Sarah Polley talks Take This Waltz

Sarah Polley, Canadaís Oscar nominated writer, director and producer is also one of the countryís most respected.  She has acted since childhood, has always chosen her projects scripts carefully, started writing her screenplays and directing.   For her efforts on Away From Her, Polley won an Oscar nomination and the respect of worldwide audiences. 

She is currently working on the screenplay to Margaret Atwoodís landmark book Alias Grace, a fact-based murder mystery/psychological thriller set in 1983ís Toronto.   But Polleyís acclaimed film Take This Waltz, an imitate exploration of love and longing, starring Oscar winner and close friend, Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen.  

They made the trip to Toronto, Sarahís hometown in order to work on her passionate, if mini budgeted project.  Polley seems to have reached deep inside to write and direct Take This Waltz, but she wanted to establish as soon as we began our conversation in Toronto, that the film is not autobiographical.

@Photo provided by Joes Daughter Inc.

@Photo provided by Joe's Daughter Inc.

Sarah Polley - Iíd been making short films since I was 20 and all of them were about long term relationships and their disintegration and romance.  Away From Her was also about long term relationships and this is also.  This is no more autobiographical than the others.  Itís just a subject Iíve always been fascinated by and interested in and looking at from different angles. 

And the main thing is if I were going to make an autobiographical film, Iíd be prepared to talk about it in the press.  I think I was naive to think people wouldnít think it was.  I wouldnít have been prepared to talk about my personal life so I wouldnít have made a film about it.

Anne Brodie Ė In the opening shots, Michelle Williamsí character is barefoot, cooking at the stove.  There are long shots of her feet and legs and apron and dress.  We relate strongly, because itís personal and intimate.

SP - I wanted to show somebody who was comfortable domestically, in this kind of claustrophobic, sweltering place, full of longing and yearning but basically comfortable in her life.  And the film is about that, beyond it being about relationships.  Itís about where does that longing and yearning and everything come from when our lives are basically okay?

It makes sense if you have really big economic problems, to have yearnings and longings obviously but for people who are okay, or doing at least moderately well, we still have that and Iím curious about where that comes from and all the things we do in our life to try to fulfill that emptiness and that gap and somehow we find it doesnít really work. 

I wanted to show someone in that state and see all the things they did to try to fill that and see then come back to the same moment.  No matter how much they change their circumstances, there is still something missing and does it make sense to try and fill that gap or is that gap just always going to be there?

AB - Michelle Williams says she got goose bumps when she learned sheíd be working with you.   What were you like as a creative team?

SP - We felt very connected strongly, and on another level.  We had both been child actors, and been on film sets our whole lives.  We both had unconventional parents so we kind of ďgotĒ each other in a way that was really unusual which was an amazing experience for me.  I really have always thought she is one of the best actors of her generation so I was definitely equally in awe of her.

AB - Seth Rogen must have been delighted to do a role like this to remove himself for a time, from comedy.

SP - Seth is such an easy going person that I donít think he has that thing we all have that striving and longing and yearning.  Heís made of different stuff from anyone Iíve met.  He was happy enough to do it and he was so easy going  about it and so easy to work with but I donít think he was some kind of ambitious plan to show he could do something other than comedy because heís perfectly happy in his life.  For me as a fan of his, and Iím a huge fan, I had this real hunger to see him do something dramatic because I knew he had that depth and I had seen him be profound in glimpses in other movies.

@Photo provided by Joes Daughter Inc.

@Photo provided by Joe's Daughter Inc.

AB - I think that comics, someone like Robin Williams, are funny because they have extra access to the brain that makes them good dramatic actors.

SP - Thatís right. You have to be so incredibly smart to be a good comedian, smarter than you have to be to be a dramatic actress.  So when you if you do have the courage to make that turn, you have more to work with and I think thatís why we see performances like from Bill Murray or Jim Carrey in dramatic roles,  itís sort of shocking how much pathos there is. 

Because theyíre breaking a seal and its stuff they donít access all the time, so itís all this stuff, being so smart and so profound.  And theyíre not drawing on that well all the time either so youíre seeing it in a raw authentic way.  You donít see with dramatic actors. 

AB - There is a great sequence at the gym where ladies of all ages and sizes and shapes are standing around naked, thatís a sight you just donít see in films.  Are you concerned about it being cut?

SP - Sexuality and the human body is so integral to what this film is about and I would have a big problem with cutting the only nudity that isnít sexual where women are just being women and not being sexual, where women are just being women and itís not objectifying them to deal with the rating.  Iím pretty emphatic; the nudity is really a huge part of this film.  It always was from its conception.

AB - Youíve set it in Toronto and it certainly functions as a Valentine to the city.   The color, the light is just right.  Itís warm and energized.

SP - From the beginning I knew I wanted to make a film that shows Toronto the way I see Toronto and I love living here.   Iím obsessed with this city.  I love how it gets in the summer when itís almost unbearably humid and sweltering and spring is beautiful and full of color.  The greens are so extraordinary. 

And I also wanted to make a film that when I go into the topic of desire, I want the audience to viscerally what desire is, and really feel what desire feels like, so that meant really popping colors.   So Toronto comes out of this Technicolor object in the film.

AB - Do you ever think you want to move to Hollywood?

SP - Iím very, very happy living here and as long as I can continue making a living here I wonít leave.  I couldnít be happier to live in Toronto and live in a community and be able to walk everywhere and Iíve always felt very attached to this place and I canít see that changing.

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Further Reading on M&C

Michelle Williams (actress) Biography - - Michelle Williams (actress) Movies - Sarah Polley Biography - - Sarah Polley Movies -