Kelly Macdonald made a huge impact when she took to the big screen for the first time in Danny Boyle‘s Trainspotting, as Ewan McGregor‘s teenaged school uniform-clad girlfriend. In the years that have followed she’s carved a varied career working with directors like Gregg Araki, Mike Figgis and Robert Altman.
At 95% on the Tomatometer, No Country for Old Men is currently setting critics alight and blazing a trail to awards glory, taking home Golden Globes and racking up nine BAFTA nominations. Macdonald plays Carla Jean Moss, the wife of protagonist Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a West Texan housewife with a kind heart and a somewhat limited tolerance for her husband’s misadventures.
It must be very exciting to get a call from the Coen brothers to say, “You’ve got a part in our film.”
Kelly Macdonald: [laughs] If that had happened then that would be really exciting but that’s not what happened! They didn’t know why I was being brought into a room to meet them. I just happened to be in New York, basically, and my agent got me in to meet the casting director to go on tape; they hadn’t started casting the film yet. And then from that she said, “I think you should meet Joel and Ethan, we’ve not started casting yet but while you’re in town…”
So when I went to see them it was just in their office and it was very laid-back and I was obviously not from West Texas or anything they were looking for. So they were just very, like, “You seem very nice… But what’s going on here?” They thought the casting director had gone a bit mad! But then I read a couple of scenes and it all made sense!
So it wasn’t ever that thing of, “We must bring Kelly Macdonald in!” I wish it had been.
Still, after the awkward beginning you obviously won them over; how were they to work with?
KM: They’re very smart and I think that’s the most important thing. You know you’re in safe hands. I can honestly say I’ve never been on a film and felt more relaxed, even though you would think you’d be a nervous wreck because it’s Joel and Ethan Coen, it’s all these incredible actors, it’s all a bit much to take in. But they just know what they’re doing and you know that they know what they’re doing.
Fantastic accent, you absolutely nailed West Texan!
KM: [laughs] Thank you! I love the way everyone says that like they actually know West Texan!
Well it certainly convinced me! Does it help you get into a character to go through the process of finding an accent?
KM: Sometimes, I mean, everything is different. Sometimes the last thing I want to be doing on top of the scenes I’m doing is an accent. But on this one I loved the accent, I really did, and I think that was a huge part of it. It just feeds your enthusiasm a bit more because sometimes it can get a bit boring working on accents.
This one, it was all so new, I think that’s what it was. It was completely different from anything I’d done and I hadn’t even heard it really before, that specific one. So thank you!
You also get some of the funniest moments in the film while you’re bantering with your on-screen husband, Josh Brolin. What was he like?
KM: He’s just lovely. The real love story though was between him and Javier [Bardem]. They just adore each other; if you get them in a room together it’s like there’s no-one else there.
With Josh, our scenes were just so lovely to play. It wasn’t like we had worked long and hard to get to know each other to get this easiness, but I think that’s credit to Joel and Ethan because when they’re casting they work at finding the right people to click. So of course it works when you get on set because they really know what they’re up to.
Do you get excited by the awards talk that’s currently circling?
KM: I’m so proud of the film and every time I hear about another accolade I think that’s really great. But Joel and Ethan don’t care, at all. It’s not what they’re in it for. You would hope it’s not what any of us are in it for. I just think it’s a great film and the more people that get to see it, the better.
You took the film to Cannes – what was that experience like?
KM: I’d never experienced that before! I’d been to the Golden Globes but I’d never experienced that red carpet hysteria before. Literally; at the Golden Globes no-one wanted to take my photo! I was the quickest walk down the red carpet ever, because I could see the publicists telling the photographers who I was and what I was nominated for and they were just sort of shaking their heads! [laughs]
But at Cannes, that night, the film was the big deal and so we were on the red carpet and people were going mad. It was bizarre. But not nerve-wracking, really, because, again, it’s Joel and Ethan and you’re in safe hands.
There is an incredibly intense atmosphere in Cannes and it must be very strange to have that spotlight beam on you.
KM: It is, but it’s very brief, though. And it wasn’t like it was just on me. I get nervous if I’m invited to someone else’s film. I get nervous when I’ve got nothing to do with it at all. But for this one I was in really good company and I’m proud of the film so it was actually very enjoyable.