Sunday, September 16, 2012

Melissa Leo Is a Fighter


Your new film, “Francine,” is about a woman, fresh out of jail, who seems destined to become one of those people on “Hoarders,” with a home piled with animal carcasses and feces. What is your own biggest eccentricity? 
What you see is what you get.
Misty Keasler for The New York Times
Melissa Leo

Readers’ Comments

Share your thoughts.
That’s eccentric? 
Today? Yeah. People often expect me to be something other than what I am. They think I’m vegetarian; they’re surprised that I smoke. I’ve promised myself I’ll quit for my 52nd birthday.
Acting seems like the last profession in which smoking is considered socially acceptable. 
Yes, a surprising amount of actors smoke. Female actors in particular.
Because it suppresses your appetite? 
It’s even sicker than that. It’s a friendship thing, a companionship thing. An actor’s life is fairly lonely. There might well be more working female actors who live single lives, and that exacerbates the loneliness of being an actor. For me, a lot of it is the companionship of your little friends in a box. It’s reliable.
Why do you think male actors are more often in relationships? 
Because 80 percent of female actors are pretty strong, powerful women, and that’s a very hard relationship for men to have. Even today, in 2012, the guy is supposed to be in charge. I see it in every heterosexual relationship I know, the acquiescence of the female. When I observe people being coupled, I see too many compromises that I don’t know that I could make or would want to make.
You live alone in upstate New York. Are you in favor of on-set hookups?
No. But invariably there will be some on-set gaffer who will have caught my eye. To my very best friends, I refer to him as my boyfriend. I never touch the guy. Never talk to him even. He has no idea he’s my boyfriend. This is much easier than actually having to deal with somebody.
Before you won an Oscar for “The Fighter,” you paid for ads in trades that featured glamorous shots of you with the word “Consider,” after you were unable to land magazine covers. You were criticized for it, but were you happy with the result? 
It was not a fun shoot. Had I met the photographer before, I would not have hired him. I wanted a sense of fun and glamour. The one with me bending forward I find personally offensive. It’s very in-your-face. It’s not what I wanted the ad to be.
Considering the hardscrabble background of your character in “The Fighter,” I actually had a more negative reaction to the shot of you in a floor-length white faux-fur coat, standing by an indoor pool. 
I wasn’t advertising Alice Ward in “The Fighter.” What I was attempting to do was exactly the opposite. I was going for, “I can be a movie star, too.”
You were literally shooting the magazine covers you weren’t able to get? 
The difference being that it didn’t say Vogue or Esquire over my head. I had been the brassy little thing that did it myself.
You once said: “There is a truthfulness in my acting. It gets me fired all the time.” What does that mean? 
It goes way back to my first firing from “The Young Riders.” I was breast-feeding when I began the job, and my child was weaned during the shooting. By the end of the season, my bust was much smaller. I was fired at the end of the year. I wasn’t sexy enough. If she was the local madam in the whorehouse, that’s what I would have given them. But she was a single woman, living on the plain by herself. If she’d had a bust, she would have been strapping it down so she could take care of the horses.
You once said you were fired from “Homicide: Life on the Streets” after five seasons because you didn’t fit into the network’s “tight-sweater format.” 
The network was never happy with Kay Howard. Breasts and females, there’s a subject we could talk about for a long, long time. How our place in the world and our sense of self is shaped by the size, shape, tone and texture of our breasts. Mine worked really good. They fed my infant.


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