×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kelly Macdonald on Her Sundance Star Turn in ‘Puzzle’ and Hollywood Harassment

Kelly Macdonald is driving and talking on the phone. It sounds dangerous, but with her trademark burr, the Scottish actress assures a worried Variety reporter that she can juggle both tasks. She will, however, periodically stop mid-sentence to say she needs to concentrate on the road.

The subject at hand is “Puzzle,” a low-budget drama about a housewife and mother named Agnes who discovers she is something of a savant when it comes to assembling puzzles. The film premieres at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and offers the 41-year-old Macdonald a chance to step toward center stage after decades of supporting turns in everything from “Trainspotting” to “Boardwalk Empire.”

“I’m rarely ever offered the female lead in anything,” Macdonald admits. “So that appealed to me. And there was something about Agnes that intrigued me. She was a bit of an enigma.”

Discovering her gift helps draw Agnes out of a shell she’s constructed for herself, one that finds her sublimating her own identity while doting on her two sons and clueless husband. It’s a family that takes advantage of Agnes’ generosity, expecting much from her and offering little in return.

After she teams up with Robert (Irrfan Khan) on puzzle competitions, Agnes begins to realize that she is not fulfilled by her life in a blue-collar section of Connecticut. All the while, Agnes keeps her partnership with Robert and her newfound interest in games from her loved ones.

“She’s from a small place, the kind of town where everybody knows everybody’s business, and she has no friends and is just kind of alone,” Macdonald said. “She’s a bit of a child-woman who is used to being given instructions and is smothered and never really grew up.”

With small gestures, showing Agnes staring longingly out the window of a Metro North train or furtively glancing down at her cell phone for a text from Robert, Macdonald and director Marc Turtletaub build a portrait of a woman living a “life of quiet desperation.” Macdonald also delicately shows Agnes’ rising confidence as she begins to acknowledge that the road she took in life may have been the wrong one. Agnes is the kind of person you might pass on the street or at the supermarket without realizing the depths she contains. The raging turmoil inside Agnes’ placid facade was something that attracted Macdonald to the part.

“You don’t have to move mountains to be interesting,” she said. “This wasn’t about a film about some superhero with puzzles.”

“Puzzle” also helped Macdonald rediscover her own love of puzzles, sometimes to the detriment of the low-budget film’s tight shooting schedule.

“I’d done a lot of them in my twenties, but I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed puzzles,” Macdonald said. “I was surrounded by puzzles on the set and I became this nut. I’d do them all over the place — when I was on the hair and makeup chair or in between takes. They’d be ready for me on set, but I’d have run off somewhere to work on a puzzle.”

Agnes’ story of self-realization is being released at Sundance at a time when women are speaking out about abuse of power and sexual harassment in Hollywood. It’s a conversation that was touched off after allegations broke in October that producer Harvey Weinstein had harassed or assaulted dozens of women. Since then, scores of actors, directors, and media figures have found themselves accused of misconduct.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Macdonald said. “I’m quite pleased to see all these women standing up, and there are a lot of men in the industry who are questioning their own histories and behavior right now. We’re shining a light on something that was a dark secret. I hope things can finally change for the better.”

One thing Macdonald isn’t looking forward to is sitting in a darkened theater and seeing her work in “Puzzle.”

“It’s so hard to watch,” she said. “I’m used to being in great ensemble pieces, and I always get irked every time I pop up on screen.”

More Film

  • Nona

    Film Review: 'Nona'

    Twenty years and 12 features down the line, it’s still hard to peg the directorial sensibility of Michael Polish, with or without the presence of brother Mark as frequent co-writer and actor. His output has been all over the place, from early Lynchian quirkfests to the very middle-of-the-road inspirational dramedy “The Astronaut Farmer,” not to [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Wins for Best Film, Director at European Film Awards

    “Cold War,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white romance set in the 1950s, scooped the prizes for best film, director and screenplay at the 31st edition of the European Film Awards on Saturday. “Cold War” star Joanna Kulig also won the award for best actress. Marcello Fonte, the star of Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” won for best actor. Armando Iannucci’s [...]

  • The Favourite Bohemian Rapsody Star is

    The Best Movie Scenes of 2018

    When we think back on a movie that transported us, we often focus on a great scene — or maybe the greatest scene — in it. It’s natural. Those scenes are more than just defining. They can be the moment that lifts a movie into the stratosphere, that takes it to the higher reaches of [...]

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Box Office: 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Soars Toward $35-40 Million Debut

    “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is swinging into theaters on a high note. Sony-Marvel’s latest output is launching to $42 million from 3,813 North American locations in its debut, though other more conservative estimates place that number at $35.5 million. The animated superhero story picked up $12.6 million on Friday, easily leading the pack for the weekend. [...]

  • Ventana Sur : Cinema226 Closes Four

    Cinema226 Announces Four Intl. Co-Productions, Hints at More (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexico’s Cinema226, run by Marco Antonio Salgado and Sam Guillén, is driving into a raft of Mexico, Argentina and Spain co-productions, playing off the current vibrancy of Mexican film production funding and distribution outlets. Among the projects are titles which have been standouts at Ventana Sur’s Blood Window, the next film by Mexico-based Argentine filmmaker [...]

  • Ventana Sur Debates Gender Parity in

    Ventana Sur Debates Gender’s 50/50 in 2020 for Argentina Film Industry

    BUENOS AIRES — Despite recent gains, namely the equality pledge towards 50/50-2020 signed at the Mar del Plata Film Festival on Nov. 12, producer Magalí Nieva, pointed out that no representative from INCAA was present following the apparent resignation of its vice-president Fernando Juan Lima. “We are left without an interlocutor to discuss gender policies [...]

  • Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass

    Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass Attendance, Structural Growth

    BUENOS AIRES — Celebrating its 10th anniversary with a huge hike in attendance to over 4,000 accredited delegates, the 2018 Ventana Sur will go down in history on multiple counts: Sales and pick-ups on movies which combined social comment and entertainment value, increasingly the new foreign-language movie standard; new sections, led by a Proyecta co-production [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content