Sally Field took SXSW by storm on Saturday afternoon with “Hello, My Name is Doris,” a dramedy from director Michael Showalter that will certainly be one of the big discoveries out of this year’s festival.
Field plays the titular character, a 60-something hoarder from Staten Island who develops a crush, which quickly escalates into an obsession, on her much younger co-worker (Max Greenfield). The movie is based on a 2011 short by the script’s co-writer Laura Terruso, called “Doris & the Intern.”
“Certainly I’ve never read anything as unique as this character,” Field said at an audience Q&A session following the screening, where she received a standing ovation. “You get to a certain point, after being in the business for a long time, you read the same thing over and over again. There’s nothing that blows your skirt off. This blew my skirt way up.”
Showalter infuses “Hello, My Name is Doris” with the same irreverent sensibility as 2001’s cult favorite “Wet Hot American Summer,” which he co-wrote. Field was struck by how the story played with so many different genres. “We are very dramatic sometimes and then literally off the charts screwball comedy,” Field said. “It’s very hard to mix those together and have it be the same film.”
It’s also the first time in almost two decades that Field, who’s 68, has anchored a theatrical film. A common lament in Hollywood is how weak the roles for actresses are, but 2015 may be an exception to that rule. There are already almost enough strong performances to pack next year’s Oscars, including Sundance favorites Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”), Blythe Danner (“I’ll See You in My Dreams”) and Lily Tomlin (“Grandma”), with Field now joining their company.
To get into Doris’ skin, Field turned to a closet of vintage sweaters and skirts. “They were all painful beyond your wildest dreams,” Field said. “Everything itches and hurts.” She tried to protest a neon outfit that Doris wears to a Williamsburg concert, but her director convinced her to don it, and she conceded that he was right when she heard the roaring laughter at the premiere.
“You guys enjoyed the kissing scenes,” Showalter teased Field and Greenfield.
“I was embarrassed!” Field said.
Another fan took to the microphone to scream a message to Field. “I love you! I love you! I love you!” After seeing “Hello, My Name is Doris,” which is seeking U.S. distribution, many movie-goers will be chanting the same.