Let Him Go is the film adaptation of Larry Watson‘s novel of the same name. Filmmaker Thomas Bezucha, who is a huge fan of the book, served not only as the director but also as the screenwriter. This was a passion project for Bezucha who assembled a pretty terrific cast that includes Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Lesley Manville, Booboo Stewart, and Kayli Carter.
I recently got the opportunity to participate in the virtual press day for Let Him Go where I got to talk to writer/director Thomas Bezucha as well as the legendary Lesley Manville. This is my interview with Lesley Manville who shared with me what it was like to transform into the character of Blanche Weboy in the film.
Lesley Manville: Hello, Scott. Hello.
Scott Menzel: Hi, Lesley. How are you?
Lesley Manville: Very good. Thank you. Very good, indeed.
Scott Menzel: Good to hear. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me today.
Lesley Manville: You’re welcome.
Scott Menzel: So I really enjoyed this film. I knew nothing about it going into it and you were just terrific in it.
Lesley Manville: Good. Well, that’s a good start.
Scott Menzel: Absolutely. So I want to ask what sort of preparation did you have to do when playing this character and how did you perfectly nail that accent?
Lesley Manville: Well, that was one of the key things in a way, because once you get the voice, a character can start to come alive for you. It was a very key thing for me. And I was very clear that I wanted to be very specific with the North Dakota accent and not just do a generalized American accent. So I worked with a dialect coach in England, who I’ve worked with several times. He’s rather brilliant and he helped me to get there with the accent, which was, yeah, very specific for North Dakota. It’s very tuneful, it’s much less flat than the usual American accent. It’s quite musical in a way. So that was key. The period I knew quite a bit about from other projects that I’ve done that have been set in the fifties. And then I really just honed in on Blanche and what I thought she might look like.
And again, this is very much a collaboration with the other people on the creative team, the director, costume designer, hair and makeup, and all of that. But I had a very strong opinion that she should be modeling herself on one of those screen goddesses and she thinks that she’s still got some screen goddessy thing about her, even though she clearly hasn’t. But the peroxide hair with the roots growing out and the red lips and the red nails, but with Blanche, you look at her and think that she’s not quite clean. There’s something a bit grubby about her. You suspect the fingers are not quite as clean as they should be and the pork chops and the cooking and everything is all a bit unpleasant and greasy and yuk, but you start to get all this little pool of ideas together and somehow or other, it all becomes part of the mixture. And you hope that by the time they say, “Okay, turnover, action.” That what you envisioned actually comes out and you deliver it. But it’s a journey, but you can’t do it help and support. But she was such a great character to get my head around and I absolutely loved every minute of playing her.
Scott Menzel: You nailed it.
Lesley Manville: Thank you.
Scott Menzel: I mean it, the character comes across as so menacing and unlikable right from the very beginning that you just see her and you’re like, “Uh oh, shit’s about to go down.”
Lesley Manville: Yes, well that’s absolutely right. And I think that that opening shot of her was so… Tom, the director was so clear of how that shot should be. And it was very meticulously staged, props were in the absolute right position, that overhead lamp on the kitchen table was absolutely in the right position. And so that you could reveal her in this rather foreboding and theatrical way. And yeah, even before she’s opened her mouth, you do think, “Oh dear, Oh dear. This isn’t going to end well.”
Scott Menzel: Yeah. Well, thank you very much. That was a great answer. And I had a nice time talking to you, even though it was rather short, but thank you so much.
Lesley Manville: It is short, four minutes. Thank you, Scott. Thank you.
Scott Menzel: Best of luck with the film and all the millions of other projects you’ve been working on (laughs)
Lesley Manville: Thank you. Thank you. Bye for now. Bye.