You might need some Tylenol for this one.
In “For Your Consideration,” the new comedy about the making of a film and its subsequent Oscar buzz, Catherine O’Hara plays an actress whose performance many consider worthy of an Academy Award. In real life, O’Hara earned Oscar buzz for “A Mighty Wind,” her last film with director Christopher Guest and company. Now, for her latest role, as actress Marilyn Hack, her name is again being bandied about — Catherine’s, not Marilyn’s. Well, Marilyn’s is as well, but that’s just in the movie. Never mind.
Back in the real world, the big question is: Will life imitate art for O’Hara, the beloved character actress best known for films like “Beetlejuice” and “Waiting for Guffman”? Could awards be in her future? O’Hara spoke to MTV News about her Oscar experiences, what makes her want to hurl and everything else about the latest film from the revered cavalcade that also brought you “Best in Show.”
MTV: This is a surprising film in many ways. It’s a comedy that gets pretty serious and it’s a very relatable story despite being about Hollywood.
Catherine O’Hara: You always hope it will be. Basically what it comes down to is human beings wanting something that maybe they’ve tried to tell themselves not to want. I think that’s life and pretty much the way it is for most of us, whether it’s Oscars or anything. Everyone has dreams that they hang on to or let go of. You hope. That’s universal.
MTV: Do you think Hollywood indulges the narcissism of actors by bestowing all these awards?
O’Hara: It definitely indulges a lot of people. In acting you don’t really have a product, but you’re always selling, especially when you’re doing the PR, like I am right now. You want to sell something. You want to succeed in the movie. But when you go and audition, the only product you have is yourself, and it’s really hard not to take that personally — if they want you or don’t want you. God bless Sally Field. She got ostracized by everyone but she spoke the truth [when she won her Oscar]. Saying, “You like me, you really like me!” was just so pure and open and honest.
MTV: Have you been to the Oscars?
O’Hara: Yes I have. My husband [Bo Goldman] was nominated four times for production design since I met him. You try to be cool and realistic about it and prepare yourself for not winning, but he got a little sucked in. It’s still fun. Luckily the art-director part is in the beginning of the show, so we get to go to the loser lounge right away. You go down, get a drink and laugh about it with all the other losers. Life does go on. I’m going to campaign to present an award this time. That’s what I’d like to do.
MTV: You and Eugene Levy were mentioned as Oscar contenders when “A Mighty Wind” came out.
O’Hara: I know! Actually Eugene and I got to the Oscars in the best way: We got to perform [a song from “A Mighty Wind”]. We got to do a weird little acting piece, because we did it in character and we got to be there for the rehearsals and we watched all the stand-in actors. They have to rehearse all the shots for each possible winner coming up, so they run through it and they have all these actors play the winners! It’s the best thing to watch. Of course we didn’t even write the song we sang, so we didn’t even have that pressure of winning or losing. And we got the gift bag. The last great tax-free gift bag!
MTV: Does Christopher Guest give you something resembling a script for movies like “For Your Consideration” and “Best in Show”?
O’Hara: It’s a scene outline, and in this case, the film within a film — “Home for Purim” — the scenes were written, if you can believe it. Otherwise every word of dialogue is improvised. So you get the script and it’s basically scenes outlined and it’s a story and it’s the story beats within the scenes that need to be achieved. And for this script, we were each also given a résumé, which was a great way to introduce us to ourselves and our background.
MTV: What did Marilyn’s résumé look like?
O’Hara: I think she peaked years ago in her blind-prostitute role. Then she got into a TV drama called “Last Hope.” [The résumés were] a fun sort of way of introducing all of us to the each other, and the first shot we did for the movie were headshots. That made me laugh. I was so having the best time doing these headshots. You know the hand-under-the-chin pose?
MTV: You know the drill by now with these films, the improvisational nature of them. Does it make it any easier to dive into something like “For Your Consideration”?
O’Hara: It’s still scary every time we start. I mean, I want to puke. I try to prepare as best I can to be ready to play, but then the first time you open your mouth you’re kind of locked in. You’re rolling and you just hope to God you made a good decision. It’s nerve-racking when you’re shooting these movies. You’re shooting 55 hours or whatever and it’s going to be cut down to 86 minutes! So there’s not that pressure of, like, every bit better be golden, or every minute I better have the most genius thing to say. The real challenge is to just be there in character.
MTV: It seems like your characters are getting more dramatic with each film. Marilyn takes a dark turn in the third act and even the story of Mitch and Mickey was pretty emotional.
O’Hara: Yeah. I was really nervous on “A Mighty Wind” because there was nothing inherently funny about that character. [Guest] seemed to have a very strong idea how he wanted to see Mickey. He wanted it to be a love story and I basically had to give myself to it. [Mitch and Mickey] don’t think of themselves as funny, so that’s tricky to play when you’re doing comedy. You want to get laughs. I always try to get into my character and be true to whatever character that I’m developing at the time and be as real as possible. The more seriously Marilyn takes herself, and the more seriously I take these scenes and her chance to be recognized for this work, the more ridiculous it is.
Check out everything we’ve got on “For Your Consideration.”
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