Rosemarie DeWitt, ‘Rachel Getting Married’

'Married' sister plays off lead's anxieties

When it comes to “Rachel Getting Married,” Rosemarie DeWitt doesn’t mince words.

“Best job ever,” says the 34-year-old actress, who plays the eponymous bride-to-be in Jonathan Demme’s dysfunctional-family reunion drama. “This was just a dream, in terms of getting to go off and dig all around in your psyche and all the dark corners, and pull out everything you want to use. Jonathan lets you bring it all to the table.”

This turned out to be literally quite true in the film’s rehearsal-dinner setpiece, a tense, lively, extended sequence during which the actors essentially threw a huge party, gorged themselves on real food (as opposed to prop food) and then improvised their toasts to the bride and groom — most of which will likely end up on the DVD.

While this brand of you-are-there verite stunt seems typical of “Rachel’s” freewheeling filmmaking style, DeWitt points out that in terms of the central characters and their piercingly interconnected backstories, Demme departed very little from the tight framework provided by Jenny Lumet’s screenplay.

“I heard Jonathan say, in an interview, that it was 90% scripted and 10% something more, and that feels fairly accurate,” DeWitt says. “I think he was game for us to improvise more with the script, but we just didn’t need to do it. I didn’t have anything better to say most of the time.”

In one of the few exceptions, Demme asked DeWitt to write her character’s marriage vows — two days before the crucial wedding-ceremony scene was due to begin shooting. Though anxious at first (“It brought me the appropriate amount of bridal fear”), the actress saw it as an opportunity to get more inside her character’s head.

As played by DeWitt (previously best known as Jon Hamm’s lover on the first season of AMC’s “Mad Men”), Rachel comes across as a sensitive, long-suffering type who resents the volatile mood swings and monstrous self-absorption of her younger sister, Kym (Anne Hathaway), even as she also envies said younger sister for being able to act out in a way she feels she never can.

“I don’t have this relationship in my family. I didn’t grow up with this sister,” DeWitt says, with perhaps a measure of relief in her voice, “but I definitely am a bit of a control freak and a fixer.”

DeWitt relished having the freedom to navigate such risky, intimate psychological terrain without a safety net.

“We shot scenes where we probably pushed really hard, that were too big or too angry or too sentimental, and Jonathan reined us all in, but we got to explore it all,” she says. “Sometimes on TV, they worry so much about the characters being likable. And to just not have any obligation to that is a real dream for an actor.”

Favorite film this year

“I just watched ‘L’Enfant,’ the (2006) Dardenne brothers movie. I feel like that’s the best movie I saw this year. I just love that kind of filmmaking. … That movie slayed me.”

Best advice

“Jonathan would whisper in between takes on the movie: ‘Be you, be you, be you.’ That seemed to work.”

Inspiration

“I’m always very inspired when I see people in contact with their essence … people who are really unafraid of expressing themselves. I watch the Olympics and I wonder why I’m so moved, and it’s just because people are truly showing up with all of themselves.”

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