Marielle Heller on Bringing a "Difficult" Character to Life Onscreen in 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?'

During the Director Roundtable, Heller also explained how she got Tom Hanks to take the leading role in her upcoming Mr. Rogers biopic.

Director Marielle Heller was ready to let audiences hear the voice of a meaningful character in her film Can You Ever Forgive Me?, starring Melissa McCarthy as writer Lee Israel.

"We loved this character," Heller told The Hollywood Reporter's Director Roundtable of her and the actress' affections for Israel, further describing her as "a character whose voice, we felt, we didn't get to hear in movies very often." 

The director also explained how she intends on telling the stories of "real people" in her future projects. "I'm in the process of making my third movie about real people, and it's always a tricky thing because you want to be true to the essence of the person entirely, but you also have to be truthful to the narrative. It's always a real balancing act between those things," Heller said.

"Lee Israel [McCarthy] was a really prickly, difficult person, and we wanted to get that right and didn't want to soften her. And we felt she would almost be the most offended if we tried to make her really likable," explained Heller. 

The next character Heller will bring to life on the screen will be the iconic Fred Rogers in the untitled Mr. Rogers biopic starring Tom Hanks. After meeting Hanks years ago, Heller went to Hanks directly with the script for the role.

Prior to Can You Ever Forgive Me? Heller was known for her breakout 2015 film The Diary of a Teenage Girl.