Rodrigo Garcia: It was a nice surprise to get a (Golden Globe) nomination about that song (“Lay Your Head Down”).We weren’t always sure the movie would even do this song, but towards the end, we started flirting with the idea, and there was this piece of music that Brian (Byrne) had written for one of the scenes that everyone was in love with, and in the end we encouraged Glenn (Close) to write the lyrics herself, so she decided to write it as a lullaby. It works very nicely, I think.
RS: How did you become attached to this film?
RG: She (Glenn Close) asked me to direct. The project predates me. Almost immediately, I wanted to do it, just because she was asking me. You know, when someone has a project like this in their lives that won’t leave them – especially an artist who has had a chance to do so many things – you’re curious. Why this one? And I read the script and I thought it was a period piece, but it was timeless in the sense that in any time, people have had to sacrifice aspects of themselves in order to fit in. And not just sexual identity, any identity. Things you like. People you don’t like. There’s always a part of us that we hide in order to do better in our environment. I thought that theme was timeless. And then there was the character of Nobbs, who was so specific, and unusual, you know. So it was a shoo-in for me.
RS: Can you talk about how you made it a period piece?
RG: Yeah, we did a substantial amount of research. But you can’t do it all on your own. The wardrobe designer does his part, the production designer, you have an historical advisor, you try to get as much information as you can, and then you still sort of do your own inflection. You know, you don’t know what it’s like to wake up in 19th century Ireland – none of us do – but you take from what you know of that period, and you translate that into what rings a bell with us, and it’s work, but it’s a fun part of the work, if your heads of departments are talented and can lead the way.
RS: What about Glenn Close’s transformation into this character?
RG: It was gradual, because over the years we did tests for noses, and ears, and wigs, but at the end, I remember on the day of the camera test, when she was in the full makeup, hair and wardrobe, and she was standing next to me, I felt that there was this curious little man standing next to me. I always looked at her like a character from silent pictures.
RS: She said something interesting when I asked her if she took a stupid pill in order to play a man. She laughed, and then she said it was like putting on a cloak of invisibility.
RG: Yes, because not only is she a man, not only is she a woman in hiding, she’s in a job that would require her to be in hiding, meaning that even if Nobbs were a man, you wouldn’t know him. You wouldn’t know anything about him. He wouldn’t offer himself or open himself up to you. He would try to blend against the curtains. So it was not just playing a man, it was playing a self-effacing, invisible man. So I think that was an interesting challenge.
RS: Did her passion and enthusiasm for this project make her easier to work with?
RG: She has a great way of working, she never gets tired. It never gets old for her, and that’s contagious. She’s working at a level – not of perfectionism, not destructive, because nothing is good enough, or they destroy those around them – she’s a perfectionist, but in a creative way that feeds her and feeds people around her. Listen: she’s a co-screenwriter, a producer, she acts in it, and she wrote the song, and beyond all of that her contribution to the movie is humongous.
RS: Would you like to work with her again in the future?
RG: Absolutely. She’s such an easy person to work with. She has something that’s rare: a very rational, intelligent, analytical mind, and also a completely artistic, intuitive, left brain.
RS: That is unusual!
RG: Especially in artists! She understands how things work both in front of and behind the camera.
RS: Could she also be a director?
RG: She could do it in a moment.
RS: And you could be an actor, right?
RG: No. (Laughs)
RS: Thank you very much.
RG: Thank you.