Toni Collette is no stranger to playing down and out. Just last year she starred in “Miss You Already,” as a woman grouchily staring into the face of terminal cancer. She made that dramedy around the same time she shot “Glassland,” a tiny, stark Irish drama in which she tears into the role of a raging alcoholic. When she took the part, she didn't know how difficult filming would be.
“I realize now I was scared to ‘go there,’” the Oscar-nominated actress, 43, tells us over e-mail. “Once we started it was like free-falling — driving fast and erratically with no brakes. When we finished shooting it felt very abrupt. Suddenly I was on a plane leaving Dublin and my body reacted for me. I became violently ill for 24 hours. I still feel bad for the poor [British Airways] staff who had to clean up after me.”
Collette only spent six days on set, her character, Jean, being a key supporting character. She’s the mother of the hero, John (Jack Reynor), a young cabbie who, among other ailments, has to tend to his sickly mum as she relapses, then is told if she continues using she’ll die.
Still, Jean is a fount of life: a screaming maniac when she’s off the wagon, but personable, even funny when she’s on. “Very few people sit around like sadsacks,” Collette says of Jean. “It’s more interesting to play someone with more interesting survival skills.”
The film arrives at a time when there’s growing understanding and empathy for addicts, with society inching away from a blame-the-victim mentality. “This film is honest in every way,” she explains. “There’s no blame, no manipulating the audience into siding with one particularly point of view. You see and feel the good, the bad and the ugly.”