Jennifer Jason Leigh: “You have to really throw yourself out there“Oscar nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh talks to The Red Bulletin about the realities of a life in Hollywood, dealing with shyness and giving it your all for a role, even if it means freezing your arse off…
THE RED BULLETIN: You’ve been nominated for an Oscar for your performance in Hateful Eight. You’re not thinking of boycotting it are you?
JENNIFER JASON LEIGH: No. I am not going to boycott anything. But it’s a good conversation that is being had. It feels good to be nominated, but I really do feel I share the nomination with the cast and with Quentin.
Quentin Tarantino said he cast you because of your ability to scream so well. Is that true?
I did scream, yes. I know what he is talking about. There is something that triggers that scream, and I very much wanted the part and I was not going to hold back in the audition. I did what I thought one would do in that situation, which was to scream. I guess a lot of people skimmed over that. It can be embarrassing to put yourself out there. You could fall on your face. And nobody wants to do that.
It seems like you made the right choice to not hold back?
If you don’t give it your all, then there is a chance you won’t achieve anything. You have to really throw yourself out there and be incredibly vulnerable, you can be foolish, you may be terrible, but you can’t be great if you can’t take that risk.
You are apparently quite shy…
Is being an actress the best way to deal with that?
It’s who I am and I wouldn’t change it. Interviews like this or parties are not natural for me. But acting is perfect for someone who feels this way, because when you act, it’s someone else’s words. So you’re submerging your personality into the persona that you are playing. You get to keep all of your own stuff hidden and you are lose yourself in another person. And in that person you can communicate all these things about yourself. But only you know what is you and what is the other person. So there is a freedom in acting for a shy or introverted person that you don’t get in any other profession.
But you have to be in the business to know that. Do you recall how you got the acting bug?
I was born with it. There was also a lot of naivety in play, but I grew up in Hollywood. My father was an actor, my mother was a screenwriter and she was an actress before she was a writer, and my stepfather was a director. Friends of ours were actors and directors. Everyone around me did it, so it just seemed like the most natural thing to do. But it took me quite a while to realise that as an actor, you never know if this job is going to be your last.
I had a child and I stopped working for a while, and you think: maybe I’ll never find a job that I love so much again. As an actor that’s just the way things are. You make peace with that and you try to find joy in doing lots of other things. At the moment, I’m head over heels about the offer to work with David Lynch on Twin Peaks.
The job also has its unpleasant side, like the filming in the Rocky Mountains for The Hateful Eight. How did you deal with the cold?
Very badly. I get cold quite easily, and we shot on a set that was kept at -1 so we could have the actual breath. But luckily there were ways to keep warm: We were dressed for the cold and we never took our coats off! They took good care of us. We had a lot hot packs on, we had electric underwear. I didn’t know that existed.