A Conversation with Adrienne Shelly

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So when just lashes out at her, it's really uncalled for and brutal.

Which is, I think, a really amazing thing about life, because anyone who sits down in front of you has a story, has been through pain of their own, and you forget that when you meet people. New York City is a very rude place and people don't treat each other with the knowledge that everyone comes with a story and you don't know what that story is. I think about it sometimes when cab drivers curse or scream at me. I remember, this person has had a lot of pain. And I think that that's what that scene is about. You're right, what you were thinking about later, I wanted to make that point.

Did casting Ally Sheedy bring anything else to the role that wasn't in that initial script and conception? Since she didn't fit your original conception of the character, how did the collaboration between performer and part come together?

A number of things happened. I do not stray from the script. I do not change words. I do not like even words to be changed. That's me. [Laughs] And I work on other people's films and I'm always like, "Hey, I don't think my character would say that. I think she'd say it this way," and they're like, "Okay." But I would never, unless it's like something that is really glaring, or if someone says something to me and I hated the line anyway and it was never natural and they say, "Hey, what about this..." Otherwise, 98 percent of what you saw was what was written.

And Ally likes to be very, very loose with what she says and she called me and she said, "Okay, I wrote this great monologue and it's going to..." And I said, "No, it isn't." And I thought, Okay, so I'm going to have to find a really creative way of dealing with this. And I said to her, "You know what?" - and we hadn't started rehearsal yet - "I'm going to give you a take to do whatever you want in there. You can do whatever you want. But then we're going to do a take for me, my way." And we started rehearsing. And Ally also saw a psychic who said to her, "You are working on a new film. Listen to the director, she knows what she's doing." [Laughs] Thank you, mom! That actually happened, you know.

But then Ally became convinced that I was Bernice, and because she was convinced of that... I'm not Bernice. There are elements of me that are. There are elements of me that are Bill and elements of me that have been Rose. I mean, I've been all them. But she was convinced that I was Bernice, so my word became law to her in a very non-confrontational way. I think I said to you that I was concerned with the character being vulnerable and just how important that was. That scene, for example, where she says, "We're all responsible to each other," she wanted to be angry at him them. She wanted to stick it to him for leaving her after they slept together the night before, how horrible he'd been. She wanted to be angry and yell at him and I said, "If you do that, you'll lose everybody in the audience and no one will listen to a word of what you're saying, and what you're saying is really important. So you have to be vulnerable." And when we were shooting the scene, she got it and she said, "Oh god, I get it."

That was really gratifying to see her pull off something that she didn't want to do that way at all. She didn't want to be wimpy, but often being vulnerable is much stronger and is not wimpy, and being angry is easier. There's a lot to be angry about all the time, but to show who you really are and to be vulnerable, that to me is strength.

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