Actress Lea Thompson, 2012 Female Indie Icon Honoree at LVFF – Pt 2
One recent highlight was playing Lela Rogers in Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Thompson found Eastwood’s style interesting and was happy for the opportunity to see how he runs his set. She said that he’s quiet and doesn’t say action, preferring to use words like when you’re ready spoken in a low voice. “He does everything in one take, which was scary,” she commented. Eastwood also works with the same crew all the time and a lot of those people were the same ones Thompson had worked with years ago on “All the Right Moves”. He tries to find an extension of life and is very reverential. “People have such respect and admiration for him. It’s amazing,” she added.
While Eastwood is known for limiting the number of takes he shoots, Lea’s husband, director Howard Deutch required many more when she made “Article 99” with him. Describing him as an actor’s director who is all about the story, the two met on the set of “Some Kind of Wonderful” when Thompson was engaged to actor Dennis Quaid. She broke up with Quaid and married Deutch in 1989. The couple has two daughters Maddie and Zoe aged 21 and 17, who have followed in their mother’s footsteps and become actors. Oldest daughter Maddie is also a musician with her own band while Zoey has appeared on the TV show “Ringers” and has a part in the film “Beautiful Creatures”. To Lea’s delight both girls have come to her for advice. “It’s been a whole new rediscovery of my process by helping them,” she said adding, “I happen to know a lot so they have to listen to me.” She stresses the importance of time management when juggling motherhood and work advising “Give yourself some time. When you’re a mother do things that make you happy.”
Lea has definitely learned a lot throughout the years considering the diverse turns her career has taken. She admits there aren’t as many parts for her women her age in studio films except for a few exceptions like Sandra Bullock and that’s one reason she’s grateful for the quality of work available on television. “I wasn’t really on the fast track for a long time when I was raising my kids, but I still got to act,” she said. Winner of a People’s Choice Award for Best Female Star for her portrayal of Caroline Duffy in “Caroline in the City” Lea also got two direct two of her Jane Doe television movies. She believes directing is a natural progression for her noting “it’s interesting cause you have to let go of a lot of things or you’re annoying.” To her the biggest change for directors in terms of technology is the new monitors that don’t require the director to be there with the actors making the process more impersonal than it used to be.
Thompson offered these suggestions for aspiring thespians. First of all, figure out how you fit in the story. “What’s your job and your purpose? Make yourself essential to the story. Look at the bigger picture,” she recommended adding that actors should see where they can elevate the story. “Be available to the actor, the director, the story. Always try to service the story,” she advised. Thompson explained that her technique is that she tries to be available to whatever the director wants like a good piece of clay that’s easy to mold.
As an actor she prefers doing indie productions like “The Trouble with the Truth” and likes watching quirky movies like “The Accidental Tourist” since eccentric characters resonate with her. She also enjoyed “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” “I think small movies are more conducive to deeper acting,” Lea shared. She loves to do research to prepare for her roles believing that “it helps you make things more important for the character” and she enjoys seeing how other people live and capturing the small details people respond to that make it real. For her acting is a life affirming process. “I gravitate towards uplifting character stories,” she said. This preference comes after being in big productions like “Howard the Duck” where a 10 page scene took six weeks to shoot. She feels that smaller productions require less emotional commitment so they’re not as taxing on an actor’s personal life.. “Of course, if anyone asked me to do a big movie again, I would do it,” she added before concluding, “I’ve always wanted to be where I am right now, a working actress.”