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'You kill me' press kit: Téa Leoni interview

June 2007

Q: How did you get involved in the film?

A: I got a phone call from Ben Kingsley and I was hooked. It’s not everyday you
get a call from Ben Kingsley. I thought it was a joke at first. And he said he
wanted to talk to me about being in a film with him. So I had lunch with him and
that was it. He was on the short list of people I wanted to work with. And John
Dahl, he was on my short list of directors I wanted to work with. I really liked his
work. I read the script and it seemed, from my point of view, flawless. So I
thought I’d hit pay dirt. And that was how it came about.

Q: What attracted you about this character?
A: Well, I think reading the script the first thing that attracted me to her was the
absence of back story and that bleeding monologue about why she’s so
damaged. I thought that was such a relief. I think oftentimes you read scripts and,
for an actress, in particular, somewhere between page 40 and 80, the woman
sits down and talks about the terrible things that happened between she and her
stepfather at age 12. And I was so relieved to read a script that had this bold
confidence that it wasn’t needed. It gave me the sense that I would have some
freedom in creating this character. And I also just thought it was an expression of
confidence from John and the writers about what they had in the script and the
movie that they wanted to make. And confidence in me.

Q: What was the biggest challenge for you in playing the role?
A: Maybe the hardest thing for me, as a mother of two kids who kind of light up
the world, is to live inside of somebody whose point of view is not so lit up. I don’t
think that she’s desperate or miserable in her loneliness, but there’s certainly a
darkness and a quiet, and a lack of passion. We have a couple of funny
moments in this scene where Frank takes Laurel bowling. And I don’t imagine
Laurel’s really been out on a whim for a very long time. Maybe, thirteen years.
And he takes her to the mall and she, for some reason, goes for a corn dog. And
this sort of awakening that happens inside of her is the real fun. It’s been a really
fun to play as she’s falling in love with this man and literally her appetite for life is
coming back.

Q: Why does she fall for Frank?
A: I think she falls for Frank because he’s straight with her. I think from how I see
her, she thinks people are full of it. And whatever they’re presenting to you is not
who they really are. She doubts the authenticity of anybody around her. I think
she thinks she’s probably one up on everybody else, she knows they’re full of it
before they do. And Frank is so completely uncomplicated because he is what he
is. He tells her he’s a murderer and a drunk. And there’s no two sweeter words
she could have heard, because what could possibly be hidden or worse than
that? She has everything she needs to know right there and I think that that’s
very seductive. I think there’s a real power exuded from that character.
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Q: Nothing seems to surprise her. Even the scene at the AA meeting where
Frank reveals that he’s hit man, she just seems to roll with it.
A: I think I wasn’t as focused on the moment while he’s saying all this stuff, other
than I remember thinking how bizarre it was. I thought that was a very funny,
bizarre moment, but what it was for me, what I focused on more, was the
excitement that my character would feel. I think she’s thrilled. I can feel my heart
in my chest. The excitement is because I know it all now. In fact, everybody
knows it all. Afterwards, she says, ‘aren’t you even concerned about the police?
Like somebody’s going tell somebody?’ And he says, ‘it’s Alcohol Anonymous.’ I
mean, his name is Frank. He is frank. He’s just absolutely with this conviction
that is so innocent. I imagine this guy back with his family, almost like the dog
that’s chained out to the little wooden replica of the house in the backyard. They
call him in when they need him.

Q: He has a certain innocence and naiveté about him.
A: He’s almost like Chauncey Gardiner in Being There. His life has only been
drinking and doing this, and being part of this family; that’s his legacy. I don’t
think he knows the world. And I think the attraction for her is that there’s
simpleness to him. And he is Sir Ben, and he’s sexy.

Q: So what was it like working with Sir Ben?
A: It was just a wonderful experience. He’s open, vulnerable, accepting,
courageous, authentic, brave, charming, professional and sexy. He is the sexy
beast. He’ll play all day off anything that you do. I think that acting is like a tennis
match. When you play with somebody better it tends to bring your game up.

Q: How did you keep the balance between the absurd humor of the film and the
reality of it?
A: I think your behavior; your actions can be as broad as the director asks you or
as the tone of the film calls for, but you can’t ever wink. Your character can’t for a
moment think it’s funny. And I think what actually makes it even funnier is just
how much of that character’s life is at stake in that moment.

Q: You’re an executive producer on this film. How did that come about and what
does that mean to you?
A: For the most part, it was protecting the integrity of the film. It was using my
voice to say we’re making this film. I signed off on it. This is our funding. You
agreed to it and this is the movie that we’re making. And it’s Ben and John and
myself and the other actors and the other producers that we’ve hired making this
movie. And there were times when there was a temptation to try to get more
money to answer this problem or to fill in this hole. And Ben and I were both very
strong and involved in not letting the film stray. It’s the integrity of the project—for
better or worse. But we wanted to make that movie. And I think that’s what your
role is as an executive producer.

Q: Had you produced before? Is it something you’d like to do more of?
A: It’s something I am doing a lot more of lately and I had always had a
perspective on producing that was, well, less than flattering. And now that I’m
doing it, I found that, wow, there’s a lot of creativity to be had as a producer. I’m
really liking it. I just didn’t expect that.

Q: Do you feel like it’s a way to find good roles for yourself?
A: Sure. I think I’m pretty close to getting kicked out of Hollywood at 41, where
there will be less and less available and certainly less and less interest. I think
the studios are very concerned with their demographics and what sells ticket.
And at a certain point you do have to put some effort into creating interesting
projects for yourself that involve late 30s, early 40s women.

Q: You’ve done a number of comedies. Do you think of yourself as a comedic
A: No, I don’t, but I keep waking up in comedies. Sure there are roles that I’ve
played where I could say I think that was funny, or I think I made somebody
laugh. But I guess I always think of the comedic actress as the people I watched
growing up, you know, people like Lucille Ball and Bernadette Peters or Rosalind
Russell. When you’re growing you think that people are funny on film must be
really funny all day long, and I’m certainly not, and there are a lot of other
comedic actors I’ve met who aren’t funny.

Q: So who are some of your influences?
A: Well, Lucille Ball, of course. I felt a special connection with her. There was
something that really spoke to me about her work. Growing up, I thought it was
really cutting edge. And, as it turns out, I was right. This great redhead, there’s
something to watch there.

Q: Was there anything surprising or unexpected about making this movie?
A: No, it met my greatest expectations. I loved working with these guys. I would
go out tomorrow and do anything with Ben or John. Life’s too short to work with
people who are not in it for the fun and the art and the liveliness of it. And those
two guys genuinely are. And I just really enjoyed it.

Q: What was it like shooting in Winnipeg?
A: You know, they say that if you go out on a first date, it is sort of important
where you eat, that if the food is bad, it’ll sort of ruin the date. And on paper, it’s
not a place that you would say, this is where I’m going for spring break. But I
loved Winnipeg. And I think it was because, like in that first date metaphor, the
food was good. It was like everything about it was good. I’d go back up to
Winnipeg tomorrow with those guys and love it.

From 'You Kill Me' Press Kit.

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