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Interview with Catherine O'Hara, star of For Your Consideration

Review of For Your Consideration

Catherine O'Hara stars as an actress named Marilyn Hack in For Your Consideration, directed by Christopher Guest. It's a mockumentary or "documentary" about actors who relish in the Oscar buzz while on the set of filming Home for Purim. Catherine O'Hara has acted in such films as A Mighty Wind, Orange County, Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, Wyatt Earp, The Nightmare Before Christmas (voice only), Home Alone & Home Alone 2, as well as the HBO TV series Six Feet Under. I had the privalege to interview her.

Warner Independent Pictures will release For Your Consideration on November 17th, 2006.

NNYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think anyone can improvise?

CO: I think everyone can [improvise] when you’re with your friends and family and really comfortable and you’re feeling loose. You’re all thinking on your feet and bouncing off of each other and you [can easily] do it. I guess it takes another level of nerve to do it on camera--we do it sober, if you can believe it. You have to have some one that you really trust, like [Christopher Guest], that you know that’s going to take care of you. I do believe that everyone is naturally funny.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What are some of your favorite scenes or characters from For Your Consideration?

CO: I love Don Lake’s [who plays a film critic] drool take. Isn’t that insane? Everyone on the set said, “No, that was real.” What do you mean “real”? How can that be real? Was he like a baby watching [Michael] Hitchcock, [who the other film critic],work or something? [Don Lake] claims that, “Oh, I didn’t plan that.” Michael Higgins is just an open wound of a character, [as Corey Taft]. Jennifer Coolidge is amazing. Her complex level of simplicity is so pure and honest.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Did you channel any particular actress through your character of Marilyn?

CO: I’ve worked with an actress who kind of had a look. The work was about her character and not her. She let herself age really easily in roles and didn’t seem to have an ego about it. This [character] is not her, but I kinda jumped on her look and the way she took her work very seriously and was all about serving the script and honoring her character. My voice that I tried to do was [on] CBC radio in Canada. Not all of the women talk like this. The majority of working actors are [truly] working actors. They’re not the people you read about and they’re not invited to the head of table. This woman didn’t chit-chat on the set. She would disappear into her trailer or wherever and come back to work. She was just mysterious to me because I was sitting around laughing all day and not thinking about the job. So, I was kinda fascinated, at that time, with her and what her life might be like. Then, this [role] came along and I just needed to sorta get a starting point and I picked her, but it’s really not her—it was kind of a look or something.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How often do you laugh while making fun of others in this mockumentary?

CO: Don’t get caught saying “mockumentary” to [Christopher Guest]—[it’s a] “documentary.” It’s true. We never make fun of anyone. I think when you’re in it an improvising and you’re trying to be in characters, you’re not outside making fun. I’m sure when they’re writing it, there’s got to be some laughs because of the kind of people they’re writing about. When we first read it, I guess we’re laughing and imagining the whole thing. But then when you’re just improvising, you just try to survive and try to be in character. It’s probably more tortuous doing this [role]—it’s a little too close to home.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you refrain from laughing on the set?

CO: You can’t. When you’re improvising and trying to be in character, it would really never happen the same [way again] and you don’t want to sabotage it [by laughing]. You sabotage yourself as well as the other people and the take is gone forever when you just start laughing. You can laugh in character. If your character finds it funny, there are ways to do it. There was a dinner scene in Waiting for Guffman we did and I was playing drunk and Eugene [Levy] and I were just trying not to laugh throughout the whole scene. I was quite drunk, so I was quite undisciplined anyway. In one scene, I go down to pick up something that I dropped and under the table I couldn’t stop laughing. It does happen, but, for the most part, we’re all in character. My character in this movie is so not inherently funny, that I took every moment seriously.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you and the other actors ever get scared about not getting along after being in so many movies together?

CO: We get scared, but not about not liking each other or not getting along. The first time when you open your mouth in character, I think, is really scary.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What is it like working with director Christopher Guest?

CO: He directs with such a light touch. He just kind of guides you. I hate being told where to stand. He’s really kind. He’s just makes you feel like you can do no wrong. He can be pretty funny and dry about the things in this world. He’s an unusual guy. I can’t even claim to know him that well. I’m glad to work with him and be in his circle. He’s so loving and affectionate once he lets you in. He’s [also] very careful with people he doesn’t know. I’ve heard him be fed up with things in the world, but he doesn’t gossip. He really takes care of his characters, even thought it looks like we’re really making fun of people, it doesn’t feel that way when we’re doing it. He never let a character talk about another character when they weren’t in the room. Something has to come from the character, too, [though]. It was really more in the “documentaries” that there was really free form. In For Your Consideration, it was probably trickier for him because we basically did the same thing, but he had to shoot it in a way that had to look more rehearsed. He shoots pretty wide—in comedy that seems to work. Especially when [there’s improvisation], you want to see what everyone’s doing. You never know what’s going to happen. We went into a lot of coverage. We did more cover than we did in the other movies. He would always give us a lot of room.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you feel overall during the shoot?

CO: This was not fun, but really great for me to do. I love For Your Consideration and all of the characters in [it], but I’d like to see more of everybody. I think I got too much time airtime.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Was it easy to make fun of people in the movie industry?

CO: The closer to home that you are, it’s actually not easier. You have to, kind of, expose yourself. It’s easier to make fun of things that you think are far from you. But when you know you’re in your own territory, [it’s more difficult].

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