Sept. 12--Following this week's world premiere of "August: Osage County" at the Toronto International Film Festival, a number of questions have arisen.
How does the film compare to Tulsa native Tracy Letts' play, which won Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize? This question will be debated for years, among those who recall the play as a life-altering experience and those who have not seen the stage production.
Will the ending of the movie be changed? No spoilers will be revealed here, but the film's ending is not the same as the play. Both Letts and director John Wells said following the premiere that the ending could be changed again before the Christmas Day release.
Will Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts compete against one another for best actress, or will one aim for best supporting actress honors instead? The rumors have been flying fast and furious on this one. What few seem to be talking about is the fact that a third actress from the cast could be nomination material as well, like Margo Martindale in the colorful Mattie Fae Aiken role.
Here's what we do know do know about the experience of shooting "August: Osage County" in Oklahoma following a press conference the morning following the world premiere:
1. Julia Roberts: "The best acting experience of my life."
Roberts made it clear that the eight weeks spent in Oklahoma in the fall of 2012 was a period of intense work: "We worked our asses off, because there was no other way to do it. I have never worked so hard in my life, and I've given birth to three children. It was like a mountain to climb every single day, and the only way to climb it, we discovered, was to hold hands whether we liked it or not. We would work all day, go home and shower, (and) start practicing for the next day ... it was the best acting experience of my life. I don't know how they did it eight times a week (on Broadway) without rehab."
2. Pot-luck at Meryl's place; don't be late.
Most of the film was shot in an isolated spot at a large house in rural Osage County, near the Kansas state line, several miles away from Pawhuska and maybe 45 minutes from Bartlesville. It was unique, Cooper noted.
"We had an unusual circumstance in that we were out in the middle of nowhere (laughter from cast members), and hotel accommodations were hard to find. God bless'em, they found these newly finished condos (in Bartlesville), and everybody was right next door to each other and running into each other every day. We'd have pot-luck dinners and people would bring things over to Meryl's apartment -- she was such a sweetheart -- and it was about this time last year, and so everybody was watching the presidential debates, and good lord, I think (Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012) came and hit some of these actors' homes in New York, and there we were watching it on TV. It sure helped to give a feel of family."
According to Cooper, Streep on more than one occasion worked a full day and then drove from Bartlesville to Tulsa to shop for ingredients for that night's dinner at Whole Foods.
3. People in Pawhuska witnessed one of the film's most emotionally intense scenes.
Despite being a block or two away from the downtown Pawhuska intersection that was turned into a temporary bus station, crowds who gathered to watch Chris Cooper act with Benedict Cumberbatch (who plays the son of Cooper's character) noticed the emotion of the scene. While watching 20-30 takes of the same scene led to their being more excited about producer George Clooney being on the set (women did swoon), they should be rewarded once they watch the film, Roberts said at the press conference.
"(Watching the movie last night I was) excited and thrilled to see what everybody did ... My favorite scene in the movie is the bus stop scene between Benedict and Chris. That was my favorite scene in the play, and it was my favorite scene when I read the screenplay. To watch the way that they did that, it's heartbreaking. (Roberts looks down the panel at Cooper) And when you pull your comb out of your pocket, well, I, I have on too much makeup right now to keep talking about it."
4. Roberts on working for the first time with Streep, playing her daughter and choking her.
"To work with Meryl Streep is a dream come true ... an honor. (And) she is such a beautiful person, and it was intimidating certainly to be in these scenes with her. Choking her and things like that is not how I pictured it going all these years, I thought it would be more like us having tea, and speaking in fabulous accents and dressed up and looking very chic. But here I am sweating and wearing a butt pad, so that was interesting."
5. Oh, to have had the chance to buy tickets to this production.
Director John Wells spoke of the intimidation of filming Letts' play, especially the 20 pages of the script that take place at a dinner table following a funeral, shot over parts of four days: "(There's) all of us sitting around saying, 'OK, how is this going to go?' (But) by the end of it, I think we felt very comfortable that we could have taken it straight down into Tulsa and performed it on a stage."
Find more movie coverage, including Michael Smith's analysis on Oscar hopefuls, in Friday's Tulsa World or online at tulsaworld.com/scene.
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