In her first film role, Julia Fox blazes into “Uncut Gems” as Julia, the ambitious but loyal mistress of Adam Sandler’s jeweler. It’s a complex character the audience can’t always read.
To play Julia, Fox says she had a couple inspirations. “My younger self, for sure,” she admits. “Looking at myself retrospectively, how I survived, how I was reactionary as my surroundings were ever changing and I didn’t have time to make thought out choices. My growth was quick, forced and dynamic. Julia and I are similar in that we are both survivors, we are fiercely loyal to the ones we love and we are the most charming hustlers.”
But there’s another person who inspired the performance. “I also channeled Sharon Stone in ‘Casino,’ before she went off the deep end,” says Fox.
Another character both lovable and frustrating is Rose-Lynn Harlan, the single mother recently paroled from prison who dreams of being a country star in “Wild Rose.” Says Irish actor Jessie Buckley, “I read it and fell madly in love with Rose-Lynn’s tornado of a human raw soul.”
Though she had no previous experience with country music, Buckley jumped in and even co-wrote some of the film’s songs.
Asked what women she drew on for inspiration, Buckely replies, “Oh, all the naughty ones!” She adds: “There are Rose-Lynns all around us. She is kind of every woman and man, trying to balance a life of dreams and responsibility. It’s my mom, it’s my dad, it’s my friends, my siblings. I saw her everywhere. I listened to a lot of people, too, like Bonnie Raitt, whose womanhood I just loved and admire; Janis [Joplin], for her electricity and humanity; Emmylou Harris, for her country soul.”
Many of the year’s standout female performances drew upon real people for their roles. Saoirse Ronan headlines Greta Gerwig’s film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” as Jo March, the spirited, independent writer who was truly ahead of her time. Asked who the actor drew on for the role, she simply says, “Louisa May Alcott!”
The three-time Oscar nominee seems like a natural fit for the role. “She’s definitely the type of character I’ve always been drawn to,” Ronan says. “What she allowed me to do, was something that I wouldn’t have been able to before, I don’t think, so I feel like I found her at just the right time.”
In “The Aeronauts,” Felicity Jones plays Amelia Wren, a gas balloon pilot in 1862 who, with her partner (played by her “The Theory of Everything” co-star Eddie Redmayne) attempts to fly higher than anyone before. Wren opens the film demonstrating a flair for showmanship, playing to the crowd there to see her balloon flight. While Jones is best-known for serious dramatic roles like “A Monster Calls,” “The Aeronauts” gives her a chance to show off a more lighthearted side. “I loved how much fun I could have with her — she’s a real wild cat and naturally a risk taker,” says Jones.
Wren is an amalgam of real-life women — including French aeronaut Sophie Blanchard, who worked with her husband until his death and then became renowned in her own right. “Sophie was a huge inspiration,” says Jones. “She often would fly solo at night and even re-designed the balloon shape to make it more aerodynamic.”
In “Ford v Ferrari,” Caitriona Balfe plays Mollie Miles, the wife of racecar driver Ken Miles and mother of their son, Peter. Balfe was able to meet with the real-life Peter for the film. “He was so generous with his time and spoke to me at length about his mom,” she says. “While our version of the Miles family is fictional, I wanted to imbue Mollie with as much of the spirit of his mother as possible.”
Additionally, Balfe found inspiration close to home. “I also thought a lot about my own mother, who was a stay at home mom, but also the rock of our family,” she says. “She, like many women of that time, stopped her career once she got married and worked at home. There is a strength that comes from sacrifice among the women of those generations that I think can be all too easily dismissed.”