The journey of God's Pocket from its Sundance debut in January to its quiet premiere last Friday has been marked with tragedy. Two weeks after a rollicking, fun interview I did with director John Slattery and stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christina Hendricks in Utah, Hoffman was found dead in his New York apartment. It's hard now to watch the movie — which is Slattery's feature-film directorial debut and which opens with Hoffman's character attending a funeral — and not be struck by sadness. Still, there are plenty of moments of comedy and joy in Hoffman's performance. He plays a blue-collar South Philly barfly and petty crook who's trying to do right by his wife (Hendricks), who's just lost a son, and keeps making a mess of it — to the point where he spends much of the movie dragging around a corpse and giant slabs of meat. Vulture spoke briefly with Hendricks about why she and Slattery feel so compelled to promote the movie and, of course, her final season as Mad Men's Joan.
This movie has to be pretty difficult for you to talk about now.
Yeah, it’s surreal that that was not very long ago. But I think John and I agreed that being able to show people the film and talk about how wonderful it was to work with Phil. It’s been therapeutic in many ways, and we just feel so proud of it, and I know Phil was proud of it. And we just hope people get to see it and enjoy it.
What’s your favorite memory of working with Hoffman on set?
Really, the whole thing. Certainly, my first meeting with him and my first rehearsal really stood out. I was so nervous and I realized so quickly how warm and giving and collaborative he was. And each scene was so special to me. There are some scenes that got edited out but they still stand out in Technicolor. I remember every moment. When you admire someone that much, you really savor every second.
Had you been really looking forward to working with him?
Oh! My goodness, I would never even dream that I would be able to, that I would have that opportunity. So when John told me that he was going to do that, I probably experienced a little bit of shock and then celebration. [Laughs]
Your character is very mean to his. She doesn’t seem to love him anymore.
Well, I would disagree with that. One of the things that was interesting to me about the character and about these two people is that they clearly were in love at one point, and what happened before the film started that got them to the place they’re at, not loving one another. They don’t communicate in any way and they don’t know how to get what they need from each other. I mean, her son just passed away and he’s not even home, he’s out drinking. So I don’t know if she’s mean to him. She’s grieving and desperately needs to be cared for and he’s not providing that for her.
Do you have a favorite part of watching him in the movie? He has some montage moments and some physical comedy.
I don’t know if there’s a particular moment … I guess anytime I watch his work, I feel like I’m studying him to a degree. He is able to do something as an actor that I think we’re all striving to get or understand or be able to emulate ourselves, so I find that I’m always sort of watching him a little bit more than maybe others.
Were you upset with the media frenzy surrounding Hoffman’s death?
Well, I was saddened by what happened. He was someone I had just worked with and had just spent time with and had a very intimate working relationship with. It’s too bad in this society now that people can be exposed so greatly and often times so inaccurately. I was just feeling bad for his family the entire time.
You took your summer break to work with someone you already work with — John Slattery. Did you ever go, “Not him again?”
No, I never thought that. I love John and we have a great working relationship, and to have someone that you worked with for so long ask you to be in their first film is a huge compliment and a great honor. And also, in the scenario that is filled with experiences and challenges, to look across the room and see a familiar and calming face is fantastic. I think John did an extraordinary job on his first film, and it’s something we’re really, really proud of, and I think the film is really unique. And I hope people will go see it.
Speaking of Mad Men, I’m curious: Do you think she will ever fall in love?
[Laughs] I hope Joan falls in love. It’s Matt’s story to tell, but you do become connected and attached to the characters you play, and especially the ones you’ve played for so long. So of course you want good things for the person before you say goodbye to them forever.
Is Ken’s eyepatch permanent?
Is his eyepatch permanent? [Laughs] I don’t know the exact medical condition of his eye, so I can’t answer that. But I do get great amusement out of it.
In what ways?
Well, I think there was — I can’t remember if it was the first or second episode of the season — where he throws an earring at me but he throws it completely in the wrong direction because he has no sense of focus. That was a good moment.
It was surprising to some fans that Joan wasn’t on Don’s side at the partners’ meeting a few episodes ago.
Well, Joan is a business woman, and in the last season, Don Draper, very selfishly, took away Jaguar right after she did something she was deeply ashamed of in order to save her career and support her family. And on a whim, he just took it away from her. Millions of dollars. So if someone took millions of dollars away from me, I’d be really angry. I’m surprised people didn’t understand that.
Does Joan have more power or less power than she did at the start of the series? On the one hand, she has a better title now. But on the other, maybe she has less control than she did when everyone was looking to her to run the Christmas party. What do you think?
I think that Joan, from season one, has always run the show and the office politics. She didn’t just plan the Christmas party; she was the head of office politics and she was working that way before she was being acknowledged for it. Now she has that title and people have to acknowledge it. I think one of the things that people like about her is that she is incredibly capable and able and that’s always been apparent, and now people are just starting to notice it. She’s always used all the tools she’d been given to get there, but I don’t think there’s ever been any question that she’s intelligent and able, and now everyone’s giving her the credit.
You have four more episodes to film. Where do you want her to end up? What’s your greatest hope for her?
That’s really hard to say. This isn’t the kind of show where people drive off into the sunset on, so I’m excited to see the story unravel and listen to Matt Weiner’s tale. It’s hard to wish something for a fictional character. Sometimes the tragic things are the more interesting things. If she was alive, then I’d want her to fall in love and win the lottery and buy an island. But she’s fictional, so I’m sure whatever Matt comes up with will be wonderful.