The actress talks about what it's like to work with Woody Allen
One of the best surprises from last week’s Golden Globes nominations was the inclusion of Sally Hawkins in the supporting actress category for “Blue Jasmine.” As Cate Blanchett’s on-screen sister Ginger, Hawkins, who is British, played her first American character, a role that she carried off with the help of dialect coach and studying performances from Julianne Moore and Laura Linney.
“Blue Jasmine” is the second time Hawkins has collaborated with Woody Allen, following 2007’s “Cassandra’s Dream.” In 2011, Hawkins won a Golden Globe for her breakthrough turn in Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky” as a jubilant London grade school teacher. When she stumbled to the podium that night, her fellow nominee Meryl Streep whispered to her, “Are you happy now?”
Hawkins spoke to Variety about “Blue Jasmine” and some of her other roles.
I want to ask you about something not related to Woody Allen first. Is it true that were an extra on “Star Wars: Episode 1–The Phantom Menace”?
Oh, I don’t even know if I made the final cut. It was one day many years ago. I was still in drama school. A friend was working on it and got me in. I was in a huge audience scene. We were replicated about a thousand times.
Did you wear a costume?
I wore a chiffon costume. It was quite a look. And I saw Ewan [McGregor]. He would not remember me.
That’s right! You later worked with him on “Cassandra’s Dream.” Did you tell him about the cameo?
I never told him. I just passed by him. He was playing football, and I was on my way to set.
Did you meet George Lucas?
No, certainly not. I was just an extra in the village. I got paid 100 quid, I think.
Why did Woody think of you for Ginger?
I don’t know. You’d have to ask Woody that. As far as I knew, I just went in for casting. I knew it was an American, so it would be a longshot.
Haven’t you played an American before?
No, and I was anxious about that. It was like “Cassandra’s Dream.” How he cast for that, I went to see him after he saw a screen test. This time, he didn’t see a screen test. I just went along to read. You sit in a room for 10 minutes with the scene he’s given you. He comes in and he watches you read it.
Was that scary?
Terrifying. It’s always scary, whoever it is. But more so because it’s Woody.
How did you find the accent?
I had great help from [dialect coach] Carla Meyer, who Cate’s worked with before. I wanted to get to the States as quickly as possible, to immerse myself in the accent and do the proper work. She’s an amalgamation of many different sounds. But she’s also putting on something. She’s escaped that adopted family life to start again. She has a mixture of New York thing going on, but she also has a San Francisco thing. We didn’t want to make it too New York.
How did you and Cate find your rhythm as sisters?
I was very lucky with Cate. She’s incredible, and she’s a theater actress as well. She thinks and works — I’m flattering myself by saying this — in a similar way as me. She comes from that training and we had time together in New York to get to know each other. Luckily, she was performing “Uncle Vanya” to great acclaim. That was the first time I saw her in the flesh. Then we had time to just talk and unravel the script. That was invaluable for me. It created such grounding.
I’ve heard Woody doesn’t give a lot of direction.
How do you know if he likes something?
I don’t know if you ever know. He’s sometimes incredibly specific. And sometimes he just lets you get on with it, and he steps away. He works incredibly economically and fast, and he doesn’t smooth it over. Does that make sense? He doesn’t tell you, “Oh that’s amazing.”
Does he talk about what you’re trying to accomplish in each scene?
No, he doesn’t. He doesn’t want to know about process. He doesn’t want to know all the prep you’ve done. He wants you to turn up and be it and be complete. He doesn’t want to see the acting.
Mike Leigh must be the complete opposite.
Yes. But then they come together in a way, how they see life, the ability to see truth. Both Woody and Mike see truth in a way — they have an incredible eye and understanding of humanity. You can see it overlap. The way Woody loves people to be real.
Your next two projects are a departure for you. You’re doing adaptations of “Paddington Bear” and “Godzilla.”
“Paddington” is amazing. I’ve just come from there.
Is he a real bear?
I should say yes, because it’s magic. Of course, it’s a real bear. They managed to get one. I don’t know how they did it. And Godzilla is the same. It’s a real monster. They found him.