Jennifer Jason Leigh has made a career out of playing emotionally raw characters. Her new role, alongside Nicole Kidman in “Margot at the Wedding,” is no exception.
She took to the character while reading husband Noah Baumbach’s script long before the movie was ever cast. So, when Baumbach asked her to play the role, she was completely familiar with Pauline, the woman getting married in the ceremony referenced in the film’s title.
“When he told me he wanted me to play Pauline, someone who thinks she’s more secure than she really is, I was happy and relieved,” says Leigh with a lilting voice that is softer than that of the characters she often portrays. “Secretly, I was thinking about acting in it, but I would never try to impose myself on him in that way.”
Once she was cast, Leigh, who co-starred in the teen classic “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” early in her career and has been an indie darling over the past 10 years or so, approached the role in an unorthodox manner — at least for her.
“Normally, I would talk to a bunch of women like Pauline,” Leigh explains, “but this character came more from the inside out, and that had a lot to do with working with Noah. He knows me so well, and I trust him so much. He got the best out of me.”
Part of the reason why the couple’s working relationship was successful on “Margot” was because Leigh and Baumbach made a conscious effort to leave their private life at home.
“We didn’t bring our marriage to the set. It was something we talked about beforehand, like if we had a disagreement or a little fight, we’d take it off the set. But it never even came to that.”
Despite the potential for complications, Leigh says the experience working with Baumbach was completely worthwhile.
“It was a chance for me to show off for him,” she says coquettishly, like a schoolgirl with a crush. “I love working with directors in general, so this was like that even more so.”
Favorite film: “Any version of ‘Scenes From a Marriage,’ the two-hour version, the long one, I love them all.”
Young actor you admire: “Oh, that’s easy: Samantha Morton.”
What you want in a director: “A strong vision and a gentle hand.”
Vice: “Doritos at the airport.”