•• Sometimes a particular bit of casting in a movie is so on-target it’s hard to believe no one thought of it before. Take for example the actress Virginia Madsen playing mother to the title character played by Jennifer Lawrence in the new film “Joy.”
Madsen and Lawrence have the same spirited, spiky air about them, part kooky, part soulful, part dangerous. They seem made for each other. “I was waiting for someone to figure that out,” Madsen said recently in Los Angeles. “From when I first saw her I had thought, ‘I should be her mother.’ It was just a really perfect fit.”
Directed by David O. Russell, the film (which opens Dec. 25) is based partly on the real story of Joy Mangano, who created an entrepreneurial empire, transformed into a multi-generational family tale that touches on the quintessential modern American values of aspiration, ambition and self-invention. The cast includes Robert De Niro as Madsen’s ex-husband/Lawrence’s father, Isabella Rossellini as De Niro’s girlfriend, Édgar Ramírez as Lawrence’s husband/ex and Bradley Cooper as an executive who gives Joy’s products an early push. In another nice piece of cross-generation savvy, Diane Ladd plays Madsen’s character’s mother.
As Lawrence’s Joy struggles to hold the family together while also building her business, Madsen’s character is meek and beleaguered, many of the things Joy fights hard not to be. At one point in the film, Madsen lies in bed watching a soap opera while bemoaning her daughter’s striving as “Joy the do-er.” As prelude to a heated argument, De Niro says Madsen’s character is “like a gas leak; we don’t see you, we don’t smell you, but you’re slowly killing us all.”
A longtime admirer of Russell, now a five-time Oscar nominee off his recent films “American Hustle,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “The Fighter,” Madsen remained convinced they would one day work together. She finally received the call in a most unusual way. She was on a film festival jury in Dubai when she received an urgent message that Russell wanted to meet with her via Skype.
“He said, ‘Do you have any problem with playing the mother of Jennifer Lawrence?'” Madsen recalled. “I said, ‘I’ve never had a problem with aging.’ And I went on to tell him how much I liked her and how without knowing her I felt motherly toward her and I felt proud of her for what she’s done at such a young age. Well, I didn’t realize that Jennifer was sitting there.”
Even so, Madsen went through a series of auditions in which Russell began to shape the character for her until she was finally officially cast. She soon found that she had a lot to discover.
“Most of the roles I tend to do now are very much like my personality, and this was not my personality at all; this was a complete character role for me,” she said. “David could see that he was going to sculpt me into something I’ve never been before.”
She had to get used to the director’s unique on-set style too. Madsen recalled how in one scene he sat under a table, another under a bed, all to be closer to the actors. Lawrence, De Niro and Cooper had all worked with Russell before, and so as Madsen said, “I thought, ‘They’re going with it, I should go with it.'”
Still, it was hard for the veteran actress not to get a little rattled by her situation. “There’s still a part of me that was going, ‘Oh, my God, Robert De Niro is throwing things at me. This is so cool!'” she said. “I grew up admiring him as one of the greatest living actors ever. And there he is and such a dream come true to not just meet him but work with him. The fact I got to scream and yell and have an on-screen fight, I was so high at the end of that day — I could do it, I could fight Robert De Niro. That’s a pretty cool thing to find out.”
•• Stills & HD screencaptures from this week’s episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit “Maternal Instincts” have been added to the photo gallery. Virginia Madsen guest starred in the episode as Beth Anne Rollins.
Internationally renowned flautist Anton Krasnikov meets up after a concert with a prostitute who drugs and robs him in a hotel room. While under the influence, Anton rapes a violinist who performed with him, but doesn’t remember committing the crime. Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) soon discovers that the prostitute is her fugitive sister, Kim (Lindsay Pulsipher), who framed her sister for murder and insurance fraud, before cleaning out Rollins’ apartment and skipping town in Season 14’s “Deadly Ambition.” Rollins tries to defuse the situation without alerting SVU of her sister’s involvement. However, it becomes increasingly difficult as their mother, Beth Anne (Virginia Madsen), tries to protect Kim and maintain her own delusional picture of family harmony. Rollins’ SVU colleagues eventually learn of Kim’s identity and arrest her, while Anton is charged with rape and remanded without bail.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief William Dodds (Peter Gallagher) has assigned his son Mike (Andy Karl) to take over as sergeant, now that Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) has been promoted to lieutenant. On his first day, Sgt. Dodds clashes with the other detectives, frequently overstepping his bounds.
Though Rollins begs Kim to plead guilty, Kim works her charms on her lawyer, Lorenzo DeSappio (Jason Cerbone), who agrees to let her plead not guilty and go to trial. Beth Anne is furious with Rollins for choosing work over family and leaves town. Rollins visits Kim in prison, where Kim reveals that since her relationship with DeSappio has escalated, she’s agreed to plead out on her prior offenses in exchange for a short prison sentence. After that, she says, she hopes DeSappio will ask her to marry him – confirming what Rollins already knows about her sister’s dangerous patterns of instability.
The captures do contain spoiler so beware if you haven’t seen the episode yet. Enjoy!