THR's Actress Roundtable: Six A-Listers Sound Off on Bad Reviews, Nudity and Playing Hitler

 Mary Rozzi

In the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine, Charlize Theron, Michelle Williams, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Glenn Close and Carey Mulligan kick off THR's annual awards season series with an exclusive discussion on their regrets, the mean things people say to them and why Davis hates it when a black actress' performance is called "dignified."

THR: There's full-on nudity in the film. Did that make you uncomfortable?

Mulligan: The notion of it always has. I've never wanted to take my clothes off and be sexy. I'm horribly afraid. [But] it wasn't that at all. Actually, Steve and I spent a lot of time looking at an artist called Francesca Woodman, who was a photographer who started taking nude photos of herself when she was 15 and committed suicide when she was 22, back in the early '80s. She just had sort of a freedom with her body; it was sort of an instrument for her art. And Sissy, the character I had to play, she wants to be loved and she wants to be seen. The nudity felt like exactly who she was. There was one camera and Michael [Fassbender], who's naked throughout.

Theron: The idea of somebody saying, "Take your clothes off" was a little frightening, and then I did it and I was like, "Oh, OK."


THR: Given your success, does a bad review still hurt?

Close: A bad review can be very hurtful. People don't think that we are as engaged and invested in what we do as we are. So they think they can come up and say anything sometimes, and it's very, very hurtful.

THR: People really come up to you and say nasty things?

Close: They usually don't say nasty things to my face. Well, they do say, "You look much better in life than you do on film."

Viola Davis: I get that all the time.

Close: It's unbelievable. You think to yourself, "Is that a compliment?"

Davis: I'll take it. I'll take whatever I can get. (Laughs.)

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THR: Viola and Octavia, are opportunities better or worse for black actresses now than when you started?

Davis: I would be foolish if I said it wasn't better. It's obviously better. I worked with Gloria Foster, a great black actress from Nothing But a Man; she was in The Matrix also. She said that when she started in the business, there was nothing. Maybe only one or two black actors had an agent. So it's definitely different. I just always feel like it starts and stops. One year you have Precious with Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique, and then you have two years of nothing.

THR: And then you have The Help …

Davis: And then The Help. You know, even listening to the conversations about sympathy and empathy, I remember when I played the character in Doubt, it was a character that not a lot of black people embraced because they didn't like her. I think women face that more than men. Black women really face it. We are always overly sanctified [in movies], overly nurturing and overly sympathetic. And to find that place where you're messy, it's very difficult.

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