Matt's Blog

Chatting With Patricia Clarkson About Cairo Time

  

I’ve reviewed close to 3,000 films on my website but this week, I’ve got another Film Pie first.  I was lucky enough to score an interview with Academy Award nominee Patricia Clarkson, who has appeared in films such as The Green Mile, The Station Agent, Pieces Of April and Good Night & Good Luck.  It was a special opportunity so I needed to make the most of it.  For the very first time, I'm reviewing a film with one of its stars listening down the telephone line.  Here’s how it went (with 612ABC’s Spencer Howson offering a few comments at the very end)…

 

Matt:  I can’t help but be excited this morning because I have a very special guest.  I’ve never been to the Oscars myself but I think is about as close as I’m going to get.  I’m speaking with an Academy Award nominee.  She was nominated in 2004 for her performance in Pieces Of April.  I say a very good morning to Patricia Clarkson.

 

Patricia:  Hello, hello.  Yes, I’ve still got my Oscar dress on from 2004.

 

Matt:  We’re here of course to talk about your interesting new film which has just come out but I want to talk about your background a little bit.  If I was an actor, I’d love to have your resume – films like Shutter Island, Elegy, Good Night & Good Luck, The Station Agent, Far From Heaven and The Green Mile.  You’ve got to let us in on the secret.  How do you keep picking these great roles?

 

Patricia:  I guess I’m drawn to the story first.  I do want to play a great part but as great as a part can be, you have to live within an entire movie.  So I am first drawn to a script, a movie, a project that moves me in some way – comedically or dramatically.  Maybe I have a little bit of luck on my side which you always need in this business because so much of it is serendipitous.  I’m lucky that great directors come to me… but I’m knocking wood as I say that because I’m very superstitious.  So I’ve just been fortunate that wonderful people have brought me their movies and have asked me to be in their movies... and I’m smart enough to say “yes”.

 

Matt:  Well I think you’ve made a lot of great choice.  You’ve been in the business for over 20 years now and it must be something that you love doing because you keep doing it.  What is it that you love most about the profession?  What keeps driving you as an actor?

 

Patricia:  What I’ve always loved since the time I started acting when I was 12 or 13 in junior high school.  I love the creative process.  I love that it’s a communal effort.  I love finding a character.  I love meeting different people – people that you’ve never met in your life who come from different lives and backgrounds.  You develop a bond for the love of creating something that’s meaningful.

 

Matt:  My day job is as an accountant and I love having this life outside of work where I can go and see all these movies.  As an actor, is it the flip-side of that?  If you spend all your day acting, do you have time to go and watch a lot of movies outside of what you do?

 

Patricia:  I probably don’t see as many movies as I should.  I see films movies that my friends are in.  I’ll go to their premieres or I’ll go pay and see it when it comes out.  I’ll see films that I hear are fantastic – I’m not going to miss a great film.  But I don’t go as often as I should.  I work a lot and sometimes when I have a night off… like tonight… I’m doing interviews to Australia!  Often I like to just have a quiet dinner and relax.

 

Matt:  So do you like getting out to the cinemas or do you prefer lying on the couch watching a DVD?

 

Patricia:  I don’t like to watch DVDs.  I much prefer to be in the theatre.  I will first and foremost try to see a movie in a movie theatre because it’s a completely different experience.  One that I value obviously as it’s my livelihood.

 

Matt:  Are you caught up in the 3D craze?  Do you think it’s a fad or something that’s here to stay?

 

Patricia:  Maybe at some point in my life I’ll be in a 3D movie and I’ll be all excited about it.  It’s beautiful but it gives me a bit of a woozy feeling.

 

Matt:  Do you actually read reviews yourself Patricia for the films that you’re in?

 

Patricia:   No.  I try not to so the fact that I have to listen to an oral review coming at me… (laughs).  It’s fine.

 

Matt:  Ok, we’ll keep it delicate.  In this film Cairo Time, you’re playing Juliette – she’s a magazine editor in her 50s, she’s gone to Cairo to meet up with her husband who has been working in Gaza for the UN.  When she gets to Cairo her husband has been delayed and she’s waiting in the hotel room on her own.  I must say it’s a beautiful hotel room.  Were you staying in something like that?

 

Patricia:   It’s somewhat similar.  Yes, we shot at the Shepherd’s Hotel and we stayed there.  We got a deal which is what we needed seeing as this was a small budget film.

 

Matt:  I loved that scene where you’re sitting out on the balcony for the first time admiring the view of Cairo.  It’s just a beautiful city.

 

Patricia:  Yes, it’s a breathtaking city.

 

Matt:  You’re couped up in the hotel room and your character is going a bit stir-crazy.  You step out onto the streets of Cairo to have a look around and I’ve never been to Egypt myself (it’s on my bucket list) but was that your first trip?  Have you been there before?

 

Patricia:  This was my first trip to the Middle East.  I must say that it delivered.  Cairo packs a punch in many, many ways… in unexpected ways.  It was a life changing experience for me this whole project.  Shooting this movie, being in Cairo, being the lead of this film and working every single day.  It was rigorous.  It was quite a journey.

 

Matt:  There’s a moment in the film where you’re walking and a group of guys are following you and they’re leering at you.  One of them even touches you.  You manage to escape by popping into a store and it’s quite a striking moment in the film.  Was it actually like that in Egypt?

 

Patricia:  There is an element of that absolutely.  It’s not overrun by fundamentalists but it’s a male driven society.  You do have to be careful as a Western-looking woman walking the streets with my blond hair.  I had to be careful and I had a fairly similar event happen about three days into Cairo.   I never went anywhere alone again.  It’s just in certain parts and certain sections, not everywhere in Cairo, just certain places.  They do love women of any age.

 

Matt:  In the film you strike up a friendship with one of your husband’s former colleagues – he’s an Egyptian local named Tariq.  You go out and see the sights and there’s something that develops between the two of you.  It’s not like a traditional Hollywood type relationship as in let’s kiss, off the bedroom, passionate love affair and that sort of stuff.  It’s a really subtle relationship.  How would you describe what happens between Juliette and Tariq?

 

Patricia:  It is restrained.  Not just because of their cultures and customs.  I think it’s restrained because of who they are as people and what is at stake.  I think they’re honourable people but very sexy!

 

Matt:  There’s a beautiful scene late in the film where you’re at the pyramids and the camera is looking up with the pyramids behind while you’re sitting on one of the great stones.  That must have been pretty surreal?

 

Patricia:  Yes and it’s real.  There’s no CGI in the film except for a little scene on a train but everything else in this film is exactly as it was.  When I was telling friends I was in Cairo they were asking if I’d seen the pyramids.  Did I see the pyramids?  I sat on the pyramids!  I hugged the pyramids!  Everything is very real and every location was a real location.  Nothing was created or modified and I think it’s an honourable part of the film. 

 

Matt:  Well I think it’s a really good film.  I was a worried at first when it was a little bit slow to start.  There’s a large focus on the city.  But the focus then turns to Juliette and by the final act of the film, I really enjoyed the interaction between Juliette and Tariq.  There’s not a lot of dialogue.  I’m giving this the thumbs up and will give it a B+.

 

Patricia:  Oh good.  Ok, ok.  (breathes sigh of relief)

 

Matt:  Does that mean you’re going to give it an A, Patricia?

 

Patricia:  Of course I give it an A (laughs).  But a thumbs up and a B+ is a very good thing.  I’m thrilled with that.

 

Spencer:  That must have been terrifying for you?  Like sitting there with the headmaster or something?

 

Patricia:  Yes, a little bit.  But it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  I survived it.  (laughs)

 

Matt:  Thanks Patricia.

 

Patricia:  Thank-you so much guys.  You guys are fun!  Take care.