Amy Ryan, flanked by John Ashton and Ed Harris, as Helene in Gone Baby Gone.
On Friday night the New York Times magazine hosted a conversation between editor Lynn Hirschberg and two of their featured subjects (and Oscar nominees) in this week's story on Breaking Through actresses Ellen Page and Amy Ryan, as well as Juno director Jason Reitman. After the fascinating hour and a half conversation, which featured discussions of their work in Juno and Gone Baby Gone as well as a cameo from portfolio photographer Ryan McGinley, Cinecultist had the opportunity to speak one on one with Amy in the green room. The critically lauded (she was nominated for two Tonys and now the best supporting Oscar nod) down-to-earth stage and screen actor couldn't have been nicer—she even complimented CC on our favorite earrings.
It’s so great to meet you because I’ve been talking about your performance ever since I saw it.
Oh, gosh. Thank you.
Something I thought that was interesting that you brought up in the talk tonight was that in your theater career, and then again in your movie career, you’ve had these breakthroughs and I wondered if there was anything that you thought was similar about these two moments?
It is similar to what Ellen was saying about when you read a script and it’s somewhat inexplicable, but your body is just propelling you forward [to do the project]. I think the common thread is that when I first read Uncle Vanya and actually Streetcar, these two plays, I thought 'I have to play these parts.' And when I read Capote, I knew this was a role I had to play, Marie Dewey. I just had to. It was the complexity of her being star struck in tandem with her neighbors just being murdered. What does that feel like, to be this person? I wanted to figure that out. And then with Helene [in Gone Baby Gone], how do you play a drug addict who is considering the fame and also wondering if her daughter is alive or dead, just trying to survive?
So it’s more about the chance to play a certain role rather than, 'Now the world will know me and I’ll have a chance to be famous?'
No, never had that. I remember when I was a kid seeing a play with a famous actress in it and I remember saying to my mom, ‘I hope I’m good before I’m famous.’ Because when you’re famous people will tell you you’re good.
I’m glad this has happened later in my life because I know I’m good at some things, but there’s going to be a lot of things that I know I’m shitty at. At least I know what I know now. Because I wasn’t as smart as Ellen, I keep having to remind myself of her age! She’s a phenomenal, grounded, intelligent person. Man, this girl is impressive. [Ed note. Up close Ellen Page is also very, very tiny. So much sardonic for such a little package.]
Because I didn’t have that, so I’m glad that it happened later in life.
And do you think being a New York actress, and being based here, is about that too?
For me it is. First of all there’s nothing like coming back home to New York where any other block you walk down, someone’s story is bigger than your own. You’re not the star. You’re not the center of attention. Everyone has a drama on each new block. Also after drama school I didn’t go back into training, I just started training by watching behavior in the streets and the subways. In that sense I need New York, I need that. I think it’s the balance of life.
Do you have a favorite place to watch movies in New York?
I watch movies on my wall now in my house, because I have a projector. But to go to the movies, nothing beats the Zeigfeld. You feel like you’ve stepped back in time. You feel like you have to get dressed up to go to the movies there. I also really appreciate—even though I do think the screens are too small—but I love a rainy day with no plans and you walk by the Angelika. They always have something interesting and worth seeing. I do wish their screens were a little bigger but that’s New York real estate.