British actress Sally Hawkins, like many actors with her background, appeared in numerous shows and films across the pond before making a mark with her appearance in two films by director Mike Leigh, most notably Happy-Go-Lucky, for which she won a Golden Globe, but was completely snubbed by the Academy of Motion Pictures for any sort of nomination, as deserving as her performance was.
In Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, she plays Ginger, a woman who has spent much of her life working multiple jobs to get by, while her half-sister Jasmine, played by Cate Blanchett, married a rich New York money man and has been living a much more luxuriously lifestyle. When Jasmine’s husband is indicted for stealing his investors’ money, she’s left almost penniless, so she moves to San Francisco to stay with Ginger, who is having all sorts of man troubles in her life.
While Cate Blanchett is getting a lot of awards attention for her portrayal of the title character, Hawkins brings a lot to the movie as Ginger, a character who ends up being a lot more of the focus of the film’s second half. Surprisingly, Hawkins has had a chance to work with Woody Allen before in the fairly unmemorable Cassandra’s Dream, making her one of the few recent actors who has appeared in multiple movies by the filmmaker in the last decade.
A couple things to know about Ms. Hawkins–despite her immense talent, she’s extremely humble and modest, but she also has a delightful laugh not unlike her character Poppy from Happy-Go-Lucky. We learned both these things first-hand when ComingSoon.net got on the phone with Ms. Hawkins last week to talk about scoring another meatier role in Woody Allen’s latest. Eventually we got around to talking about her decision to do a big summer tentpole, appearing in Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla and her work with Mike Leigh as well.
ComingSoon.net: It’s been another good year for you. We’ve spoken before for “Happy-Go-Lucky” and “Made in Dagenham.” Sally Hawkins: Oh lovely!
CS: It’s been a while since we spoke I guess, but it was really nice to see you in Woody’s movie. Hawkins: Oh, thank you, thank you. It’s lovely to speak to you again.
CS: I spoke to a lot of actors either before or after they worked with Woody Allen and it’s interesting to hear their expectations. I assume that when Woody calls an actor to do a movie, very few will say “no” I’d imagine. Hawkins: Yeah, if Woody calls, you say “yes,” absolutely I would do anything in a Woody Allen film. Just to be able to work with him is such a unique experience and who he is. You learn a lot by being with him and to be in a Woody Allen film, it’s a real gift and I feel very blessed, I really do. I never thought I’d get the opportunity to do it twice, let alone once.
CS: Right, I forgot you were in “Cassandra’s Dream.” I thought it was funny that he’d do three movies in a row in England, but then he had you do his movie in San Francisco. Hawkins: I happened to be in New York at the time he was casting and reading people, so I was lucky that I was there and could go in and see him and read for him. I think it helped that I was in New York at the time filming as well. But yeah, I have worked with him before so it was really lovely that the casting director called it was like a normal casting in that way.
CS: What did you know about Ginger when you went in to read for this? Hawkins: I didn’t know anything. He works in a very quick way and when he meets you, he doesn’t want to give too much away. I suppose he wants you to bring it to the part of to be it already. He doesn’t want to talk too much about things. He just gave me a brief outline, but nothing too in-depth, just said that I’d be playing this girl whose this type of person, but with no specifics. He just gave me a brief outline of the scenes he wanted me to read and then he went away for a few minutes while I read it through and played it out and prepared briefly for ten minutes or 15 minutes, then he comes back and hears you read. Then I went away and then came back for another reading and to do a bit more work with him on a few other different scenes and then he filled me in a bit further on the film. Each time I was gathering together clues about who Ginger was and then the specifics of the situation she was in and her relationship with Jasmine. Then I got the full script and then I heard that I got the part, which was quite lovely, so it happened quite quickly once I went back for a second read. It was just lucky I was able to be in New York working at the time and wasn’t working away somewhere else and couldn’t see him. I’m sure I wouldn’t have been so lucky if that had been the way of things.
CS: Once you had the full script, how much time did you have to prepare the character before you started filming? Hawkins: It always feels like you could do with much more time. I can’t quite remember because I was working on a film in New York and then I went home. I can’t quite remember the time of things but I had the script, I suppose, for a few months before actually filming. Again, it’s difficult. I don’t want to say that, because I can’t quite be precise with the timing of things, so I don’t quite know how long it was. All I knew was I had it for a long enough period before we started filming, so I could read it and re-read it many, many times. Each time you read it, you get different things. I think it’s such a beautiful script. I loved it so much. The first time I read it I read it straight through–it’s a very powerful script about a damaged girl and it affected me. I think it’s a very powerful script in that way and I remember knowing that it was quite special as soon as I read it.
CS: I was pleasantly surprised about how much of Ginger’s journey we see in the film as well, because you assume it’s all about Jasmine and what happens to her, but we see Ginger dealing with the men in her life. I thought that was an interesting decision for Woody to follow her along her own path. Hawkins: Yeah, sorry, what’s the question?
CS: There’s no question. I was just making a comment. Hawkins: (laughs) Yeah, I think it’s kind of key as well. Jasmine was sort of unraveling, just arriving in Ginger’s life like that from a completely different world. I mean, they’re such great creatures and such polar opposites and different worlds, and for Jasmine to come in like this, like a whirlwind, like a force, like a tornado, disrupting Ginger’s life and upsetting her plans and making her question things. I love that dynamic, seeing both worlds sitting side by side against each other in his films. It’s different colors and rhythms – you have a different rhythm for each, depending on which world you’re in and almost a different color scheme as well. It just felt really nice for me to get inside of that and to get inside of Ginger’s world and situation and the world she lives in the Mission and where she works and understand that. To have those key points of information and also those scenes to play with, it was a huge gift.
CS: Ginger’s ex-husband and boyfriend are both played by comedians, Andrew Dice Clay and Louis C.K., but they’re doing very dramatic roles we haven’t seen them do before. Hawkins: Aren’t they amazing? I was so lucky to be working with incredible men (laughs).
CS: But what was that like since you’re a trained dramatic actor as is Cate Blanchett and you were doing scenes with comedians who haven’t acted very much? Hawkins: I think it’s very clever casting for everyone–Andrew Dice Clay and Louis C.K. and Bobby (Cannavale)–they just fit. It just feels right and you’ve got all these different dynamics and people from different worlds and the world of comedy. It’s just right. Andrew is phenomenal as Auggie and he’s perfect. We kind of met each other in character almost, it was very quick. Suddenly, we’re on set and we’re performing and we’re in the scene and it just felt right. It just felt real and rich. Andrew I think is so interesting and the world he’s from and what he’s been through and what he’s done and I didn’t know much about Andrew or any of his work before and I didn’t want to. I decided deliberately not to investigate who he was or know who he was before I met him in the flesh. I wanted to meet him. He’s so humble, he’s so bright and he’s a phenomenal performer and similarly with Louis. Again, from a very different world of comedy. I knew a little bit about Louis but not really very much at all then consequently learned that he edits, writes and performs his own show and it’s a huge show on Fox and he’s a phenomenal performer. It’s so clever – the casting is brilliant.
CS: Did you go back and try to find some of Andrew’s stand-up act after working with him? Hawkins: I haven’t.
CS: I’d probably stay away from it, because it was pretty racey and controversial. Hawkins: I’m only interested in who he is now, I suppose. I think he’s got something coming up soon and he has a Christmas special, but I love Andrew for the person he is and I really do think he’s a great actor. So okay, I will not watch them.
CS: I’ve been familiar with your work at least going back to “Layer Cake” and I was surprised that you were doing a big summer blockbuster next year with “Godzilla.” Did it just feel like the time to jump into that ring? Hawkins: No, really go where you’re asked to. Different opportunities arise and different things and that came up. Yeah, you sort of follow where the wind takes you in this business. (laughs) It’s very unusual and I think it’s a testament to Gareth Edwards, the director. He’s got quite an usual cast in that way. It’s not particularly, I suppose, if there is such thing as a blockbuster cast I don’t know – but I think that’s probably why I was asked to audition and why I got involved. It was a really interesting insight for me, not knowing anything about that world at all. I love Gareth, I think he’s great. I don’t know if I’ll end up much in it (laughs) but who knows?
CS: I was curious whether it was a meaty role or if you just ran around screaming while Godzilla attacks London. Hawkins: I don’t actually end up meeting Godzilla. I think I saw the back of his head maybe, I acted with a green screen, and saw him through a window, but no sadly, I didn’t get to hang out with Godzilla much, which is a shame, but I’m playing 2nd in Command to Ken Watanabe’s character, which is a lovely place to be, because he is one of the greats. I was playing a scientist working behind the scenes as it were, sort of a special expert team that were called in to help. I hope it’s as good as it was looking when I was there in the summer. It was a very unique experience to work on a film that big. Like you say, I really just worked on small indies up until that point so it was really interesting for me as an actor to have that experience. I hope it’s okay.
CS: Do you think you’ll work with Mike Leigh again? Hawkins: Aw, I would love to.
CS: I loved the fact that you and Eddie Marsan had small roles in “Vera Drake” but then became the focus for “Happy-Go-Lucky,” so there has to be a third movie where you guys have a different relationship. Hawkins: Oh, I hope so. Let’s make that happen. I’ll send Mike a text, telling him you suggested that and we’ll try and make it work, but yeah, I’d love to work (with him again) again, he’s like Woody. He’s a seer of truth and he’s a great friend of mine as well and I hope he feels the same about me (laughs), but I think I’ll be very lucky to work with Mike again. You never know, because he never knows what he’s doing and whether it’s right for you, but touch wood it happens and to work with Eddie would be phenomenal. I love him so much and we have so much fun. (laughs)
CS: I’m a big fan of Eddie’s. After I saw his character Reg in “Vera Drake,” I actually wanted to start a fan club. Hawkins: Oh, really? Wasn’t he good? I just love that character, too, isn’t it great? And that moment of Christmas where he pops the chocolate in his mouth, it was I love that, and Mike would be very happy that he’s being talked about. I’ll let him know.
CS: You blew my mind when you said you’d send him a text, because I can’t imagine Mike Leigh texting. Hawkins: I’ll Email him, but he’s very savvy with all technology, more than I am. (laughs) Mike is a special being and I hope you get to meet him one day, but he’s like Woody because he’s so bright and his humor as well because he tells it like it is. He doesn’t suffer fools
CS: Actually I met him the first time I met you, as I interviewed the two of you together for “Happy-Go-Lucky,” so believe me, I’ve received the Mike Leigh “suffer no fools” treatment already. Hawkins: Oh, that’s so funny, that’s so great. But he’s like that with everyone. (laughs)
CS: I think his response to my first question was “Guess.” Hawkins: Isn’t that cool? Like Woody, he’s really cool and funny, really funny.
CS: His development and writing process is amazing. I had a chance to talk to Jim Broadbent about it a couple years back and it’s fascinating. Hawkins: Yeah, it is an amazing process and Jim is another Eddie in that way. I love working with Jim. I just did a short film with Jim actually and he was in “Paddington Bear” which I’d just come from, so it was nice to see him. Jim will also be happy to know he’s being talked about.
You can see Hawkins in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine when it returns to theaters on Friday and it will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on January 21.