The new Irish-Canadian film, “Maudie” stars Sally Hawkins as the lovable title character and Ethan Hawke as her gruff and crude husband.
The movie is based on the real life story of Maud Lewis, an woman born with crippling arthritis in Nova Scotia and her inspiring ascent to one of the nation’s premiere folk artists. Last week, we got the opportunity to sit down with both actors and talk about the film, which you can watch here:
The Knockturnal: What drew you to doing this movie? Had you heard of Maud Lewis before this?
Sally Hawkins: I hadn’t, shame to say. I known Aisling, [the director], for a long time and worked with her a few years ago and always wanted to work with her—she sent me a beautiful picture of Maud and some examples of her art, and I knew from that and when she sent the script—wow. What a beautiful story, and a true life story.
Ethan Hawke: There’s something about Aisling’s being and personality when you meet her in relationship to this story, it feels like somehow—the second I met her I thought, “Oh, I’m doing this movie.” Because there’s something about her that’s like, “Oh you should tell this story.” She has a strong handle on it. And sometimes you meet a director and you’re like, oh, you’re where you’re supposed to be. You’d be a good leader. And she’s an excellent leader.
SH: And she came from art. She went to art school, and she could relate to it strongly…and she is that.
EH: And she’s very…without trying at all, she’s a natural born feminist, and in that you feel her wanting to tell stories, and in that way I felt [my character in the movie] Everett was equally respected because she’s a humanist. And that’s really what a person is when they’re about the equality about all of us.
SH: And you have to be that, I think, in this industry. With female directors…you need more of them.
TK: So did she send you the script first, or did you meet her and then…
EH: Sally first. They had worked together before and then I met you both in London, and I just…the story is so simple and so clear, and the kind of movie that got made when I was a kid and I see less and less of around—like complicated adult emotional movies…
SH: It takes its time. Not action-based. Well, a little bit.
EH: It’s a little bit…
TK: Lots of walking.
EH: We walk a dog. That’s pretty exciting. But what’s exciting is how hearts change over a period of time and how people can change, and how art can change people, and how people change each other. And that was all interesting to me. The world [of the movie] was very interesting…Nova Scotia is a world that’s unique. There’s pockets of the world that has its own identity—Ireland has its own identity. New Mexico…all over the world there’s unique places and Nova Scotia has not really been mined in movies as much as it should.
SH: It’s so beautiful. And Aisling’s Irish and you have that connection there.
EH: There really is. It’s like a spiritual connection.
SH: It’s like the land broke apart…
TK: What did you guys like about working with each other?
EH: (sarcastically) We didn’t. It was really uncomfortable. Sally’s not dedicated to her work, (Sally laughs) her commitment is fragile at best.
SH: Straight back at you.
EH: No imagination, a lot of difficulty learning the lines…
SH: Thank you for being patient.
EH: All she wants to do is go to premieres, do photoshoots, it’s exhausting to me. So thanks for asking.
TK: Well, can you tell me a little bit about your research and prep behind both of your parts? With the physicality, the limp, the dialect..everything.
SH: I wanted to represent arthritis as best I could and juvenile arthritis is quite particular, and got to Toronto quite early on to do a bit of research to make sure it was all bedded in and not thinking about it. I didn’t want to be… you know it didn’t stop her and I didn’t that to be the predominant thing because she is so much more and that’s just part of her. So you just want it to be natural and not take away from who she was…a human, a spirit.
EH: It was a responsibility that Sally took incredibly seriously, of telling this woman’s story and representing it authentically and truthfully. And it was contagious for everybody on board.
EH: Her commitment was 100% and exciting to be near. I think the art design and director and myself…when someone is dedicated to a level of excellence, it asks the same of everybody else. It’s really exciting to be around. And for me…about 15 or so years ago, I escaped to Nova Scotia. It was a place I met through friends. I was having a difficult time in my life and I bought a cabin there and disappeared there. I grew to love it there and met people and so I was a fan of Sally’s acting, so when the script came and she was attached and I was so interested to read it. So it opens and says Nova Scotia, and for me I’m like…I know that place. So I was reading about this man and I thought I knew him, for better or for worse. And sometimes you read something and you’re like I can’t play that person, I’m not the right person for that part, my imagination can’t go there. But because I had spent a decade around some of these fisherman. And also that type of person is in Texas too, where I’m from. But the accent I was deeply familiar with, and the world.. I could picture his life because I spent a lot of time there and that was very helpful for me to believe myself. When you ask about research…all the exercises you hear about actors…they’re all exercises to believe yourself so that you can tell the truth.
SH: It’s like something to hold on to, a foundation…and you just forget it and hopefully it will be okay. And for me, Ethan…there was no one else.
The film hits theaters this Friday.