Frances McDormand in ‘Promised Land’

Eye on the Oscars: The Actress - Supporting Actress Contenders

Prior to any producer coming on board, before the film’s premise was even in its finished form, Frances McDormand was all in with “Promised Land.”

Matt Damon says he and co-writer John Krasinski sent her the earliest draft of the script, back when it was a movie about windmill farm prospecting in upstate New York and not about natural gas drilling in rural Middle America.

McDormand plays Sue Thomason, a slick-tongued, no frills gas company land buyer who opts for playful punches over an encouraging hug when her colleague, Damon’s Steve Butler, gets a promotion.

While she’s grateful for the work, her time on the road keeps her away from her son, and that becomes an an internal struggle that McDormand masterfully keeps simmering just beneath the surface.

“Her performance as Sue is so layered and nuanced,” says Damon about his co-star with whom they often share the screen. “Many times I’d be playing a scene with Fran and sense something strong happening. Then, watching the dailies, I could take the opportunity to see the distinctions in every single take she did.”

And as for preparing for the role, McDormand didn’t have to step too far out of her own shoes to get into Sue’s. Issues central to the film are ones she is all too familiar with.

“I went to high school in a steel town in Pennsylvania,” McDormand says. “Now the town is suffering a lot, although I have friends that are still living there happily because it’s their community.”

Thus she lends a lot of heart to her role as the proxy for heartless corporate America.


Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Jessica Biel Limetown Premiere

    Why 'Limetown' Star & Producer Jessica Biel Thought the Show Was Based on a True Story

    In a world of increasingly outlandish headlines, the story behind “Limetown” — in which an entire community in rural Tennessee disappears overnight — seems plausible. Even Jessica Biel, who executive produces and stars in the Facebook Watch television adaptation of the hit 2015 podcast, was initially convinced that it was real. “I just thought I [...]

  • Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Watchmen

    Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Talks 'Watchmen,' 'Matrix 4': 'I'm Not Nervous At All'

    Yahya Adbul-Mateen II is facing some serious pressure. The actor is in the middle of a massive career surge, taking on roles in HBO’s “Watchmen” and the upcoming “Matrix 4” — and with those roles, the expectations of their fans.  “I have the responsibility of upholding something that was already done while also bringing in [...]

  • David Lindelof Watchmen Premiere

    'Watchmen' Creator Damon Lindelof Weighs in on Martin Scorsese's Marvel Criticisms

    Damon Lindelof disagrees with Martin Scorsese about his recent claims that Marvel movies don’t qualify as cinema. The director’s proclamation, along with the polarized critical reception of “Joker,” are the latest salvos in a long history of questioning comic book movies’ place in cinematic history. The lingering question: Can superhero fare be considered “high art?” [...]

  • Anne Hathaway Modern Love

    Anne Hathaway Talks Mental Health Awareness, Playing a Bipolar Woman on Amazon's 'Modern Love'

    In Amazon Prime’s upcoming “Modern Love,” Anne Hathaway sheds light on an important facet of living with mental health issues, playing a bipolar woman who struggles with dating. “We’re all becoming more sensitive, wiser and more cognizant of gentility, and especially emotional gentility. I think those conversations are starting to happen. And I think the desire [...]

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content