Actresses discuss influential performances

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Maria Bello
 
Maria Bello
Nancy in "Downloading Nancy"

"Jessica Lange. Growing up in Philly, I never knew I could be an actress. One day, when I was about 15 years old, I saw Jessica Lange in 'Frances' and it put me on the path. I was so riveted by her performance! I had this realization that actors reach these depths of emotion that most people will never reach, and what a gift that is to give. She helped me feel stuff emotionally I didn't think was possible. When I'm walking around on set and feeling overwhelmed and (I've) been there for a long day, I have to say to myself: 'The gift that she gave me, I'm capable of giving.' That's my truth and I learned it originally from watching her work."


Bryce Dallas Howard
Fisher in "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond"

"There are a couple of scenes I do with Ellen Burstyn. She plays this character, Miss Addie, who is completely paralyzed, with the exception of being able to move from her shoulders up. The scenes were just between myself and her, and oh my gosh, she was so on point -- to say it was intimidating is an understatement. There was one moment where my character ends up killing her character. I don't know if it was a rehearsal, if we were shooting, but I literally had an out-of-body experience where I swear to you, I saw her soul leave her body. It was crazy. I promise you, I wasn't reading into this too much -- I think everybody else saw it too. It was like acting taken to the nth degree."



Diane Kruger
 
Diane Kruger
Bridget von Hammersmark in "Inglourious Basterds"

"Ed Harris. I made a film with him about two and a half years ago that no one saw called 'Copying Beethoven.' Ed played Beethoven and I played this young student in a convent who was dreaming about becoming a composer. We decided we were going to prepare for the movie together. For about two months, we would meet every day and take conducting lessons together. Just the way he went about that rehearsal and created his character in front of my eyes has been the most inspiring thing to watch. It felt like being in drama school. He was so generous toward me. That whole learning process and finding a character really changed everything for me. This fear a lot of actors have about a certain scene or a certain emotion, or fear in general -- he really encouraged me to turn that into a strength."



Michelle Monaghan
 
Michelle Monaghan
Diane Ford In "Trucker"

"In 'Trucker,' Nathan Fillion was instrumental in my performance every day. There's a scene at a bar and I insult him. As an actor, you rehearse the scene in your head before you actually do it. You assume what the other actor will do while leaving yourself open to it. The way in which he reacted to the insult enabled me not to be defensive, and the scene became about something else. There's such a quiet confidence about Nathan. His performance is really sincere. I think a lot of guys shy away from being vulnerable. He has a way of being vulnerable while still being a man. It always gets me in the gut when I see it."



Paula Patton
 
Paula Patton
Ms. Rain in "Precious"

"Denzel Washington. When I got to work with him on 'Deja Vu,' I didn't have a lot of experience and I was very rehearsed as an actor. I remember our first day working together: We started to run lines and I said something like, 'How did you know there were keys in the car?' and he's supposed to say, 'I didn't.' We rehearse, and he goes, 'Because I can see the future.' I said, 'You're so funny, Denzel, let's do it again.' So we go over it again, he says it again, and I laugh. And he says, 'No, no, no, I can say anything in there.' There's a Chinese proverb, 'Jump and the net will appear,' and that's what it was like working with him. I never knew what he would throw at me. As an actor, it helped me flex that muscle of being confident and comfortable, to go, 'Listen, you're prepared, you know what's happening, now let go.' "


Gabourey Sidibe
Precious in "Precious"

"Mo'Nique is insanely inspiring. She's been a hero of mine for a very long time, and when I met her she was really welcoming. She hugged me for about eight minutes straight. She kept rubbing my back and calling me baby. She's just like that. Getting to work with her in 'Precious' was incredible. I had one really hard day on set -- I had to do a rape scene. I didn't know how to handle it. I started crying during the blocking of it and she took me to my dressing room and she talked to me for about two hours to make sure I was really, really comfortable. I don't think I could've gotten through it if she hadn't done that for me."

-- Compiled by Christopher Lisotta
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