Saturday, July 17, 2010
From the Vault: Holly Hunter
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED NOV. 19, 1993
Six years after making major splashes in Raising Arizona and Broadcast News, Holly Hunter has returned to the spotlight in a major way.
Not that Hunter has really been missing. She earned an Emmy for her work in the television movie Roe vs. Wade and appeared in films such as Always and Once Around.
However, none of that work garnered her the attention that her 1987 films brought. That's about to change with the release of The Piano, a film which should make Hunter a lock for a best actress Oscar nomination.
The Georgia-born actress has had a remarkable year. First, she was named best actress for The Piano at the Cannes Film Festival. The film shared the prize for best film with Farewell My Concubine.
She also turned in a bravura supporting turn as Gary Busey's secretary in The Firm and gave a brash performance in the HBO film, The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader Murdering Mom, a role which earned Hunter her second Emmy.
If that were not enough, Hunter also grabbed praise for her work in Beth Henley's play Control Freaks. A busy year that exemplifies her willingness to work in any medium.
"I do hop around a lot from cable to Hollywood pictures to foreign independents to American independents to the stage to network movie of the week. I suppose I prefer that because that's where I get the widest range of opportunity."
It's her work in writer-director Jane Campion's The Piano though that will prove to be the culmination of Hunter's return. In fact, she originally was not even considered by Campion for the role. Campion envisioned the role of Ada, a 19th-century Scottish woman who stopped speaking at 6, as someone taller, something Hunter certainly is not.
"I asked (Campion) if I could audition because walking into a room, what is there about me that's like Ada? Nothing. I felt I could do the part. I knew I wanted the shot at doing the part ... "
Hunter won Campion over and the two began filming in February 1992 in New Zealand. Hunter's attraction to the part had "something to do with the isolation because that's really opposite of me. I like being around people. I don't have anything reclusive about me really and that's her whole motive. I desire to be part of ... (Ada) had a real desire to be apart from."
While Ada could be portrayed as a tragic figure, Campion's script and Hunter's performance prevent that. Ada is a strong-willed, manipulative and fully-embodied creation.
"(Ada) treats people somewhat anonymously. They become invisible to her. It's not just negating men, it's negating anything that's going to get in the way of her fulfilling her own needs. That is one of the disturbing elements of Ada in that she is a woman who knows her own desires and pursues them. This is still a shocking aspect to Ada and I think it makes her a not-nice woman. I'm also not really that interested in nice. I mean I am, as a Southerner, because we're brought up to be really nice — so I am."
Hunter's major challenge in the film was not using her primary instrument as an actress — her voice.
"For a while, you get left with the feeling it's a loss, that you had something taken away from not speaking. ... then things came up, alternatives came up, for me to be articulate, to be expressive. As a matter of fact, I thought it was a great opportunity."
This great opportunity will likely place Hunter within reach of winning her first Oscar, a subject she finds silly to speculate about.
"When I get nominated for an award or if I win an award, it's a lovely thing. To speculate about it, ... that's a waste of time."
Regardless of the honors that may or may not come Hunter's way for The Piano, the role has already brought her more work opportunities.
"I can't say that anything inspired has come my way, but more money offers have come my way. It's a business, you know. That's kind of nice but almost neither here nor there to me. I'm sure to disappoint. Wherever I am, I'm probably not going to stay there for very long."