As lightsaber battles and CGI cats dominate the big screen this holiday season, “Little Women” arrives just in time to save audiences who may be fatigued by Hollywood spectacles.
Director and screenwriter Greta Gerwig has masterfully adapted the classic Louisa May Alcott novel, with her latest film already a darling among critics ahead of its Christmas Day release. Actor Chris Cooper, who plays the altruistic Mr. Laurence, believes films like “Little Women” are “extremely important” in today’s cinema landscape, as these touching tales of family relationships offer insight on the human condition, something that is often missing from action-filled blockbusters.
“When I was growing up watching films, we didn’t have a lot of blue screen, green screen and intentional blow ‘em, chase movies,” Cooper tells Metro. “I dare say within a little while, I don’t know when that will be, but I think a portion of us may as well had enough of the superhero films and would like to see more humanity.”
While “Little Women” does feature an “Avengers”-like team-up of A-list stars – the cast includes Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk and Meryl Streep – humanity is clearly at the heart of this coming-of-age drama. For those who haven’t read Alcott’s work or seen previous adaptations, “Little Women” revolves around the March sisters as they deal with love, life and family while growing up in 1860s New England, amidst the horror of the American Civil War.
Cooper praises Gerwig for her command of the set and story, as well as all the hard work that his younger cast members brought to the table each and every day during filming. The veteran actor called the production a “pure delight” to be a part of, and was blown away by the work produced by his co-stars and crew.
“I had a lot of time where I was observing these younger actors and watching Greta work with them,” says Cooper. “I can’t emphasize [enough], I was really impressed.”
“These people came really prepared as actors and knew what they wanted, came with great ideas,” he adds. “I wish I had that much self-assurance.”
In preparation for his “nice little role” as Mr. Laurence, the benevolent benefactor to the March family, Cooper had to take part in a few firsts, one of which was reading “Little Women” for the first time in his life, something that his wife ribbed him thoroughly about.
“‘Little Women,’ as a little girl, she read it and all her friends read it, but she also read ‘Tom Sawyer,’” says Cooper. “The guys can step up and take a look at this book because it’s still very informative of that period.”
Despite being a resident of Massachusetts, Cooper admits he’s also been a “very bad Bostonian” in that he never explored Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House and various other historical sites in Concord, where much of the project was filmed. Luckily, he and Odenkirk were treated to a special tour through history by one of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s sons.
“He took us on a two-hour walking tour up to the cemetery and over to where some Revolutionary War fighting happened,” says Cooper. “That’s what it took to get me over here.”
For Cooper, “Little Women” marks his second role in 2019 where he’s put in the position of a father figure, having previously played Jerry Vogel, the dad of Matthew Rhys’ Lloyd Vogel, in the Mr. Rogers biopic “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Although Jerry and Mr. Laurence are radically different characters, with the former having abandoned his family while the latter fully embraced his, both stories offer poignant portrayals of the relationship between fathers and their children. Cooper believes that tales about families and the human condition are what will truly stand the test of time.
“It’s an age-old storyline,” says Cooper. “Some folks might call it cliched, but we got succeeding generations of people and we have film and that story should never, can never, get old or cliched. It’s pretty vital.”