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Rosemarie DeWitt: Am I being too mean?

Actress Rosemarie DeWitt worries more about being likable in real life than in her films like "Digging for Fire."
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    Rosemarie DeWitt kicks back in "Digging for Fire."

    |The Orchard

Rosemarie DeWitt knows her way around a low-budget, heavily improvised film, so teaming up with Joe Swanberg and Jake Johnson on "Digging for Fire" was no biggie. DeWitt stars alongside Johnson as a pair of young parents using a weekend house-sitting gig as a chance to let loose a bit — after she drops her young son off with her parents, of course.

With your character, there’s a certain honesty about parenting that especially younger parents are afraid to admit out loud — things like saying, "I need a break, I need some time by myself.'
You know, it's funny because I was and maybe still am in sort of that new blissful mommy state where you’re happy to lose your life to your child. It's not really, "When do I get my life back?" like Lisa [in the film]. But Joe makes really personal films, and he tells you why he's making them, where some directors or writers don't want to talk too much or tell you too much. But Joe will be like, "Kris and I had this talk the other day” or “this is the thing we’re struggling with, with preschool.” So if it comes from your own experience, great. If you steal it from Joe’s experience, great, you know? He’s very generous in that way. A lot of it came from what I think Joe was kind of chronicling a lot of his life in his movies, and this is where he’s at now.

And using his own young son. Though I wonder how Jude will view these movies in 15 years.
It'll be interesting, right? So far he’s still pretty oblivious to the fact that he’s acting in a movie. "Do I get a gummy bear? Great, I’ll do it.”

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Actually, how is Jude? When you’re working with such a young kid, you can’t necessarily go by ascriptasmuch.
We don’t, yeah, and he’s not a child actor with quotes around it, so no one taught him to be cute or winning or wholesome or to smile on cue. Thank god. He just kind of shows up and it’s a game. You just really talk to him and because he’s not self-conscious at all and doesn’t understand that anybody’s going to watch this movie, you really talk to him and he really answers you. So it’s actually the easiest thing in the world, and the only thing you can’t get caught doing is acting. You know what I’m saying? You have to be as present as a 4-year-old. That’s probably just a rule of thumb to take wherever you go. In life, really.

Just be as present …
As a 4-year-old. I have a 2-year-old and we haven’t hit “but why” stage, but I know “but why” is coming and I’m like “oh my God…”

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Are you still in the “what’s that” stage?
No, it’s “what happened?” She’ll throw her milk and it’ll spill all over the floor and she’ll go, “What happened, Momma?!” And I’m like, “You threw your milk and it spilled on the floor!” “What happened?!”

With film budgets getting smaller and this type of movie getting to be more of a known quantity, do you find you start hearing more and more about these projects, like “We’re making this for no money!”
You know, I don’t know what’s PC or not PC to say, but with the bigger movies, it’s not that they make them for less money, but I don’t know where the money goes. Almost every time you get called it’s like, “Well, it’s for scale and you’re a local hire!” You know, so I don’t know who’s making all the money. But yeah, these — like a Joe Swanberg or Lynn Shelton film — they’re very collaborative in that they give the actors a piece of action if they make money. I mean, you never think a movie’s going to make money, but this feels very much like an acting company. You know, where it’s everybody’s baby.

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I guess I should ask how much yoga you were familiar with before you started this film.
Probably not enough, actually. I have some issues with some of the way I’m doing it. I mean, back in the day I did more. That’s not the stuff that Joe actually cares about, you know where some things you would shoot that scene 35 times. He’s like, “We got it, we can do a voiceover there.” He’s more interested in the emotional honesty of the characters.

Do you have to abandon any sense of whether people are going to judge this character?
I feel like I never consider likability. A lot of times, not in this movie — or maybe in this movie — I always have one moment where the director’s like, “Don’t be so mean” or, “Don’t be so shrewish” and I’m like, “Am I being mean? That’s what I would do!” So I don’t know, I think I use it. I probably am more worried about the people in my life liking me than the audience, so maybe it’s just really liberating for me to be exactly how I want to be when the camera’s on.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter:@nedrick

 

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