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Hey Kids, what a sweet adventure I had in the wilds of New Jersey.  I had the pleasure of a chat with Oscar-winner Hilary Swank and director Mira Nair, as they discussed their new biopic Amelia. They got to the heart of what it meant to portray the aviatrix and American feminist icon, Amelia Earhart under the watchful eye of the beautiful Lockheed Electra that starred as the last plane Earhart ever flew.

Dig it.

 

Amelia

Star Hilary Swank and Director Mira Nair

 

The Lady Miz Diva: Hilary,  what notes did you take away from your research on Amelia Earhart's life?  What were the points of her personality that you hung on to in your performance and the making of the film?  And for Mira as a director, what do you focus on in a life as big and iconic as Amelia Earhart’s?

Hilary Swank:  I learned about Amelia from a very young age, but what I learned is what you learn in textbooks.  And so, for me, obviously, getting under the skin of a person that I'm playing is really important.  We're all specific human beings. We know what our favorite color is.  We know what we love.  We know what we don't like. And trying to figure that out about a person that you're portraying is very important.  In reading, there was lots of literature, about Amelia.  {Earhart’s} book "20 Hours and 40 Minutes".  And so, reading-all of that literature.  Also, trying to understand who she was.

I think Amelia was a very private person.  So, you know, what she was expressing out in the world might not necessarily have been what her true thoughts were.  So, just breaking down how her childhood formed who she was.  But I think one of the things that I took away from Amelia that I found very inspiring and moving, and why I feel a lot of the people, more than any of my movies, have come up to me and said, "I cannot wait to see 'Amelia.'"  And, you know, it's something, I kind of expected from women to really wanna see this movie, but a lot of men are also coming up to me saying, "I can't wait to see this movie."  And I think what people are, in my opinion, kind of magnetised to, is the idea, this person, Amelia, who lived her life the way she wanted to live it.  She made no apologies for saying, "This is my life.  And this is how I see it.  And this is how I want it to be done."  And I think that in 2009, that's really rare, especially for women.  I think it's more, you know, it's a more male-centric world and I think that a lot of males, they're able to have the life that they envision for themselves, but women not as much, even in 2009.  So, when we're talking about somebody who lived in the '20s, when women just got the right to vote and '30s, you know, it's-- it's incredible.

And so, it's obviously, a period piece, yet, it even transcends what we even know now, and I think that's a reminder.  And it was, certainly, a reminder for me to live my life.  You only have one life, and it's so short and Amelia's was certainly short and she accomplished a lot in her lifetime.  More than most people really do, I think, in a really long life.

But it was just a reminder, you know, that you have to constantly, kind of, look within and continue to live the life that you know you wanna live for yourself and not for other people.  You know, I'll look at my life and say, "I might be doing this because it's my mother's idea of my life."  Or your friend's idea.  Or your partner's idea, or whatever it is, and I think Amelia was just such a great reminder that you can live your life the way you want it and find love and experience your dreams and you can have it all.  So, to me, that's what I really learned in diving deep into who she was.  And, you know, like I said, you only live once.  You might as well be doing what you love.

 

Mira Nair:  For me, there is a lot of enigma, despite the fact that there's so much material with the real Amelia and news reels and documentaries and so on.  There is still a very interesting enigma about who Amelia really was.  And we, kind of, used that in the film as well.  For me, the real window on to understanding who she might have been was her own writings.  And she wrote really, very interesting turns of phrase.  You know, “There's more to life than being a passenger.”  “Why do you fly?”  “I fly for the fun of it.”  You know, she had simple, pithy, but really, pretty contemporary ways of writing and speaking.  We used to jokingly call it, "the pre-nup agreement."  You know, she wrote the first pre-nup, really, to George Putnam, who she resisted many, many times, you know of her marriage.  And then she laid down her conditions, which were very gracefully laid down, but they were very direct and very modern, you know?

“You know, I don't agree with marriage and anything that will keep me from my life and flying,” and so on.  So, for me, the window was her own writings; her sense of humor, which was wonderfully abundant in her writing, and, I must say, the way she spoke in the newsreels that I saw of her.  Before I even read the first script that was sent to me, I saw news reels of her.  And what really attracted me was her sense of great humility.

 You know, that she did all this hoopla, publicity, and whatever, in order so she could fly, you know?  And I loved -- I mean humility is not often a real America trait, and I come from somewhere {Laughs} where we are taught to be humble. {Laughs} So, I thought, ‘That's interesting, that she's consistently got that humility, you know, whether she's getting the medals or whether she's flying in the cockpit.’  You know, she has a sense of, ‘I'm really here for the ecstasy of this flight, rather than for the awards or the accolades.’

Those were the things that really got me about her.  And then as we went deeper with the wonderful books, and Anna Hamilton Felon, the writer, who was a devotee of Amelia in her youth, as well.  She had been given some Amelia Earhart luggage by her mother.  She had a piece of clothing {Laughs} that actually had Amelia's name on it.  And, no, she was one of those real devotees.  And so, between us all and our amazing crew, we hope that we have captured something in Hilary's artistry of the beating heart that was Amelia.

 

LMD:  Mira, why did you feel this film had to be made at this time?

MN: I think the parallels between when Amelia did such astonishing things and now are actually uncanny. She was, during the Depression, she was an icon, a beacon of hope for the country.  Roosevelt’s 100 Days and Obama’s Stimulus Plan and the fact that Obama’s come in a time when really Americans have never been at such a low, and to bring up that hope. And more than ever now, this country needs to remind itself that we had and we have visionaries like Amelia Earhart, who refused to accept the glass ceiling in any way, and yet the conflict and struggle we all have in our lives as modern women and men of balancing passion and responsibility is an eternal tale. I think that to clothe Amelia in that kind of human complexity that she has and is with her actual tale of complete daredevilry in flying I hope will inspire and allow people, especially young women and men to have the inspiration to have a dream and to have the focus and drive that she exhibits to achieve that dream.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Oct. 16th, 2009

 

 

 

 

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Photos

Exclusive Photos by LMD

Film stills courtesy of Fox Searchlight

 

 

 

 

 

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