMORE xlrg (HBO) | ADVOCATE.COM

That is the main curiosity of this story -- how does anyone get to that point in their life?We certainly talked about it, but the fact that we didn't give any pat, easy resolution as to why it happened, I was glad about that. I think it would have been a mistake.

I think your performance of Big Edie is transformative in that in the scenes where you re-create the documentary you actually completely disappear and we forget we are watching Jessica Lange. Would you call this approach an impersonation?Certainly that was a decision. I wanted to find as much as I could that I could do exactly as Big Edie. That is partly why I kept insisting that of all the documentary footage that was used -- Michael was going through and picking and choosing which parts of the documentary to use as the touchstones in our film -- that we use “Tea for Two,” because it was such an iconic moment. So in that sense I guess you could say that it began as an impersonation. I worked on it literally millisecond by millisecond, every single movement of her hands, her fingers, her facial expressions, the tone of her voice. I felt it was really important to do it precisely, as precisely as I could. So there is that element. And then there is the element of filling in all the blanks between those moments. All we had was the footage of the documentary, but she clearly has such strong identifiable mannerisms and gestures and behaviors, and I would study that even when I was doing the younger character, so that it was organic. That certain gestures are with her throughout her life. I mean those are things that are just very obvious. I don't mind at certain times impersonating her because it was my way into the character. It was different from any way I had worked before. By watching the documentary every day when I came into my trailer, I could kind of feel when the character entered into me. I don't want to sound psychedelic or anything [laughs], but I could literally feel there was a moment when her voice, you know, I would say lines along with her and I would move with her and do all that, and then I could kind of feel the character settle down. Then I could work from there.

You obviously watched the documentary a lot. I mean, I find that film very hard to watch. It is emotionally grueling.Yeah.

Do you become numb to it at some point?I don't think so, but again I am watching it as an actor trying to nail the character. Once I started working on this project I was no longer watching it as an observer.

Did you stay in character throughout the shoot?Yeah.

I mean, you took that makeup off.Yeah to a certain extent when I went home. Unless I went home to see family or something, you couldn't stay as Big Edie [laughs]. But in the hotel I stayed immersed in her. I watched movies from the '30s and was dancing and singing and working on voice.

You and Drew were out promoting this movie like a lesbian couple. I mean, you were out at every event together as each other's dates. It was so cute.[Laughs] We had a great time working together. Absolutely one of the best I have had. Her commitment to doing this part and getting it, I don't think we could have done it without each other. There was some kind of alchemy, some chemistry there.

Tags: film

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