I recently got the chance to talk to Jennifer Neala Page about her role in ‘The Master’. Here, Jennifer talks about how she got involved in the project and what it was like working with Joaquin Phoenix…
Hey Jennifer. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘The Master’.
Oh you’re welcome, thanks so much for inviting me to chat about the film.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The Master is about Freddie Quell – (Joaquin Phoenix), a World War II veteran who finds it difficult to cope in a post-war society. He meets Lancaster Dodd – (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his family on his travels. Dodd is a leader of a new movement called “The Cause”. Quell joins the movement, and from here the story looks closely at the relationship between the two men and their understanding for one another.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play a young woman named Winn Manchester. She works at a local industrial site in Sussex as a secretary. She goes to her local every night, called “The Stag” and it is here where she meets Freddie Quell at a critical point in his journey. Winn is a sweet, fairly naïve girl and is immediately taken with Freddie, his American charm and disregard for order and “the norm.”
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I auditioned for the role in the summer of 2011 after seeing a casting advertisement at my agency in LA. I was called in and I met the loveliest casting director in the world – Cassandra Kulukundis – (she casts all of Paul’s films and is now a very successful producer in her own right). We hit it off and I read a number of times for the role. Then I was brought in for a call back and this is where I met Paul and luckily got the part!
How would you say this film is different and unique?
The film is shot in 70mm – (the first since ‘Hamlet’ in 1996) so that makes its pretty unique I think. Also, Paul [Thomas Anderson] is (I think) really daring with his ideas and filming concepts. He throws a lot of conventions out the window, and just focuses on what he believes will tell the best story. For example, the camera lingers on Joaquin Phoenix’s character much longer than expected, which gives you an instant sense of his character. Also, the film allows itself to go off on tangents, again to discover more unusual parts of the story. I also don’t think there have been any stories on a movement such as “the cause” after World War II before.
The film stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Price Carson, Mike Howard, Sarah Shoshana David, Bruce Goodchild and Matt Hering – with Paul Thomas Anderson onboard as director what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
Filming was amazing. The cast and crew were all so kind and welcoming to me and really made me feel at ease. One of the scenes I do in the film is fairly intimate; however, Paul was very kind and supportive to me. When we met he explained the nature and aims of the scenes but asked me if I was happy with the set ups. He promised me he would make them look beautiful. I think intimate scenes are a big decision for any actor but my choice was made very easy as I trusted Paul and Joaquin explicitly due to the excellence of their previous work. I was more than honoured to help them tell their story.
Joaquin (as well as Paul) was also so very easy and enjoyable to work with. During one take Joaquin said “I bet this isn’t what you thought you’d be doing with your summer?” I replied “This is exactly how I saw my summer” and we both laughed. He was also very gracious and did everything he could to make me feel comfortable, he kept asking if I’d like a drink. He kept trying to relax me. It’s testament to an actor who has such an important role to concentrate on to take time to make their co-stars feel happy.
Let’s talk a bit about you Jennifer. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
I think I have always loved acting and ended up in all my schools plays, went to dance classes most evenings and was also a member of Starmakers theatre school in Reading. I always thought I would “grow up” and study something else, but in the end it felt like the choice was made for me. And as cheesy as it really does sound I just felt like I had to become an actress. So, at 18 I decided to audition for drama schools. I was lucky enough to gain a place at Rose Bruford College for 3 years.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
As much as I am glad I’m an actress, it’s definitely hard work. You have to put every ounce of your energy into it as it’s so competitive and sometimes very unfair. I also wonder if a person can think of anything else to do that would make them happy then maybe they should do it, as it can be a tough unsatisfactory career for some. However, if you love it, there is probably nothing else you can do so you have to find a way to get into the room and audition. I think hard work and persistence can really pay off.
You’ve been in a number of different films and TV series – which actors/actresses have been your favourites to work with and why? Any good stories?
I have been lucky to work with some really lovely people, who always have such interesting things to say and tell. Before I booked ‘The Master’ I was lucky enough to get a great role on The West End in ‘Daisy Pulls It Off’. It was directed by a very inspiring woman called Nadine Hanwell. She had the drive all by herself to produce and direct a pretty huge show in a very competitive market, and I will always have so much respect for her. I also did a film this year with a very talented writer/director John Byford. I had to play a girlfriend who lost control when her boyfriend dumped her. I basically got to put crazy make up on and scream, shout and throw glass around. It was such a wonderful filming experience, although I had one take to throw this sugar glass as they had only got one for each scene specially made. Luckily I hit my spot and not someone’s head! I am hoping he will cast me again as another crazy character – as they are always the most fun to play!
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Oh gosh, there are so many! Hmmm…
- I think Nelson Mandela would be an amazing person to meet, I could just sit and listen to him tell his life story and everything he’s had to go through. I would like to meet someone who really is and was so extraordinarily brave. A real life hero I think.
- I wouldn’t mind having Michael Jackson attend and entertain us all. His death was so sudden and heartbreaking for his fans and family. I was very selfishly sad I never got to see him live. He was an incredible singer and performer.
- JFK would also be a good person to meet – there is so much controversy surrounding his death – we would finally be able to find out the truth…although perhaps in that case Lee Harvey Oswald would be better! Or maybe Barack Obama – I wouldn’t mind celebrating his re-election!
If you could choose a literary character to will into existence, who would you choose and why?
Oh my – so many again! Maybe one of characters from the Brontë sister’s books – I am in awe of their writing. Or I think Harry Potter so I could learn some magic. I’ve always wanted to fly on a broomstick and Hogwarts looked pretty amazing. Or maybe James Bond – I’d like to know all the secrets of MI6…there must be so much he knows!
What’s coming up for you in 2012/13?
I am currently filming a TV sketch show called ‘Starving In Hollywood’ - which has been so much fun. I get to play lots of different characters from all walks of life – which you don’t usually get a chance to do. I have also written my first film called ‘Taking The Lead’ which I hope to film in the new year. It’s about a girl who enlists professional help in order to love dogs. There are also another couple of projects in the pipeline but in case I jinx them I better say no more!
Thanks for the interview!