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A familiar face on British stage and television shows like DOLL & EM, SOME GIRLS, and frequent collaborations with THE MIGHTY BOOSHís Noel Fielding, Dolly Wells takes a dramatic turn in CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

Playing the bookish romantic interest of forger Lee Israel, opposite fellow funny lady, Melissa McCarthy, Ms. Wells chatted with LMD exclusively about creating on-screen chemistry, the ďfunny bonesĒ she inherited from her actor/writer father, John Wells, and taking the helm of her own feature directing debut.

(PS: Read through for an Easter Egg appearance by Mme. McCarthy.)

Dig it!

 

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

Dolly Wells


The Lady Miz Diva:  Your character, Anna, is kind of mysterious to me.  What did you make of her when you read her?

Dolly Wells:  I thought she was like somebody with like, a few less layers of skin than most people have.  The other thing I thought was that sheís like a child in a grown-upís body.  Sheís so naÔve and sweet.  She hasnít been ruined.  Thereís something sort of like a little deer about her; and she lives in this bookshop.  Sheís as invisible as Lee, in a completely different way.  She wouldnít bang into people, or she would be so timid, or behind, not taking up nearly as much space as she deserves to. 

But then thereís little moments where you feel like -- come on, Iím so proud of her when she gives Lee her writing, because itís so simple and brave.  So, I think sheís very good at being on her own.  I think sheís almost the opposite of Lee; I donít think sheís discouraged.  I think if you were interviewing her now, I think she would think sheís very lucky; that sheís got a great life, that sheís really trying to do the right thing.

I know people a bit like her in terms of that thing of sort of being in the shadow of your parent.  Of trying to keep something going.  And thatís why itís so interesting that itís at a time with bookshops -- when itís the end of something, and the end of something for her, as well.  Like, maybe she will get brave, and if sheís bold enough to show Lee her writing, I have sort of hope for her, that she will continue that.

I think that thereís a real parallel; that Lee hides behind her characters that sheís written these biographies of, and Anna hides behind the bookshop that her father created.  So, I found her, like I said, a little -- not slippery, cos that implies that you wouldnít trust her -- but someone that just has this naÔvety that you donít normally have. 

I feel like when youíve got to my age, or something, you very rarely are surprised by things, on the whole.  I remember this real strong image from about 10 years ago, when I looked out the window while I was doing a reading, and I saw all these white deer, and I said, ďWhat is that?  Oh my God, those deer are all white.Ē  And it felt like being a kid, and I feel like Anna is like that.  I feel like thereís not much cynicism; she gets a real joy and pleasure even in her new glasses, or eating, and thereís something so sweet about her.  So, I felt very fond of her, originally, and that it was a real treat to play her.

 

LMD:  What you mention about her being raised in her fatherís bookshop, and having this innocence and naÔvety about her, makes me wonder if that was why Anna, who is familiar with these archival documents, and the fact that they are frequently forged, is so willing to trust Lee as she brings in more and more rare and valuable items to sell?

DW:  Well, you know, that was so sweet when she says, ďOh, what a coincidence!Ē  I think itís interesting, because as a writer, working in a bookshop, thatís actually terrifying, as well, because youíre reminded daily that you are surrounded by these greats, who are dead, and who have all made it.  They have all been immortalised, and your job is to serve them, really.  So, Lee, suddenly itís like a real writer walking in and connecting with her.  So, itís so exciting that I think sheís just thinking, ĎOkay, so she wants to sell this to me. Okay.í  I think that she just believes the best in people in almost every case.

Melissaís real husband, Ben {Falcone} who plays the dodgy forger; his instincts are how to make money, how not to trust somebody.  So, I think Anna is guileless; I donít think sheís thinking any of those things.

 

LMD:  As you say, being surrounded by successful writers, is it also that Lee is a writer that Anna is very impressed by, as well?

DW:  Totally, sheís read all of her work.  So, itís like, ďOh my God, youíre the Lee Israel!Ē  So, itís starting off.  Thatís all that everybody really wants, is to be sort of accepted, and loved; and itís so basic, but itís very hard to do, because oneís own ego comes in so much.  Whereas I think for Lee with Anna, Anna is judging Lee in just the way that Lee wants to be judged, which is just by reading her.  She knows nothing else about her, and she loves her writing.  So, Lee can sort of get rid of the posture of being spiky and curmudgeonly, because this person is like a warm bath, or something:  Sheís just completely embracing her, and so she can drop her front, and thatís what actually is so painful for her later.

 

LMD:  Tell us about the relationship between Anna and Lee.  There is a definite sexual attraction, and a sort of push and pull between them. 

DW:  Definitely!  But itís almost like, purer than that.  There is an attraction, but I think both of their attractions -- their sexual attraction will come more from the mind, than the body.  I donít think Anna is thinking, ĎPhwoar, I canít wait to get her clothes off.í  You know what I mean?  I think sheís thinking, ĎI really want to spend time with this woman.í  And probably -- I canít generalise, but I donít walk down the street going, ďPhwoarÖ .Ē 

What makes me sexually attracted to somebody is finding them interesting and liking them, or finding them funny, or peculiar.  It builds up into something that then becomes something, and I think that is probably the same with Lee and Anna.  It is definitely the potential for a romance between them, but it comes from a more cerebral place.

 

LMD:  How did you and Melissa McCarthy work on creating that spark between the two characters?

DW:  Well, it was a 28-day shoot.  It was very brief.  We didnít have very many days together.  You have to have that thing as an actor -- and Iíve been doing it for quite a while -- you have to be pretty open and ready for each other, because you donít get the time.  I mean, itís different, Iíve just finished a play, and you rehearse, and you rehearse, and you rehearse: In a film, you donít have that time; especially, we didnít on this. 

So, itís more just from the minute you step on the makeup bus to have practice looks, that youíre like, ĎHello, I know Iím playing, and I know who youíre playing,í and she was just everything Iíd hoped.  Sheís really open, really sweet, really kind, attentive, generous -- sheís lovely.  So, it wasnít going to be hard.  Sheís a brilliant actress, so it was just a joy.

 

LMD:  Like Ms. McCarthy, you have a lot of comedy in your background, and are playing this dramatic role.  Iím always curious about people I meet who do a lot of comedy, how do the gears shift?

DW:  Well, I agree with what Melissa says; I donít think they do.  I think you make a character.  My strength, or my own comfort zone, is more comedy, or drama.  Iím not very comfortable in the middle.  So, I donít approach it in a different way.  I think you think, ĎWho is this person?  How do I play this person?í  A lot of that is listening, and responding. 

I think with comedy, itís about timing, and I try not to think about that too much. {Laughs} I remember Noel Fielding once being so sweet, and saying, ďYouíve got funny bones.Ē  And I was like, ĎOkay, Iím just not going to think about it anymore.í  Comedy scares me even to talk about, because you either kind of have it, or you donít, sometimes.  But I think with drama, itís not that different, you just listen, and make it real, and just try to inhabit that person.

 

LMD:  Iím grateful to Mr. Fielding for opening up the conversation about your funny bones, because you are the daughter of the late actor, John Wells, who was also known for comedy.  Was there any other way for you, or did you just feel that natural pull toward acting?

DW:  No, I felt that natural pull, because when I was eight, he was in a play called ANYONE FOR DENIS -- where he pretends to be Denis Thatcher -- and I remember standing on the stage and watching, and he took me onto the stage after the show, and I remember this feeling of standing on stage of like, ĎOooh, I really like this. I donít know what this is, but I really like this.í  Even though it really terrifies me being on stage, but I love it.  And also that every night, he would come back from the play, and he would bring people back -- and thatís the thing that I loved -- they would be so open, and childlike, and affectionate.

And thatís whatís happened, it all keeps going around: Noel was a big fan of my dadís, thatís how we made friends.  Meeting Noel was very special because it reminds me of my dad, and heís being very like that with my children.  So, to me, there was no alternative, just because I love that world of people being so open, and playful, and silly, and kind, and un-judge-y.  Itís a pretty hard world to reject, or not go for if youíve grown-up like that.

 

LMD:  You have just directed your own feature film debut, GOOD POSTURE, starring your dear friend, Emily Mortimer.  As a director, and writer, as well as an actress, you brought a lot to the set of CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?  Did director Marielle Heller allow you to interpret Anna as you wished?

DW:  Well, you have different hats; so when Iím doing this, I am definitely her puppet, or whatever, Iím just doing what she wants.  You do your homework, so you bring your Anna, and they just give you little nudges and steers.  And I just really loved working with her, I think sheís just incredibly intelligent.  And I think sheís got a real natural ability to direct.  Sheís got a real lightness of touch, and sheís got a real confidence I really admire.  So, I add different layers; Iíve acted for a long time, so Iíve sometimes got confidence in that. 

Theater is a difference of experience, but Iíve only directed once, so I felt very confident in my relationships with the actors, but I felt scared about what language to use.  And then with writing, again, youíre learning all the time, so donít feel, ĎOh, Iíve nailed that,í but they are very different things.  So, I suppose when you are being directed in a film; you are not a writer, or director, you are an actor.

 

LMD:  Did you add things to the character that werenít there before?

DW:  I didnít need to add any language, because it was all so there.  I just didnít feel like I had any extra things that I needed to bring, but what I brought was hopefully a rounded character.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Oct. 13th, 2018

 

Easter Egg:  Hereís the excellent answer to a query LMD posed to the star of CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?, Melissa McCarthy.

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?  

Melissa McCarthy

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  One aspect of CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? I find really fascinating, is the way it captures the atmosphere of New York City around a rather dire period, when there was a big disparity between rich and poor, homelessness was rampant, and the AIDS crisis had claimed many New Yorkers. 

The film seems to be shot under a perpetually overcast sky, and the locations are very small and tight, and almost claustrophobic, relaying some of the bleakness that many felt during that time. 

You are originally from Illinois, Iím curious what you learned about the New York City of that dark era?

Melissa McCarthy:  Well, that dark era of New York was my era.  I moved here at 20.  I lived here from 1990 to 1997, so to me, it was the most magical time.  I came from a little farm town, so the grit, and people looking for jobs, because they wanted something - all of us, we lived three in a studio - but we had a Manhattan apartment.  We did it.  And it all seemed magical; you know, going through Alphabet City, and going, ďThereís a party on {Avenue} B, do we risk it?Ē  Yes!  Now, itís like, $2 million studios, and Iím like, ďwhat?Ē  I donít understand the current New York.  I like it very much, but itís not mine, so I take maybe unreasonable ownership of those 90s as if it was everything to me. 

And itís not the shiny, ĎWalk through Central Parkí New York that we so often see in movies and films thatís beautiful, and I love.  I think this is a really great glimpse into what it was really like to live in New York, and be part of the city that youíre tethered to, in a different way.  Weíre not strolling slowly through the park; itís more like, Iím hurrying down East 6th {Street}.  Itís the real pulse of it. 

And I felt re-creating that -- I mean, I got pretty overwhelmed a couple of times, because I never thought I would get to have that back.  I mean, that New York is gone.  So, Mari {Director Marielle Heller} being able to visually see it -- I mean, not just visually see it -- because she was in California during the 90s.  Sheís a New Yorker now, but knowing what it really was, and getting that feel right?  I thought for someone who wasnít here then, I said, ďYou found this one sliver, that when I look around, I canít see anything past 94.Ē  

Or, these bookstores that were vanishing as she scouted: As she scouted, she would get calls about, ďWe do want you to shoot here, but weíre closing in three weeks.Ē  They were dropping out.  She said it was like the floor was dropping out from under her. 

And to capture that again, and I have people that I know really well who were here, and they were like, ďThat was our New York.Ē  So, I think it was also incredible to show a different side of New York. 

I donít know if that answered your question? {Laughs}

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Oct. 13th, 2018

 

Click Here for our Exclusive Interview with CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? star, Richard E. Grant.

 

 

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