British actress Sally Hawkins first broke out as the unsinkable Poppy in Mike Leigh's 2008 feature "Happy-Go-Lucky," for which she won the Golden Globe. As the working-class Ginger in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" earlier this year, she starts out with some of that optimism, but her sister Jasmine's arrival manages to mess with that. Played by Cate Blanchett with the fragility of cracking porcelain, Jasmine tears apart Ginger's life, apparently not satisfied with simply destroying her own. Ginger responds with her own heart-wrenching mix of adoration and anger.
This isn't Hawkins' first time to the fair with Allen, having played a small role in "Cassandra's Dream." Talking by phone from her home in London, Hawkins speaks with only adoration of Allen, her costars and the chance to explore Ginger's world.
Ginger initially seems, excuse the pun, quite happy-go-lucky, until Jasmine arrives.
Ginger is a bit more earthy and grounded, but she's also full of her own self-delusions. Jasmine turns up in her life like a whirlwind and turns things upside down, and it makes her question her life, her ambitions or lack thereof, comparatively. It's such a brilliant dynamic that Woody has written between them. Ginger both looks up to Jasmine and respects her but also resents that. Things have been left unresolved, and it's messy, it's all knotted up.... It creates questions in her own life. She begins to resent the people she's with. It comes out in strange ways. It is almost abusive the way she treats Chili [Ginger's fiancé, played by Bobby Cannavale].
Is Jasmine's delusion contagious?
Things are dug up; things are disturbed. Perhaps it does make her question her choices. It's like they're teenagers again, they pick up from the time they left off. It's like you retreat. She does respect Jasmine's opinion, and always has done, and yet she has established this life for herself. She wants to please. She's this tangled web of both love and respect and also anger and pain. It's highly complex, as it always will be. It's something that's just brought in Technicolor suddenly.
When did you and Cate come up with your back story as sisters?
I wanted to get to America as quickly as possible just to help with the preparation and the accent. The more you can do, the more it helps with layering — even if you never see it on screen, it's like a springboard. I'm very lucky that Cate feels the same way and is that kind of creature too. She loves to talk it through. I was there in New York, doing the preparation on the accent work and working with the costumer, I think it was two months before we got to San Francisco [where her scenes take place]. It was so important that we got together, rehearse the scenes and just talking about who they were and where they began. It's all there in the script, but it's almost like you have to untie it. Whether it's right or wrong, it doesn't really matter. It never turns up; it just gives you a confidence.
Did you tell Allen about what you two came up with?
No, I don't think he's interested in the process of how you get there; he just wants you to be there, which I really like. We didn't find answers, we were just beginning a conversation about possibilities. You're still finding it when you're working. You never want to reach the end, You're still finding it. It's this giant puzzle. Thank God there are filmmakers like Woody, still striving for that on the big screen.
After being batted around, Ginger almost stands up for herself but doesn't quite make it. It's painful to watch but also realistic.
Jasmine's an unpredictable force, and Ginger's aware of that and doesn't want to send her spinning off. She is champing at the bit, and yet she's terrified as well. At the moment of confrontation where you want Ginger to stand up, she is drunk. It's only in hindsight after somebody's walked out the door where we come up with the clever answers. Life is just really frustrating like that. You want that moment of "Yes, go girl!" and the music to swell, but it's not that kind of film. That's why it stays with you. It still gives me shivers.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times