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Monday, July 15, 2013

An interview with Karen Black on acting in The Great Gatsby


Interview: Karen Black
Interviewer: Chloe Boasberg
May 16, 2013

DO YOU REMEMBER THE SCENE WHEN YOU BRAGGED ABOUT ALL OF YOUR DRESSES?
That’s a very good moment for the audience to find out that they know much more about Myrtle than she knows about herself; they know she is a fool, that she is not making any sense, but she thinks she does and thinks people will believe her and her fantasies. Her costume is overdone, it’s orange, there are all kinds of things draping from it. Her big goal is to be part of the social circle - so it's a very wonderfully thought-out costume – but it’s a kind of ridiculous dress.
DO YOU REMEMBER ACTING WITH THE CHARACTER, GEORGE WILSON, AND HOW YOU SORT OF REJECTED HIM?
She didn't like herself.  She attained confidence by grasping at a social level, not simply feeling fine; she wants to be Tom's wife, though this never happens.
I will tell you I did something from the book, I tried to do things directly from the book, from the era: in the book it says that when Myrtle dies, her spirit is so large that it ripped her mouth as it left.
So I asked Jack if I could please have rips created in my mouth, and he said yes.
When he saw me lying there, Scott Wilson (who played George Wilson), the tears actually flew out of his eyes; he was brilliant.
DO YOU REMEMBER ANY CRITICS' OPINIONS?
No… Wow! I don't remember a thing! They must have said really good thing because I won the Golden Globe!
ON ACTING AS MYRTLE:
Nobody tells you how to act, it’s like hiring a maid, nobody has to tell the maid how to wash the dishes… its what they bring to the job.
Jack Clayton (the director) -  I did the speech when she meets Tom for the first time and he said “do not ever look at it again, don't say it, or repeat it” because he liked it just the way it was, there was that freshness about it that an actor likes to experience. That's as much as he said to me about acting.
Just find out what the characters needs, what the character wants. Once you know the characters goals, and the character's future, then you just do the part, but nobody can do that for you because basically, it’s inside you, it’s like something you own, something you need.  It was done with a light hand, I'll tell you what I mean: I did a movie once with an actress who thought she could think her way into a role, she would work very hard, her voice would tremble, she had the idea that imagination is like an object - it isn't, imagination is like nothing, its like air, it’s light, you don't force it; you work hard to establish the life of character and the reality of character so you no longer have to think, you only produce the result of living your character; you are that character. You don't want to be two people: you and the character.
SO HOW DID YOU BECOME MYRTLE?
It just happens. You study, you do whatever it takes to become the character, though it can happen instantly, so you don't force it, but you think about their lives, where they were born, and a lot of times the place will determine what they want or need.  You have all that in you, and the leap is talent.

7 comments:

The Former Kathy Mace said...

Very insightful interview. Wish there was a clip on the internet of the scene you mentioned. Her ios one of my favorite from the movie.
Myrtle (Karen Black) tells the story of how she and Tom (Bruce Dern) met.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhRABm5GgHc

Praying for your improved health.

Kathy Mace

The Former Kathy Mace said...

Very insightful interview. Wish there was a clip on the internet of the scene you mentioned. Her ios one of my favorite from the movie.
Myrtle (Karen Black) tells the story of how she and Tom (Bruce Dern) met.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhRABm5GgHc

Praying for your improved health.

Kathy Mace

Rene Rokk said...

Spot on. What a gift it would have been to work with you. But I am happy with having had the sheer prize of just watching.

Rene Rokk said...

Spot on. What a gift it would have been to work with you. But I am happy with having had the sheer prize of just watching.

Rene Rokk said...

Spot on. What a gift it would have been to work with you. But I am happy with having had the sheer prize of just watching.

Rene Rokk said...

Spot on. What a gift it would have been to work with you. But I am happy with having had the sheer prize of just watching.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for these fascinating insights, Ms Black. I think that focusing on "what the character knows and what she needs" is an invaluable piece of advice not just for actors and also writers on how to approach a character. I like the idea of using a cerebral approach as a springboard for your art while allowing your instincts and talent to flourish.

Only saw Gatsby once when I was a kid some 30 years ago. Yet the first thing that springs to mind when I think of that film (and the reason I'd watch it all over again)is your performance. Myrtle knocking against that window is a heartbreaking moment that will always stay with me.

Patrick