ATLANTA — Sissy Spacek was a Christmas baby.
The celebrated actress, a mainstay at movie theaters since her hippie days in the early '70s, turned 52 on the same day this week her latest drama — the moving, frequently heartbreaking "In the Bedroom" — opened beyond New York and Los Angeles.
A five-time Oscar nominee, she won in 1980 for "Coal Miner's Daughter," playing country star Loretta Lynn with a pitch-perfect interpretation. Now Spacek is the subject of Oscar talk again.
She and co-star Tom Wilkinson won a special acting award at Sundance this year for "In the Bedroom" and both recently copped top acting honors from the New York Film Critics Circle. Spacek also received a Golden Globe nomination.
"In the Bedroom" is a devastating movie — a methodical study of a Maine husband and wife's grief after unexpected violence in their family.
Spacek recently talked about her movie by phone from her 210-acre horse ranch in northern Virginia. She also talked about a few old friends and co-workers, including David Lynch and Andy Warhol.
Question:You once said you pick films based on a gut reaction. When did your gut speak to you while reading "In the Bedroom"?
Answer: That's how I said it a long time ago. Now I would tend to use the word intuitive. The first (major dramatic) turn. It surprised me. And when the last turn came, I was just stunned. It's pretty devastating. A screenplay like that is so rare. And even more rare for one like it to get produced.
Question:When and how did you find your character Ruth?
Answer: Todd Field, who directed and wrote the screenplay, knew who she was. He told me all about her. It was the reserved part of her that was so difficult for me.
You know, it was sort of a work in progress. I oftentimes feel that way. It's sort of a work in progress the entire time. She goes through so many changes. I don't know if I ever had that feeling (of finding her) while we were shooting. I just trusted Todd and the other actors and the material.
Question:Did you rehearse much?
Answer: We didn't get to rehearse too much. Almost a week of rehearsal, but you never have enough.
But Todd has an acting background. He understands how important rehearsal is. We did it sitting around a table. And while moving to locations and right before we would shoot we'd have our final rehearsals.
Question:Tell me about building a rhythm with Tom Wilkinson and playing off each other.
Answer: He's so great. He's theater trained, and he's just a deep well of an actor. The thing that was so wonderful with Tom, we could play the scene so many different ways. We depended on Todd to keep us at the right level. Because it was such an interior piece. So much of it was what wasn't said. These two people were so different and how they dealt with grief.
Question:The movie also seems as if done by a painter. How deep does the Wyeth theme go? Later, you're shown reading the book "The Wyeths." And there are those frequent scenes that are basically paintings; small scenes that show mood.
Answer: We're in the Wyeth world in Maine. I think Wyeth is all around there, everywhere you look. And Todd has spent a lot of time there. The way he filmed the movie is so indicative of the place. The wind coming through the window. So much life in that home and suddenly the house is so hollow.
Question:Is there a story behind the necklace you wear in the movie?
Answer: That necklace is from about 3,000 B.C. It's from Mesopotamia. It's a sheep's eye beam. People used to wear them to protect themselves. They were superstitious. It would protect them from the evil eye.
Question:You've got a small credit on David Lynch's "Eraserhead." What did you do? Just hanging out? Were you and Jack Fisk (her husband since 1974) already an item then?
Answer: Yes. Jack and I were already an item. Jack and David are best friends. I did a little bit of script supervising — when there was no one else to do it.
Question:How do you communicate with David Lynch? He's not exactly an easy one to follow.
Answer: I always knew he was a great artist. He has such a great sense of humor. We know each other so well and have for so long. We speak fondly and lovingly.
"In the Bedroom"
Starring Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek and Marisa Tomei. Written and directed by Todd Field. Rated R.