"Mother!" and "Murder on the Orient Express" actressMichelle Pfeiffer explains how hertime away from acting just sort of happened.

A three-time Academy Award winner, Michelle Pfeiffer seemed to have more recently stepped away from Hollywood. Then this year she came back in big way, including supporting roles in Darren Aronofsky’s wild, provocative “mother!” and Kenneth Brannagh’s large-scaled telling of “Murder on the Orient Express.”

On our recent Envelope Roundtable for supporting actresses, Pfeiffer spoke about how it wasn’t so much a conscious decision to take time off and come back to acting, as just the way things turned out.

“It wasn’t unusual for me to take a year or two off in between projects anyway and I think two years became three and then, I don’t know, it became five,” she said. “But the truth is, it was actually when my second child started looking at colleges that I thought, ‘Hmm, maybe it’s time for me to get my foot back in the door.’ And at that time things started presenting themselves that looked interesting and then, here I am.”

Holly Hunter explains why "The Big Sick" is more of a rom-com than "Broadcast News."

“The Big Sick” has been hailed as a welcome return for the romantic comedy, as a couple comes together, goes through adversity, falls apart and comes back together again. The movie was written by the husband-and-wife team of Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani based on their own experiences. Nanjiani plays himself, with Zoe Kazan standing in for Gordon, and Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as her parents.

Hunter was at the Envelope Roundtable for supporting actresses recently and talked about “The Big Sick” in relation to “Broadcast News,” the 1987 film in which she starred and is now widely considered a classic modern rom-com. She noted how “Broadcast News” was taken less as a rom-com in its day and in fact, “‘Big Sick’ is more the romantic comedy genre, I think, because Kumail loves it.”

Hong Chau shares how the "regular" audience and film critics have reacted differently to her "Downsizing" character and accent.

With only her second role in a movie, actress Hong Chau has created one of the most talked-about characters of the year. In “Downsizing,” directed by Alexander Payne, a process is used to shrink humans to just five inches tall. Chau plays a Vietnamese political activist who is shrunk down by an opposition party. Upon becoming a cleaning woman to the wealthier parts of the tiny world, she helps a man (Matt Damon) see the bigger picture.

The role has proved to be controversial, with many journalists asking if the film presents a cultural stereotype in its depiction of Chau’s character. On the Envelope Roundtable for supporting actresses, Chau noted the conversations she has had with regular audiences and those she’s had with journalists have been very different. She also discussed how she defends the character and its representation in the movie.

“I think there’s a difference between characters with an accent who have two lines in something and my character, where she is driving a good portion of the story,” Chau said. 

"Detroit" directorKathryn Bigelow and "The Florida Project" director Sean Baker howthey were drawn to the space that blends fictional narratives withstories rooted in facts for their films.

With her film “Detroit,” Kathryn Bigelow dramatizes real-life events that occurred during the 1967 riots in that city. In “The Florida Project,” Sean Baker tells a tale that explores life on the poverty-stricken fringes in contemporary Florida. Both movies weave fictional and dramatic elements from factual truths, creating stories that feel all too real.

“There's a place where drama and documentary kind of fuse, and that's sort of a place that interests me,” Bigelow said. “It becomes very topical and timely, and that's where the journalistic aspect comes in.”

Baker picked up on Bigelow’s idea of a fact/fiction hybrid by adding, “It's the cinema that I'm really finding the most fascinating right now and the most interesting, where that line is blurred between narrative fiction filmmaking and documentary-style filmmaking.”

DirectorsGreta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”), Jordan Peele (“Get Out”) and Kathryn Bigelow (“Detroit”) discuss the particular power stories wield to humanize the "other."

In these times of divisiveness and antagonism, or as Guillermo del Toro put it at the recent Envelope Roundtable for directors, “the vulgarity and the brutality of what we're living,” filmmaking can be used as a tool to humanize the “other” said Jordan Peele (“Get Out”) and Kathryn Bigelow (“Detroit”).

“It feels like all of these stories are exploring a missing piece of the conversation,” said Peele “Story is one of, if not the most important tool, weapon we have against hatred and violence.”

“Especially now,” Bigelow said. “You’re almost weaponizing storytelling in order to somehow contextualize the unthinkable.”

Drector Guillermo del Toro explains that"The Shape of Water" is set in 1962"for a reason.Because it's about today. And about the 'other' ... I wanted to talk about things now."

As Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) noted at the Envelope Roundtable for directors, the films of all the participants – regardless of the time period in which they take place – are about now.

“The Shape of Water” director Guillermo del Toro certainly agreed, and his fairy tale/Cold War thriller is set in 1962.

“Well, it was '62 for a reason. Because it's about today. And about the ‘other,’” he said. But, he added, “you don't want to root it in now. It's too direct for me. I like the idea of being able to have people lower their guard with the "Once upon a time," you know, and then listen. And then emotionally, I try to make it very real and very specific to me. … I wanted to see, can I talk about love without sounding disingenuous?”

"Get Out" directorJordan Peelesays "the sunken placeis this metaphor for the system that is suppressing the freedom of black people."

Seven directors gathered together for the Envelope Roundtable to talk about their work and found their wildly different films actually had a lot in common. They all, as Jordan Peele put it, explore a “missing piece of the conversation.” Here Peele discusses what “the sunken place” from his horror film “Get Out” meant to him:

“The sunken place is this metaphor for the system that is suppressing the freedom of black people,” he said.  It’s “the lack of representation of black people in film, in genre. The reason Chris in the film is falling into this place, being forced to watch this screen, that no matter how hard he screams at the screen he can't get agency across. And that, to me, was this metaphor for the black horror audience, a very loyal fan base who comes to these movies, and we're the ones that are going to die first. And we yell ‘Get out, get out of the house.’”

DirectorAngelina Jolie explains how shewas mindful of the emotions that could be evoked by the scenes she was recreatingto film "First They Killed My father" in Cambodia.

With “First They Killed My father,” Angelina Jolie crafted a visceral film that captures the fear and trauma of wartime 1975 Cambodia from the perspective of a young girl. In bringing the memoir by Luong Ung to the screen, Jolie was aware of added concerns that were unusual for a film production.

“Every single Cambodian crew member was affected by this war,” Jolie said at the Envelope Roundtable, where she gathered with six other Oscar contending directors. “Many of these children knew their parents went through this, but they never talked about what happened. But now they're going to re-create a scene, and they're going to see, and experience, and feel what the parent went through. We had to be really sensitive to that.”

"Logan" and "The Greatest Showman" actor Hugh Jackman shares how he is humbled by the courage of those who have spoken up about their experiences with sexual harassment, despite "the amount of shame and guilt that is attached to this entire subject."

Hugh Jackman was on the Envelope Roundtable for lead actors for his role in the deeply felt superhero character study “Logan,” even as he will also soon be seen in the musical “The Greatest Showman.” Questions of how to respond to the sexual harassment and abuse scandals that are shaking Hollywood are both inevitable and yet still difficult to answer. When the subject came up, Jackman was the first to respond, expressing his feelings on what this moment could come to mean.

“I just have unbelievable empathy and am so inspired by all of the people coming out,” Jackman said. “I think the amount of shame and guilt that is attached to this entire subject and the amount of courage it takes to step forward is humbling to me. I don’t think it matters if you’re a man or a woman, if you’re old or young, if you’re a parent or not, it’s a human issue. I’m really glad the conversation is out there, it’s a great opportunity beyond our industry, really amongst society. An issue which has obviously been sort of pasted over is no longer.”

"Stronger" actor Jake Gyllenhaal shares his belief that the most important thing he can do now in response to allegations of sexual misconduct in Hollywood is to listen.

As allegations of sexual abuse and harassment have roiled the entertainment industry, awards season has continued apace, albeit with a newfound and unexpected seriousness. Joining the Envelope Roundtable for lead actors for his role as Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman in “Stronger,” Jake Gyllenhaal expressed the kind of genuine candor and soul-searching that has suddenly become part of the process.  

“It’s a confusing time. Everyone is trying to digest what all of this means,” Gyllenhaal said. “I feel like to me the most important thing that I have discovered in this period of time, particularly being a man in this business, is to listen. This takes a lot of work and will from everyone. … How do we behave moving forward?”