Tracy Letts' "August: Osage County," the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning work about a dysfunctional family — led by Oscar winner Meryl Streep — that reunites when tragedy strikes, hits the big screen Dec. 27. At a recent press conference, Streep and her co-stars sounded off on the Weston family at the film's core.
"One of the things that really interested me was where she was at [during] any given point in the cycle of 'pain' and 'pain relief'," explained Academy Award winner Meryl Streep on the drugged-out Violet Weston, the matriarch at the heart of "August: Osage County" who phones her children when her husband goes missing. "Since we were shooting out of order, I kind of had to map [her stages], in a way, just so I'd know what level of attention or inattention I could bring to my fellow actors."
Streep, a master of her craft — having received three Oscars for her performances in "The Iron Lady," "Sophie's Choice" and "Kramer vs. Kramer" as well as the coveted Kennedy Center Honor in 2011 — was hesitant to take on the bipolar, broken and brash Violet, a role that won Deanna Dunagan the 2008 Tony Award, in her latest film outing.
"As an actor," she said, "you're supposed to want to go into the House of Pain over and over and over again, but really, it's not something that's 'fun.' I resisted doing this initially — the part — because of that. I just thought, 'Ugh!' because on so many levels — physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally — Violet is enraged or in pain or drugged at any given time."
However, Streep's co-stars — much like the family members they play in the Letts drama — provided support through the journey and admired her ferocity.
"We do our best to act along with her," admitted Chris Cooper, who plays Charles Aiken, the husband of Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) and the brother-in-law to Violet. "The viewer, who watches her work, really still has no idea the talent that we observe per take because she brings such variety. And, with this character — say at the dinner-table scene — she'll bring, of course, her drug-addled side, but there's also the 'I could give a shit about what's going on at this dinner table,' [and] she'll bring the mean, mean underbelly and the confrontation… She'll just mix it up, and we never know what's coming at us, and that keeps us on our toes, so it's a great lesson. This is the second time I've worked with her, and I'm still learning."
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