Published: Tuesday September 2, 2014 MYT 11:50:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday September 2, 2014 MYT 1:55:53 PM

Frances McDormand, visionary talent

Fargo Oscar winner feted in Venice as HBO series Olive Kitteridge premieres.

The Venice film festival feted the career of Frances McDormand, the Oscar-winning actress of Fargo fame, ahead of the premier of a new HBO mini-series she called the culmination of her life’s work.

McDormand, who is married to director Joel Coen and has starred in several Coen brothers films including Burn After Reading, was presented with the Visionary Talent Award for a career that began on Broadway in 1984.

The 57-year-old American told journalists ahead of the ceremony that she felt developing, producing and acting in the four-part mini-series Olive Kitteridge was “the culmination of everything that I have attempted to do.”

Frances McDormand with Olive Kitteridge director Lisa Cholodenko at the film premiere in Venice, Sept 1. - AFP

McDormand plays a witty, acerbic maths teacher in a New England town in a story that spans 25 years, based on a Pulitzer prize-winning collection of short stories by Elizabeth Strout, and directed by Lisa Cholodenko.

“It was a holy bitch to adapt,” writer Jane Anderson said.

“I was utterly terrified. We worked on it for three to four years and originally HBO wanted a television series, but we persuade them to make it a mini-series so we could better develop Olive’s character,” she added.

McDormand, who won Best Actress for her role as a pregnant local police chief in the 1996 dark thriller Fargo, said she was “gratified to be at a film festival with Olive Kitteridge.

Television had “allowed all of us to reinvent on our own terms what we want our professional lives to be,” she said. “For a female elder, action roles in films are limited, but television opens up new possibilities.”

Themes of love, friendship and death in Olive are pinned together by humour-rich scenes around the kitchen table in the house Kitteridge shares with her husband Henry (Richard Jenkins) and teenage son Christopher.

“I’ve made an entire career of supporting male protagonists in films. What I love about Kitteridge is she’s a peripheral character in the short stories but accumulatively you realise the strength of her character,” McDormand said.

“I think 90 minutes is not enough to tell a female story. I think four hours is enough, six hours is better, 10 hours, two years ... Our stories are circular, complex and need more than 90 minutes,” she added.

McDormand said she started taking out options on material to develop when her son was 13 years old, “and I knew that in five years he would be leaving home and I would need something that would distract me from crying all day.”

“I’ve since become addicted to long-term projects and love producing,” she said, explaining that her skills came from years of housekeeping.

“I’m as good a housewife as I am an actor. I have relocated our family around the world, I’ve given dinner parties, redecorated houses, I’m very good at ironing: all of these skills equate to producing film very closely,” she joked.

“It’s almost like I’ve been rehearsing for this all my career.” – AFP Relaxnews

Tags / Keywords: Frances McDormand, Fargo, Joel Coen, Visionary Talent Award


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