‘The Life of’ Laura Linney: Interview with ‘David Gale’ star

Jean Ellen Gismervik

It’s been almost a year since Laura Linney’s Oscar-nominated role in “You Can Count on Me” catapulted her back into the limelight after turning heads in “The Truman Show” years earlier. Now she stars opposite Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey in one of the years most controversial and political movies, “The Life of David Gale.” It is a film that blatantly discusses the death penalty, and Linney hopes that audiences will too. In light of the infamous death penalty history of Philadelphia Gov. Ed Rendell, Linney might just get her wish.

Jean Gismervik: What was it that attracted you to “The Life of David Gale”?Laura Linney: The script was magnificent; I had never seen a script before in that good shape so early on. I think everything with “The Truman Show” was just fantastic and there was so much in it that attracted me to it. It’s kind of fun with a movie that isn’t usually set in this kind of context. You either have a movie that deals with political issues or you have a murder thriller — so very rarely are they put together. Also, I wanted to work with Alan Parker, who I think is one of the great filmmakers around. There were a lot of other issues in the movie that I was interested in, particularly the questions that it raises about what do you do with your life? What are you using it for?

JG: Has making this movie forced you to re-examine your own life? LL: I think everyone’s been doing that since Sept. 11. I don’t think that it was some sort of new idea. It was already on my mind but I think this project just pushed it a bit further. When you think about people’s work and literally using their lives for a cause — when they’re actually doing that heightened thing with their life I just think it’s sort of fascinating.

JG: Did you encounter any problems when you were filming in Austin, considering the sensitive subject matter of the film?LL: There was a moratorium march when we were there, so there was a lot sort of swirling around when we were there.JG: And then there’s the moratorium in Illinois…LL: Well, we were just in Chicago. So that was very interesting. It’s just wild … It’s so difficult and it’s so emotional for people, so I’m not surprised that it’s bubbling over now. And I think it’s all Sept. 11 related.

JG: What are your feelings on the subject matter? LL: Everybody’s asking me for my personal opinion, my political opinion, and it’s very odd for people to all-of-a-sudden ask me, well, what do you think, and how it is affecting my work. I don’t want it to be in someone’s mind while they’re watching the movie … I don’t want anything interfering. JG: What do you hope audiences will get out of the film? LL: I hope that it’s a good experience for them, that it’s thrilling and that it also gets people to pause and think about stuff.

JG: Can you tell us about your upcoming films? LL: I made two movies in the fall at the same time. I made “Mystic River” in Boston and “Love Actually” in London and I was going back and forth constantly. “Mystic River” is based on a novel, and it’s directed by Clint Eastwood, with Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Lawrence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden and Kevin Bacon. “Love Actually” is an enormous ensemble cast with basically every British actor you can think of: Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Rowan Atkinson, Alan Rickman — it just goes on and on. Richard Curtis wrote and it’s his first directing job — he wrote “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Bridget Jones’ Diary.”

JG: What was it like working with Kevin Spacey?LL: Well he is very, very smart. I’ve never seen anyone make the transition from off-camera to on- camera quite so smoothly. Being a movie star really suits him well. He’s very, very good at it. He also happens to be a brilliant movie actor as well as a movie star, and he’s very responsible about press and talking to people.

JG: Who are your role models in the profession?LL: Maggie Smith and Jessica Tandy.

JG: What is the best compliment you have ever received?LL: There’s one. Athol Fugard said I was like a crisp piece of lettuce. I loved that … I loved that.