News Column

Local fav dishes on 'Prisoners'

September 20, 2013


Sept. 20--SINCE THE Daily News basically adopted Maria Bello a number of years ago, we've spoken to the Norristown/Conshohocken actress enough that we're usually just catching up.

Fortunately, Bello works a lot, makes interesting movies and is a normal person who makes easy conversation.

We spoke with her at the beautiful Shangri-La Hotel, at the Toronto International Film Festival, earlier this month, about director Denis Villeneuve's "Prisoners" and more.

Q: How do you feel about being in the Daily News about as often as Mayor Nutter?

A: I love that. I'm a very proud Philadelphian, as you all know. Proud of my city. Proud of my roots.

Q: You come back to the area often. What's your favorite restaurant here?

A: Baby Blues . We have two in L.A. I worked at Sportsters bar when I was in college and had to wear a cheerleading outfit. They had the best ribs and wings in town. Danny Fisher, the owner's son -- they had, like, 10 or 11 kids -- was my boyfriend at one time, and he ended up starting Baby Blues based on what his father did, and I love that food. Their ribs are the best in the country, I think.

Q: How is your son doing?

A: He's 12-and-a-half. Prepubescent. Braces. His voice is getting like this . I tell him sometimes that he's starting to smell like a hoagie. Now the kids today, they have this thing called Axe and they spray it all over their heads. They think it helps.

Q: How did you come to "Prisoners"?

A: I was offered the movie. Denis had seen some of my other stuff. I loved the writing but thought it depended who the director was because it could turn out really bad with the wrong director. So I saw Denis' film "Incendies" and I said, "I will follow this man and do whatever he asks me to do. He's brilliant." And I was right. So this great cast came together, and my friend Roger Deakins, who's this incredible DP shot it.

Most of the cast had been friends for years and had wanted to work together, but I like to say that the star of this movie is really Denis Villeneuve. Most people don't know his movies, but he is a master filmmaker and I believe will be known as such for decades to come. I would be privileged to work with him over and over again.

Q: But how did this relatively unknown director pull together such a powerhouse cast?

A: Why we were all attracted to it besides Denis is that Alcon was trying to make an entirely different type of genre movie -- a thriller/Hollywood blockbuster with this foreign, independent movie feel -- where it was really about character and our psyches and had a lot of quiet in it, a lot of thoughtful minutes. It's something you rarely, if ever, see, and I think we pulled it off, and Alcon was really brave to do it.

I was watching a movie the other night with my son. An action movie on Netflix. And this main character, a good guy who was saving the president or whatever, must have killed 600 people in two hours and we never thought about the violence because you never got to know the people. In this film you come face-to-face with your own humanness. It's human being against human being, and you see how it steals your soul.

Q: So what's next?

A: I'm starting "McFarland," a Disney movie with Kevin Costner. It's a true story, set in 1987, about this coach who comes to a migrant worker town outside of Los Angeles and starts this track team of migrant-worker kids and they win championship after championship. made me cry at the end. I'm lucky to be in that and also to be home for my son's seventh grade, because we shoot in L.A.

Then I'm doing a movie in New York in January, which is the first romantic drama I've ever done. It's called "An Affair," and it's based on a French film. So I have a fun fall and winter coming up.

Q: Does your son come with you?

A: No, I go back and forth. He stays in school. That's when soccer season starts. I end up being in Holiday Inns a few hours from L.A. every weekend in January, February and March. That's my life.

Q: And you're also working with the director of "Saw"?

A: I am. The Untitled James Wan Thriller. The first "Saw," psychologically, was so interesting and then it got all bloody and gory. This one could be bloody and gory, but Lee Clay ("Beautiful Boy") is one of the producers and a friend and I really trust him and he didn't do it in that gory way.

Q: "Prisoners" is character-driven, but don't you think most of the character-driven drama is being done on TV?

A: Oh, it's so true. It's rare to have a movie like "Prisoners." Rare. I'm really dying to do a great TV show. I loved my TV show "Prime Suspect," I loved that character and I wish it had continued. "Orange Is the New Black" I love right now. "House of Cards." "Game of Thrones." "The Big C." I wrote Laura Linney and the producer-creator to say that those last four episodes were some of the best television I'd ever seen. I loved "Weeds." "Enlightened."

Q: Sounds like you watch a lot of television?

A: I do. Probably more than movies. So, I would love, love, love to find a great character and do a great show on cable where you can really show the whole breadth and width of yourself and experience.

Mostly there's better television than movies, I would say. But one of the greatest movies I ever saw was this year and it was called "The Heat."

It's one of my favorite movies of all time. I laughed harder at that movie -- It was like "Bridesmaids" and "21 Jump Street." I laughed my ass off. And so did my 12-year-old son. I had to take him to see it. I'm going to meet Sandra Bullock tonight and I'm going to drop to my knees and bow to her for her comic genius.

Q: When you're in a movie like "Prisoners," that has so much misery, is it fun to go to work?

A: It's so fun. As actors, that's our playground. In this movie I felt like I'd been to a spa because I was so cried out at the end of the day, I was like, "That was relaxing."


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