Valorie Curry on ‘American Pastoral’ and playing Rita Cohen
Throughout the week of October 16, 2016, We Live Entertainment will be posting a series of articles about American Pastoral leading up to the film’s release on Friday, October, 21, 2016. Each article will focus on one of the stars of the film. There will be a single article dedicated to Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning, Uzo Aduba, and Valorie Curry while star/director Ewan McGregor will be featured in two articles as American Pastoral is his baby after all.
Valorie Curry plays Rita Cohen in American Pastoral. While Rita is a secondary character, she is still an important element to the story. Rita gives Seymour hope that he is going to be able to track down and find his daughter Merry. Little does Seymour know that Rita has other plans in store for him. Her future actions are nothing like Seymour has come to expect from a woman Rita’s age.
There were four critics from We Live Entertainment that were lucky enough to see American Pastoral while attending TIFF 2016. While all of us enjoyed the film, there was one thing in particular that we openly discussed after the screening. We all praised Valorie Curry for her brave and complex portrayal of Rita Cohen. Below are some interesting takeaways from the conversation that I had with Curry during an interview with her at the American Pastoral press day.
• Curry found playing the character of Rita Cohen to be challenging. She said the role required “a lot of excavating as to who Rita is and also inventing who she is because neither the book, the script, or the film tells you who Rita is.”
• Regarding playing Rita, Curry stated, “I don’t know that I could have done it without Ewan McGregor. He made me feel so trusted and so empowered, and that really allowed me (to embrace the role and character). The environment he created really allowed me to feel that comfortable to go there. I credit him for what you see.”
• When it came to casting, Curry found the process to be “surreal.” She follows the conversation up by saying, “I was in Vancouver shooting Blair Witch when I got this script and had the opportunity to self-tape from there. I did a couple of tapes and got notes and things, went back and forth. I ended up wearing a wig that I borrowed from the hair department because I had purple hair for the film at that point. I ended up booking that role off of tape, so I wasn’t in a room with Ewan or Gary or anyone until I was there for rehearsals and pre-production. That was strange.”
• When trying to figure out how to play this role, Curry mentioned she did research specifically “into the Weathermen and the SDS for this. I’ve researched the Manson girls in the past for another role that I played on The Following. I always find it funny when people say things like “she was so young and beautiful and looked like the girls next door and yet had committed such horrible crimes.” The idea that they couldn’t believe that a girl who looked so innocent, or because she has a young face and round cheeks, she can’t be angry or commit atrocities. I think that’s a lot of what those people and those characters are reacting too, especially Rita. She really represents that. She really is this sort of metaphor for female empowerment in that post-war era. It’s a shock to the Swede in contrast to how he sees women. She really enjoys rocking his world in that way. She says, “I’m here to wake you up to reality.” She also has a lot of reason to be angry.”
• The hotel sequence in the film was one of the film’s standout moments. Here is what Curry had to say about that scene. “I think in terms of the hotel room scene, the seduction scene, understanding that it needed to be a seduction, because on the page it reads very disturbingly. Out of context, it does read very disturbingly. There’s a real temptation to play that more honestly, you know. To find a way, as an actor to put on that wig and put on that outfit and have that make-up, and yet still go in sexy as hell and knowing I’m going to have this guy on the floor and I have to have him on the floor. That was a challenge, but it was really fun. Again, sort of subverting those social, aesthetic standards we have for women to be able to put on those clothes and see that as empowering and see that as sexy instead of seeing it as ridiculous because Rita could be ridiculous. She has this garish, provocative look. Finding a way to really take all of those elements in and find them empowering and use them in a natural way was a really interesting exploration for me.
• When asked about the film’s take on the clash of the ages, Curry responded with “one of the biggest themes in both, the book and the novel, is this idea of the generation divide and how that affects the obligations we have to our parents, to our children, how we reconcile those obligations with love and forgiveness, and how we project our own ideas of ourselves and our generation as immigrants, as Americans, how we project them onto the next generation.”
• As the interview came to a close, Curry discussed her feelings on Ewan McGregor. She stated, “he’s truly one of the nicest guys I’ve met in the industry. You know there’s not a bad word that can be said about him. I had a wonderfully empowering comfortable experience doing this, despite how challenging and extreme, the character is. I think, largely because he’s an actor and he’s such a thoughtful actor, and he has such empathy for his cast, he knew how to make us comfortable. He knew how to make us feel empowered. We trusted him explicitly.”
American Pastoral opens in limited release on Friday, October 21, 2016 with a wide expansion planned for Friday, October 28, 2016. Be sure to check the film out for yourself and come back to We Live Entertainment and let us know your thoughts on the film. If interested, you can even join and partake in our Gradebook where we allow staff and fans of We Live Entertainment to be part of our own review roundup. You can be part of the Gradebook by joining our fan page on Facebook right here.