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Christina M. Hinke talks to Jessica Lange

Written by Christina M. Hinke
Photographs courtesy of
Sony Pictures Classics

Don’t Come Knocking says Jessica Lange

At age fifty-six, Jessica Lange has decided that at this point in her acting career, her time is valuable. She selectively chooses roles that fill her time with valuable experiences. In her latest project, Don’t Come Knocking, a washed-up actor, played by her real-life beau, Sam Sheppard, comes to Butte, Montana in search of his twenty-six-year-old son, born from an affair he had with Doreen, a waitress in the small town (played by Lange).


Christina M. Hinke: Have you ever been a waitress?

Jessica Lange: I have been a waitress, and I was a damn fine waitress too, let me tell you.

Christina M. Hinke: Sam Shepard imbues a sense of place in his script.  Did it help to have the desolate town of Butte, Montana to shoot in?

Jessica Lange: Well, that town, that place, all those locations are like another character, aren't they. They are like a mirror image of who these characters are in a way, translated to landscape, basically.  Because it is alienated, it's desolate, it's lonely, it's remote, it’s all of those things, and obviously Wim [Wenders] wanted to set the piece there. So I think the place informed the characters the way the characters informed the place.  And to work on the actual location I think is great. This thing of going to Canada and pretending you're in New York, god, it's terrible, because there is a sense that you get from the place that is so important to the piece and to who you are in that place.  Butte's a weird place; it's a lonely place out there.  What does Garrison Keeler say? The town that time forgot. It's great, that's kind of what this place is like.  

Christina M. Hinke: Do you go back to Minnesota where you grew up?

Jessica Lange: Yeah, I still have my cabin there.

Christina M. Hinke: Was working with Sam Shepard easier since you have been living with him for more than twenty years?

Jessica Lange: Sure. I know some couples don't like to work together, but I've always found it easy working with Sam.  And in this case it's a little different than just working with your partner because he also wrote it, so I'm speaking his words. As soon as you start saying those trigger words, like son, suddenly when you're looking at the father of your son and you say, son, it brings up a whole well of emotion that you're not even aware that you're going to touch on. Something there makes it richer.

Christina M. Hinke: The director, Wim Wenders, had to sit down with Gabriel Mann, who plays the son, to calm him down a bit before the first scene with you. Did you know you were intimidating?


Jessica Lange: No, I didn't. I'm feeling it now. You know, it's kind of embarrassing. I think if he was nervous about it, it didn't show once we started playing it. Maybe sometimes those things work to your advantage; you're kind of caught off balance. I remember working with Tony Richardson on Blue Sky, and shit, the first scene he gave me, where Tommy Lee [Jones] takes me to our new home and its this dump on an army base, and you know my character's a little goofy anyhow, and she starts smashing the TV and carrying on, and then drives away. Then Tommy Lee's character has to come find me in some store. It's a horrible scene, the children are cowering. And I said to Tony, I don't even know who this character is yet, and this is our first scene?  And he said, sometimes it's better; you don't have time to think about it. So maybe it's true.

Christina M. Hinke: What do you have planned for your future?

Jessica Lange: I never think of the future. I never imagine what comes next.

 


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