„Life is a fascinating trip“

– Interview mit Joanna Cassidy –

Wer vor ihr sitzt, kann es kaum glauben: Joanna Cassidy ist seit über vierzig (!) Jahren im Filmgeschäft. Unzählige Entwicklungen und Veränderungen hat sie hautnah miterlebt. Dabei hat ihr persönliches Motto – „Always keep going on“ – sie zu immer neuen Aufgaben geführt; und nun auch nach Oldenburg. Die OffBlogger Mareike Lange und Thorsten Bruns haben sich mit Joanna Cassidy unterhalten – und dabei viel gelacht.

Joanna Cassidy, your latest movie „Too Late“ had its International Premiere yesterday. Some people left the screening early, because they had a hard time understanding what was said. How do you feel about that?

Cassidy: As an actor I get so upset when actors don’t speak clearly. It’s there job to communicate. If I have to ask: „What did you say?“ then it’s the rudest thing an actor can do. But I grew up in New Jersey and my parents were very fussy how my sister and I spoke. They said: „Anunciate your words! We don’t want you to have an New Jersey-accent.“ It’s like this (ahmt den Klang nach). That sounds horrible (lacht).

In Germany, they all try not to speak Saxonian because of the same reason.

Cassidy: In Britain, you’ve got the East End and the proper London speak. We’re losing language now, we’re losing it. It upsets me – everything becomes so short.

Especially because of the Social Media.

Cassidy: Of course! The digital age is very tough on everybody. It’s like „boom, boom, boom“ – this is not talking! Often it’s not about the content, but about the speed. It’s so depressing to me. The people are not able to listen to each other anymore. In a movie like „Too Late“ where there’s a lot of dialog in it, people think that nothing happens. But to perceive it properly, to get it right, you have to listen.

I love ideas and theories and thought provoking sentences. 

To us, „Too Late“ seems a lot like a theater play. Did that influence your way to play the role?

Cassidy: No, because I haven’t done a lot of theater. But what it did for me, was to take me back to the „old days“ – I sound like a hundred years old (lacht laut). The days, where movies are made in wide form. It was all about the rhythm of everything. This certainly was – we shot it in one day. Which was not an easy feed. It was very difficult lighting the entire space because we went from bedroom to bathroom to the hallway … it was crazy. We had to have it all in that day because it was a 20-minute-take. That does make it more like theater except that to me it felt so much like a movie being made in the days when you had great actors: You step back and watch them doing everything. I love film so much – for me, it was fantastic.

Was it also brave to choose to be in the movie because it is quite different from what the audience is used to?

Cassidy: I don‘t think about that. I worked with John Hawkes before. He suggested me to the director: „Let’s have Joanna play this role.“ I wouldn’t turn down a piece of garbage to work with John Hawkes. He is so fabulous. To me it’s about that kind of quality. If you’re working with a wonderful actor it elevates everything.

You’ve spent quite some time in the movie business. And you’ve said before that the digital age is very challenging. Did you have a different feeling about shooting a movie back in the days when films were made analogue?

Cassidy: Everything is rushed as all of our life is today.

We don’t have time now to enjoy the moment. It’s so pressure driven.

I find this more and more which drives an actor crazy. They are constantly looking at the schedule and as an actor you think: „Let me breath, my heart is pounding.“ You want to do such a wonderful job and it becomes hard. In a new TV-Show I play a character I’m not used to play. She’s Upper East Side. I played snobby roles before, but usually those characters are very dark. There is kind of an off-beat-fun, crazy, wild side to them. This character is not funny. I came to New York and it was like: „boom“, that’s it! No time to talk about it, no time to discuss it – you had to be it. But, I guess it was good enough because they bought another year! (lacht)

Does it also feel more like a „classical“ work day like going to the office from nine to five?

Cassidy: Kind of. Because in the days when we made those wonderful films that I made we would sit around in a circle and talk and discuss things. Everything: politics, religion, social services, just everything. We don’t do that much any more. So, there is another chemistry. I make it my goal:

I work to befriend. I don’t separate myself. I want to know my fellows because it’s very important to me.

I like to have that chemistry even if I’m written a complete bitch. I need to know them on another level. Unlike some actors who stay in their character, at the end of the take I’m back to me. I don’t want to hold on to that kind of work. My goal is not to act for the potential of getting nominated for an award. Well, that’s not entirely true. To be honest, I’d love to win an Oscar some day. That would be nice. But you know what, I have done well enough.

Indeed. You were honored with an Golden Globe – an now you have also a star on Oldenburg’s walk of fame!

Cassidy: Yeah, now I’m in the gound (lacht). I wish there’s some way to send an email to my parents, who have long passed, just to say: „Look! Here I am!“ (lacht)

Well, it’s not Hollywood, it’s not even a broad boardwalk , but still it’s a honorary star. How do you feel about it?

Cassidy: I think it’s fabulous! It doesn’t matter that it’s not Hollywood.  In the days, when Johnny Grant was mayor, I could absolutely have had a star. But you had to give a little money, and I never chose the opportunity. But I could have had it. You could literally buy one; as long as you have a little background (lacht).

But you did enjoy the little ceremony on friday morning?

Cassidy: Oh, I loved it, I loved it, I loved it! That’s great. The fact, that I’m being honored on your country is just fantastic.

Did you know they’re talking about moving the stars to a more prominent place in town?

Cassidy: Oh, really? No kidding? That would be great. I think it’s wonderful, that really gives me goose bumps. (lacht) That’s also great for the Festival, too, because it’s more present! Everyone can be around and have a look at it.

Did you personally hear of the Festival before Torsten Neumann contacted you?

Cassidy: Yes, I had. I’ve been in quite some small independent films, where the directors try to get in all these festivals. So I heard about it, but I definitely did not expect to get invited and I was thrilled.

And the idea that I would be honored is just amazing to me. Sometimes I just forget, that I’ve had this career! 

We think it’s amazing for us, the visitors of the festival, to get to know someone who we weren’t aware of or familiar with. The retrospective and the tribute are something like the two chambers of the heart of this festival.

Cassidy: Yes. And it’s great that I don’t have to be an artist like van Gogh, who got famous after he died. (lacht) Sorry, sometimes I’m a bit dark. (lacht noch mehr)

And besides the honorary star, what’s your impression of Oldenburg so far?

Cassidy: Oh, I love it! I’ve been walking all around, it’s simply gorgeous. Great shops, wonderful cafés, wonderful pastries. And don’t think I haven’t been eating  them. I have been! There’ s a little lady over here, where I buy her croissants every morning. They’re so good, so good! It’s already like „Hiii, I’m here again!“ (lacht)

This story shows: You’re very friendly and accessible. You can’t expect that from every actress or actor in Hollywood, because a lot of them have certain attitudes. How did you manage to stay who you are?

Cassidy: Thank you for the compliment. I don’t wanna be like that. My whole life I’ve seen that in my career. Believe me: many, many times. And I just said to myself: „What the hell? What are they doing?“ They’ve been given that great gift. Why not enjoy it? I guess, some people would say I’m a little to available, but I think my career is my job. It’s not who I am, it’s what I do. And I try to do it the best that I can. And I like people.

I like to get along with everyone. I would feel terrible if I were rude. I don’t like that.

So how do I manage it? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m from New Jersey and I was brought up by two very wonderful loving people, that taught me, that kindness is a very important virtue. That’s how I was raised; and there you have it.

You started working as an actress with 28. Maybe it’s good not to start too early?

Cassidy: Definitely. Many young actors are, as you know, a flash in the pan. They’re around for five years – and then they are gone. Unfortunately they are too young to learn the value of what they have. And I guess what I’ve always maintained, is that I’m a little shy. I’m not wanting to be on these magazine covers. I’m very private. Nobody knows what I do. Now if you’ve seen me dancing last night… (lacht). There’s also a wild streak in me. But in everyday life, nobody knows what I do. I don’t make a public spectacle of myself, I maintain my privay. I’ve had children, all my life I’ve had animals, they balanced me. I think I’m fairly normal.

To me it was always important to keep going on. It doesn’t matter how, because anyone in this business can have a moment in time.

That can be fifty years later. And all of a sudden you get „that part“ and you’re flying again. As difficult as it may be to be rejected – and I have been many times and it takes me a day to get over it (lacht) – I always move on. Because there is a belief in me, that I know something else is going to come. I have a fundamental optimistic attitude that there will be something else. And there is. And it keeps coming. It’s amazing to me. Life is a fascinating trip you take.

Thank you very much for talking with us!

Das Gespräch führten Mareike Lange und Thorsten Bruns.
Fotos: Filmfest Oldenburg

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