I recently got the chance to talk to Patricia Hastie about her new film, ‘The Descendants’. Here, Patricia talks about her portrayal as George Clooney’s wife in the movie and who she would invite to dinner…
Hey Patricia. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘The Descendants’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The plot line? Life. Simply life.
In this particular case it surrounds a well to do family living in “paradise”. A workaholic attorney who is suddenly confronted with having to reconnect with his daughters when his wife is tragically hurt in a boating accident. What ensues is an awakening of his world and the realities he must confront. But uniquely demonstrates that no matter where we are from…who we are…what our circumstances are…no one escapes from the hardships of living and coping with circumstances that are beyond our control. Grasping at emotions and hardships that come our way. It would be easy to emulate a family living at a homeless shelter or underachieved aspirations. In this case, no…Matt King is superficially successful by all means, until it all falls apart…or should I say falls into perspective…and to the authors (Kaui Hemmings) innovative third eye the perspective of the viewer.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
Elizabeth King, wife of Matt King (George Clooney) is an ambiguous character at best, yet through the descriptions of others throughout the film it reveals the true Liz. She was full of life, and yes, you could say she was the life of the party…though she embraced a power of energy and confidence…she had a need for adrenaline, alcohol and being on the edge. Did these characteristics mask her need for affection and love…was this her way of trying to fulfill an empty shell? Do we condone her actions? The beauty of her portrayal is that the audience has the final judgment. There is no definitive to her role. Did she betray her husband out of survival of his vacancy in her life, intemperance or plain greed by what she may gain? More importantly is the incredulous manner that her husband chooses to acknowledge her actions.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I was called to an audition. A rather odd audition first with casting director John Jackson. Then a callback with John and Alexander Payne. I say odd in the fact that it was more of a test of having a camera within feet of you and relaxing and being yourself…we joked and talked story (as they say in Hawaii). Having done a lot of stand-in work having a camera within inches of your face it did not inhibit me. Working on Stephen Spielberg’s ‘Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull’ as Cate Blanchett’s stand-in for almost three months was a superlative exercise. You are there to do a job and you do it well and to the utmost of your ability…especially when your working with persons you have great respect for, that’s a given when emotionally driven for the art of the film. I am not trying to compare a stand-in by any means with the demands of an acting role. Though it does help when you have been surrounded by big names and faces however are able to adjourn to the fact of your role in the “Big Picture”. I remember one day on that set of ‘Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull’ where Leonardo DiCaprio came in to meet with Spielberg and Lucas for lunch. I was the only other one in the room. I respectfully moved as far away as possible. I did not want to hear what they were saying and it was not my business. I believe that respect and discretion is hard founded these days….I must include that Spielberg was one of the kindest directors I have worked with in treating stand-ins well.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
I am a huge fan of TCM. I rarely watch television. I TIVO anything interesting on TCM. At the moment I just TIVO’d Fellini’s ‘Amacord’ and I can’t find the time to watch it. ‘The Descendants’ will not be unlike a TCM classic. I have watched many films that bring me joy and a laugh or two but those are soon forgotten compared to those that stay with me. The films we are condoned to see again…that we glean from ruminatively. There are so many perspectives to this film as there are in the reality of life. One conversation can be taken in so many different terms…as is the dangers of texting…ha. I know we have all experienced that cellphone text that was taken out of context of what we perceived it to be…as is with the content of this film. Which could in turn reflect our personalities as to who we sympathize with. Again, the beauty of the film itself, as it does not hold any definitive judgments on any character. Liz’s father (a wonderful Robert Forster) loved his daughter as any father would. Her oldest daughter struggling with the love of her mother and the disdain for her lifestyle and choices yet headed in the same direction. Matt, (George Clooney) who had the paramountal and overwhelming conflict of where to place the guilt…where to exonerate? Which is beautifully executed by George…there is no answer to life’s upheavels…revelations…hardships. We learn and we go on. I adore art that furtively provokes the audience…that lingers with us. Much like viewing art in a gallery, the work of art that displays much colour and exuberance may get our attention although for me the artwork with the richer shades of shadows and emotion will be the one I return to view again.
The film stars George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause and your good self – with Alexander Payne onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
I was hired as an extra but knowing I would be working with an entourage of gifted actors I did my best to prepare for this unique character. I studied for months on anything having to do with comatose..books..documentaries..studies..practicing being touched without movement which I finally succeeded in with the help of deep mediation and holistic relaxers. I do remember getting spit-kissed on a couple of times (that’s what I call it when spit flies during a scene) thinking ”Mmm…I know it doesn’t rain indoors”.
I must admit I was never a big fan of George Clooney, which I did mention in my audition. I often wondered if that might have been one of the reasons I landed the part as I would not be so anxious? Knowing Alexander and his unique gift for casting he obviously saw something in me that I had not realized myself…he is so very talented in X-ray vision. I am so very proud to say he is a good friend to this day. The first day out we did candid shots with the girls and I together. I have three boys…no girls but can easily say Shailene would be my ideal daughter. She is the personification of well based, good-humoured and her priorities are well balanced…kudos to her Mom. Judy Greer is very focused but without a doubt a genuinely sweet person…though you must remember I did not have a chance at meeting many of these people until much later as I really never laid eyes on any of them or meet them until much later as it was much easier for me to stay in character throughout takes. Amara loved to jab me a bit between scenes just to see if I would move…she was simply and brilliantly herself.
Working with George was a sublime experience…here I am getting my comatose make-up done (a conquest beautifully…can you say beautifully when applying corpse-like makeup ..executed lovingly by Emmy nominated makeup artist Julie Hewett) and George is sitting across from me…always happy, always friendly and in my eyes…which again were closed for much of the production.. a unique individual. I have been in the company of many actors…none of his stature. Most portray an aura of unapproachability which must be respected as they must stay focused and quiet time is most likely difficult to find. In the little time I spent with him…I have great respect, admiration and gratitude for his way of putting a person at ease…which is most generous as he is thinking of you and your comfort but I really think also it is just his way…oh and just for the record his kisses are “like butter”…freshly turned homemade butter!
The formula of Alexander Payne, George Clooney and producer Jim Burke culminated a feeling of Aloha with everyone on set and produced a heartfelt film.
Let’s talk a bit about you Patricia. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
DNA – art and emotions run furvent in our family. I do not think anyone chooses this profession out of pure choice. Yes, some out of desperation for fame…but I think those who look for fame are destined to unhappiness and eventually fade. It is more a need of art and the creative outlet that induces the pains and politics one must go through to survive this trade. You must truly be satisfied with the act itself to endure the hardships of a thespian. You must portray, emulate a character for the satisfaction of oneself. The very fact that I love indies…they are usually induced by one’s (the writer=director=actor) vision to affect passion.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Find love and a picket fence….if the fires below are yearning for your quest of art…give up hope of love and the picket fence.
What is your favourite word?
Holy Monkeyballs!! They’re furry and funny yet disgusting and descriptive.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
- Vincent Van Gogh - in my eyes the epitome of art, emotion and love – yet struggled with the demons that surround those deep qualities…I would say nothing… but only listen.
- Jane Fonda - one of my heroes…I just recently finished her book and would like to thank her for her bravery and her courage to put down on paper and share her innermost thoughts.
- Egyptian Pharaoh - any one of the Egyptian Pharaohs whom I would have an unexhausted amount of questions…holistic medicine, Hieroglyphs, religious beliefs, astrology impact, and especially how the hell did they build those friggin’ pryamids???
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three personal things could you not live without?
I am pretty much a loner and love solitude…I guess it would be canvas, acrylics, all the writings of Shakespeare, Longboard beer…and maybe a top shelf of Tequila…oops…that’s five.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I am a member of The Actors Ohana (TAO) which I joined through my acting class which allowed me the opportunity to write and direct a 19 minute short called ’Emo’. I edited it entirely on my own. A grueling undertaking as I self-taught. It is a black and white silent film we completed production on over a year and half ago. I am submitting to the film festivals at this time.
I also shot and produced a documentary with my sister on domestic violence advocates in Nevada. Nevada has the highest rate of domestic violence in America. The documentary is a focus on the women who work as the advocates for the victims of these crimes. My sister, Eileen Herrington works for the DA’s office in Nevada. She is an advocate and was able to get us access to ride alongs with PD/Sheriffs Dept. as well as interviews with over 30 individuals both victims and counselors etc. Our ultimate goal is to produce a television series that follows an advocates personal journey…a sort of Erin Brockovich genre.
In regards to my own acting career? I will continue with acting classes as well as short film. How very incredibly lucky I have been to have landed the part of “Elizabeth King”, though I realize it does not in any way reveal or warrant anyone knocking on my door…I hope to land a good role in the artistic allies of the Indies. I adore Indies as they are built on passion for film and in most cases have something significant to contribute.
Thanks for the interview!