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Melanie Lynskey is hardly an indie newcomer, but when it comes to Sundance, the actress says, “I feel like I don’t really know anything about it.”
Last year, Lynskey attended the film festival with Tom McCarthy‘s Win Win, but she previously appeared in 2009’s Up in the Air, which debuted at Telluride Film Festival, Away We Go, debuting at the Edinburgh Film Festival and Shattered Glass at the Toronto International Film Festival, with more than a dozen additional titles — not counting the big budget studio roles — also to her credit.
The actress receives top billing on her latest project, a comedy titled Hello I Must Be Going, written by Sarah Koskoff and directed by her husband Todd Louiso. In the film, Lynksey stars as a hopeless 35-year-old divorcee forced to move back in with her parents, and begins an affair with a teen boy. Blythe Danner and John Rubinstein star as her parents, while Martha Marcy May Marlene‘s Christopher Abbot plays her love interest.
Before hitting the snow-filled streets of Park City, where her film premieres on opening night of the fest, the actress spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about why she selected the project, the rapid rise of female protagonists in film and why she won’t be returning to CBS’ Two and a Half Men.
The Hollywood Reporter: What drew you to this project?
Melanie Lynskey: I think everything about it. When I first read the script it was just such a complex character. There was just so much going on and she was complicated and it was really, really funny. I like the fact that it was so funny. When I first read it, I was just going to do a reading of it in front of like, the little audience and I just thought, ‘Gosh, if I get to read this even one time I’m going to be happy.’ I never imagined I would do the movie.
THR: Tell me about preparing for the role and how you related to the character
Lynskey: Yeah, I mean, there are some things that are just sort of instinctive. You just read them and you get a pretty good sense of what you want to do with it. I related to a lot of different things about her. You know, there is a lot of similarities, insecurities, like a lot of people in their mid-30s, they’re at that point where you’re such asking yourself ‘What’s the rest of my life gonna look like?’ And I guess for the preparation I went to Connecticut and spent a lot of time with Sarah, the writer, just going over the script and talking about and taking a lot of notes and that was the most helpful thing.
THR: This year, there seems to be a trend of lots of female protagonists at the film festival. Why do you think that is?
Lynskey: I don’t know. I mean, I hope that something is gonna keep happening ’til the end of time. I hope that’s just a change that’s happened, it’s really nice to see. I think if there are really good movies by women and for women, then people are gonna go see them, you know, obviously Bridesmaids and The Help have made so much money and I hope that people realize now that there’s a some really massive audience for movies about women. I don’t know how that came about, I guess just maybe some people just got sick of the same old thing and just started to make it happen themselves.
THR: Having a male director on this film, how was it working with him in this female-driven project?
Lynskey: It was really great, I mean, He’s a very sensitive man and he’s also married to the writer, so I think that he had a real understanding of the sensibility and he has a great understanding of women, as well. Sarah was very, very present all the time. So it was always great to have them together.
THR: Can you say a few words about your co-stars?
Lynskey: Oh well, Blythe is just amazing. She’s so funny and so great and just, she does a really beautiful job in the movie. You know, it was a really tricky shoot and I think she’s used to working in much more glamorous condition — and she just never complained. Shooting coverage at 3 o’clock in the morning with no trailer or anything like that, I was thinking ‘Oh gosh, is she gonna be okay?’ She’s just such a trooper. And Chris is somebody that I wasn’t familiar with before we started working together. I saw his audition and was just completely blown away. It’s the most incredible audition I’ve ever seen, I think. He’s so honest and so real and connected. I think he does a beautiful job in the movie.
THR: Being a Sundance veteran, what is your favorite thing about the festival? What are you most looking forward to?
Lynskey: It’s so funny because I don’t feel like a veteran. I went last year, and I went another time with my husband. I feel like I don’t really know anything about it. Every time I’m very, I’m so overwhelmed and there are so many people around and people trying to give you free stuff and you feel really tacky. My favorite thing about it is when you get a little quiet moment away from all that kind of thing and you get to talk to people and find out what movies they’re excited about and what you have to look forward to watching for the rest of the year. It’s nice when the focus of it calms down and becomes about the movies, because it does get a little intense.
THR: How do you find the festival circuit compares to when you’re promoting a studio project? Do you enjoy one more than the other?
Lynskey: I mean, I love festivals because I feel like I’m more of a movie fan than a person who’s in the film industry. I love getting to hear about what everybody’s excited about and that energy is the thing that is the most wonderful. But then you never have time to see any of the movies, so it’s always disappointing. Yeah, you’re just hearing about this great stuff and you can’t see it.
THR: What movies are you going to try to see this year?
Lynskey: I really want to see that movie Smashed. I think Mary Elizabeth Winstead is so wonderful. I’m excited to see her do something really meaty. I read about a whole bunch of them, and I’m just like ‘Oh I want to see that, oh I want to see that’. There are a lot of documentaries that sound really interesting, I’m really hoping to see Peter Jackson’s West Memphis Three project.
THR: Are there any plans to return to Two and a Half Men?
Lynskey: I don’t think so. I don’t know if it makes a lot of sense anymore.
THR: Are you happy with how things were tied up?
Lynskey: I mean, it had so little to do with me, I haven’t been a regular on the show for so many years. So I always sort of just popped up and I read the script and I was like ‘Okay, that’s what we’re doing.’ But they always seemed very happy over there, so that’s good.
THR: Have you had any contact with Charlie Sheen since leaving the show?
Lynskey: Yeah, I have.
THR: Do you have any thoughts on his new project that he’s working on right now?
Lynskey: I just wish him success and happiness.
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