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Metro Canada Interview: Blythe Danner in first cinematic lead role

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 10.16.09 AMBy Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

When I mention to Blythe Danner there is Academy Award buzz around her work as Carol, a widow taking tentative steps into the world of dating in the new film I’ll See You in My Dreams she says, “That, I find idiotic.” Long pause. “But thank you.”

Danner made her film debut in 1972, two years after she won a Best Supporting Actress Tony Award for Butterflies Are Free on Broadway. Since then she has amassed over one hundred film and television credits, including all three Meet the Parents movies and Sylvia, where she played the mother of Sylvia Plath as portrayed by her real life daughter Gwyneth Paltrow.

Remarkably I’ll See You in My Dreams is her first lead role on the big screen. She plays Carol, a widowed woman whose carefully constructed world is rattled when she starts dating Bill (Sam Elliott).

“I think it is a very underplayed role,” she says. “Yes, she runs the gamut of emotions but there is nothing that is very extreme in my playing of this role. It is heartening that people are touched by the whole film and if they are by my performance that is very flattering but I don’t see it as an Oscar worthy performance. I just don’t see it. The possibility seems absurd to me.”

The veteran actress admits to feeling uncomfortable accepting praise

“I do think there is something wrong with me. I really do. I’m very perverse. It may be the fact that I went to Quaker schools growing up. I grew up in a household where we were always told not to get a big head about being received positively. It’s the work that is important. My favourite thing when I played Nina in The Seagull was her speech at the end when she says, ‘I know now that it is not the fame and the glory that is important, but how to endure.’”

Danner’s wonderfully rendered portrayal of Carol is being called “quietly touching” by the New York Times and “deeply felt” by Variety but she credits writer, director Brett Haley with writing a script that was, “clear and accessible and simple.”

“It was all on the page,” she says. “I felt so grateful. I found it effortless. I feel a little guilty about saying that because it should have been harder. From the beginning to the end it was a gift.”

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