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Q&A – Crazy Heart‘s Maggie Gyllenhaal Explains Her Character’s Crazy Choices

Crazy Heart‘s Maggie Gyllenhaal Explains Her Character’s Crazy Choices” width=”560″/>

Maggie Gyllenhaal wowed audiences with her performances in 2002’s Secretary and 2006’s SherryBaby: both roles generated Golden Globe nominations. With Crazy Heart, she’s scored her first Oscar nom, playing a single mom who falls for an alcoholic country star. She talks about creating her character, Jean Craddock, and how being a new mom helped her.

Q: Did you have an inkling that this little movie would generate so much attention?

A: You know, when I first read it, I knew somehow that this was something that I wanted to play, and usually when I have that feeling, it’s usually that I’m right — I needed to do that movie. And this movie had a star over it. And if I think about what I aspire to, and what I like in movies, it’s to be in a movie like this. Sissy Spacek came to the premiere, and she got it. What else do I want? It feels like a classic ’70s movie, and those actresses — Sissy Spacek, Ellen Burstyn, Gena Rowlands, Meryl Streep — that’s what I love, and being in a movie with Robert Duvall. I feel a little closer to that.

Q: Usually you play characters who are somewhat powerful.

A: I think some of the other people I’ve played that I’m proud about are fierce. Even in SherryBaby, she was a mess, but she was a powerhouse. I used to think that was the ideal, to be as strong as you can be. But I don’t think that anymore, and Jean’s much more vulnerable and feeling and open than anyone I’ve ever played. She’s a feeler, and she has an open heart, and it’s only recently in my own life that I could value that. I see it as something more grown-up now.

Q: Jean makes some questionable choices personally as well as professionally, by getting involved with Bad: he’s her interview subject, he’s a drunk, and she has a 4-year-old. How did you come to understand why she does what she does?

A: I made The Dark Knight when my daughter was 7 months old, and this movie when my daughter was almost 2, and that has almost everything to do with it for me. I’d been focused on my daughter for so long, and I kept thinking, “But I’m also an actress. I’m also a woman. I want to do something for me.” So I think, for Jean, she’s trying to be a good mom, but she was in an emergency state of what I was in: “I need something for me. I don’t care if it’s bad. It’s almost better if it’s bad.” So that feeling really resonated.

It’s so fast, the way they get together, and I think that it happens that way in real life, especially when it’s a bit of a mistake, you know? I don’t think she’s manipulating him to get a story, but she gets derailed. She doesn’t think a lot. For each character, I try to find the trap. When I was doing SherryBaby, I couldn’t get too teary, because she can’t afford to be sad, so that was the trap. With this one, I was thinking, “How is this smart, thoughtful woman with a drunk?” And then I just stopped thinking about it. Because that’s what she did — she didn’t think about it.

Q: She does mention it a few times.

A: One of the scenes, I straddle him, and I say, “Do one thing for me. Don’t drink in front of Buddy.” And then the other time, he’s leaving in the driveway, and I say something, but it’s more about him leaving. It’s not until he loses my son that I ask, “Are you drinking?” Because if you’re dating a drunk, you drink too much, too. If you go to dinner, you get three bottles of wine, and you get wasted. And I think she can drink, too. The scene of the second interview, when I pick up a glass — that’s my third or fourth glass. He’s not just refilling it for the first time. So she’s not an angel by any stretch. They’re both troubled, they’re both human, and they do love each other. She’s drunk in love with him. I think that’s what happens, and reason does fly out the window. But this is never going to work. By the end, you wish they could be together, and they just can’t be. Really, in the deepest way, they reveal their love for each other by not being together.

Q: And with the music.

A: There’s a song in the movie that has to really move me, so I realize how deeply in love I’ve fallen, and, the first time I heard the song, Jeff played it for me in his car and it took everything I had not to cry. And then when he plays it for me in the movie, I’m cooked. I’m done. There’s nothing I can do and I’m sliding 100 miles an hour down this hill. It’s over for me. Jeff would sing that to me on set, and that’s my best memory from making this film.

Check out what Oscar-nominated actors Jeff Bridges, Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Renner, Carey Mulligan, and Anna Kendrick had to say about awards season 2010.

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