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"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.”

“She vibrates in this feminine place that is not as plot driven as much as it is atmospheric,” said Nicole Kidman of "The Beguiled" director Sofia Coppola.

As part of the Envelope Roundtable for supporting actresses, Nicole Kidman, Holly Hunter and Laurie Metcalf described their experiences working with female filmmakers, and how that can lead to a different atmosphere on-set. Kidman spoke of working with Sofia Coppola on “The Beguiled,” as well as her experiences with Jane Campion. Hunter won an Oscar for Campion’s “The Piano.” Laurie Metcalf spoke about working with Greta Gerwig on this year’s “Lady Bird.”

“Sofia, she vibrates in this feminine place that is not as plot-driven as much as it is atmospheric,” Kidman said.

“She’s very quietly spoken, and unbelievably powerful,” she added. “People are running around doing things, and she speaks barely above a whisper.”

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Allison Janney discusses her approach to filming her "I, Tonya" scenes with a bird on her shoulder.

In “I, Tonya,” Allison Janney plays LaVona Golden, mother of figure skater Tonya Harding, who would become embroiled in the scandal surrounding the 1994 attack on fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan. In the film, the contentious relationship between Harding and Golden becomes a big part of the story and Harding’s motivation for success at skating.

A real-life documentary interview with Harding’s mother formed the basis for scenes when she talks directly to the camera with a small pet bird on her shoulder. 

During the Envelope Roundtable for supporting actresses, Janney talked about auditioning three birds for the part and how the calm bird picked for the role wasn’t so calm on shooting day, while adding “It was fun, I really fell in love with the bird.”

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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. 

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.”

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Directors Greta 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.”

"Detroit" director Kathryn Bigelow and "The Florida Project" director Sean Baker explain how they were drawn to the space that blends fictional narratives with stories 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.”

Director 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?”

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"Get Out" director Jordan Peele says, "The sunken place is 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.’”

Director Angelina Jolie explains how she was mindful of the emotions that could be evoked by the scenes she was re-creating to 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.”