chat room

Rosemarie DeWitt on Playing Mean Sisters With Anne Hathaway

You want a piece of me? Please?

Jonathan Demme’s excellent new documentary-style family drama, Rachel Getting Married, begins with recovering addict Kym (Anne Hathaway) coming home to her haute-bohemian Connecticut home for her older sister Rachel’s wedding. The movie quickly uncoils into an often heart-wrenching tale of tortured family love; David Edelstein calls it “a masterpiece” in next week’s issue of New York Magazine. A Best Supporting Oscar nod may well go to Queens native and Mad Men alum Rosemarie DeWitt, whose Rachel crackles with brittle bitterness. DeWitt talked to Vulture about working with Demme and what it’s like to have Anne Hathaway get in your face.

You said about working with Anne: “She felt no obligation to be likable or polite and she did that on Day One. She came in and was all up in my face. She just took up so much space that I felt like there was no oxygen in the room.” Was Anne hard to be around on set?

It sounds so funny when you hear yourself quoted back. If anything, she was the opposite. She’s too easy to fall in love with, so I needed to stay away from her in between takes. We sort of instinctually didn’t spend buddy time becoming sisters. [By that quote I meant that] there was never a moment of having a nice-off with another actor, when they say, “I might mess up your costume” or “You’re not allergic to cigarettes, are you?” The first scene we did together was the scene where she comes home. I’d done my read with her for my audition and we’d had one dinner where we were both polite and nice. Then when we did that scene, she just comes up and her cigarette is almost hitting me in the face. I remember wanting to be happy and relaxed and then have her come in and want to have control over the situation. I felt like she was making it all about her, then I realized, “This is perfect.”

One of the most beautiful shots in the film is the last, when you and Anne say good-bye and the camera follows you through the house and out to the yard. Was that scripted?
We shot it as one continuous scene where I say good-bye to Kym, and I just assumed that the camera was going to follow the car [with Kym in it] down the street and that would be the end. But Jonathan [Demme] told the DP, “If you feel something happening, follow that,” so he stayed with me. It was never discussed.

So much has happened by that point in the movie. How were you feeling in the shot?
I remember having some preconceived notion about where Rachel’s release in the movie took place. There’s this scene at the wedding where she’s dancing wildly and her hair is flying around. I thought, That’s where she gets through this weekend and surrenders, but it didn’t happen. Then we got to the scene you’re talking about. I said good-bye to Kym, and my shoulders, which had been up to my earlobes, started to sink, and I thought, Oh, it comes now.

The family in this movie hashes out their angst in front of anybody who happens to be around. Is your family like that at all?
My dad saw the movie and I said, “What do you think?” He said, “I thought you were pretty mellow in the film.” I thought, Oh boy, my poor family.

What’s next?
A Showtime series with Toni Colette called The United States of Tara that starts in January. Toni’s character has multiple personality disorder. She decides to forego heavy medication and have her alters come out and integrate them. I play her sister.

There’s kind of a theme emerging here: You playing the sisters of women with mental disorders.
I like to keep focusing on the fact that I’m playing sisters to remarkable actresses.

Rosemarie DeWitt on Playing Mean Sisters With Anne Hathaway