For years, when someone asked Sarah Polley which person, living or dead, she’d most like to have dinner with, her answer was Sarah Silverman, the actor-comedian famous for her raunchy sense of humour.
So it's no surprise that when Polley was casting Take This Waltz, which she wrote and directed, she found a role for Silverman. The film is an anti-romance starring Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen as Margot and Lou, a married couple thrown into turmoil when Margot falls for their neighbour (Luke Kirby). Silverman plays Geraldine, Lou's sister and a recovering alcoholic.
It's not a large role, but it's a challenging one for Silverman, perhaps best known for making the hilarious viral video "I'm f-cking Matt Damon" while she was dating talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel. (She and Kimmel are no longer together.)
One particular challenge was shooting a lingering, hyper-real nude scene in which Margot and Geraldine take a shower with a bunch of other women after swim class. "[Sarah] was very deferential when she asked me about it, and I'm sure with all the women she approached," says Silverman, who's now 41 years old. "But the truth is I trust her so much and I really think she has such a vision and I respect her, and you get this feeling with Sarah that you want to please her so I guess there was no thinking about it."
Silverman was at the Toronto International Film Festival for the movie's world premiere when we spoke about relationships, that shower scene and the night Polley finally got her wish and met Silverman for dinner to discuss the project.
Tell me about your dinner with Sarah Polley.
"It was in Los Angeles, we went to Hugo's, we both got a breakfast salad. Scrambled eggs on tumeric rice and salad, and it was delicious. And we talked and talked and talked and talked and talked. It was very comfortable and laughy."
What did you talk about?
"We talked about the script, we talked about relationships, we talked about that she watched my show [the now-defunct "The Sarah Silverman Program."], which always makes me happy because I loved my show…and it's the rare odd person that is into it."
On the Internet Movie Database they say your trademark is "misleading sarcasm," would you agree with that?
"In a million years I wouldn't guess that, but I like that, I can see that, sure…. For me, for a long time I thought of my angle on things as being ignorant arrogance, an arrogant ignorant [laughs]."
You say you were touched to be considered for this movie because people don't usually think of you for dramas. Your character is still pretty funny, but are you hoping to get into more serious material?
"Yeah. I don't make a big master plan for myself and I don't look at my career as a whole, I just keep my overhead really low and I'm free to do anything I want in any medium."
Tell me about that.
"I own my Saab, I own my apartment, I've had my car for eight years, I do not want for much. I have everything I need, I love my life, I have any comforts I need, I don't need a big space, and that way I don't have to do something because I need money."
| Sarah Polley on the set of Take This Waltz
So why this film?
"This film, I did for the money [laughs]."
Yeah right, there's big money in Canadian film.
"Nah, the fact that it's Sarah Polley, the fact that the script is perfect, so thoughtful and funny and beautiful. It's not comedy but I think of it as a drama where the characters have really good senses of humour, you know?"
Sarah Polley's not someone I necessarily think of as funny.
"She's really funny. She's hilarious."
What's the funniest thing she's done, or said, to you?
"She and her brother have a very funny relationship. Her mother passed away when she was 11 and her brother called her while we were shooting the movie and she checked the message later and I guess she never picks up and he's like, 'Hey it's your mother using your brother to communicate with you but I guess you're not picking up,' so a very dark humour, very funny."
What do you think the shower scene adds to the movie?
"You know, I knew she wanted it to be [in a hippie voice] 'Hey, women come in all shapes and sizes,' then I watched it and it really accomplished that, without the mocking tone I said it in. I really went, 'Wow.' You just put it out there, say what you're going to say. And women — I know with my girlfriends and sisters — we're naked in front of each other all the time whether we're trying on clothes or putting on things, you know?"
Umm, not really. I'm not.
"Really? With my close friends, or maybe it's just a comedy thing…"
You play an alcoholic. I've read that you never drink because it makes you sick, did you do any research?
"You know, I don't drink but, as a comedian for the past 20 years, I have been surrounded by drunk people and alcoholics that are in the audience, and that are comedians, and that are my friends and people I'm close to as well as a couple friends that are in AA. And I did a lot of meditating on the relationships I have with all of that. My relationship with alcohol is that when I'm at a party, the second that first wave happens of people getting drunk, I'm gone. I know the sloppy drunk thing, I know the talking really close to your face and spitting, but I think the real professional alcoholics, that when you meet them they're in AA, you cannot even imagine them drunk. Alcoholics that really get pro at it, being married with kids, they cover it."
Did making this movie make you see relationships differently? You're single now, but were you in one at the time?
"I was in one at the time, but making this movie didn't alter my outlook on love."
Which is what?
"I don't know anymore. [In a singsong voice] 'Love, love, I believe in love.' But I'm at a point in my life where it would have to be even better than being alone, you know? I like my alone life. I mean, I love being with friends and I love kissing and loving someone to pieces, but it's hard to find someone who doesn't ultimately start judging you and your choices. Men like to quash you, I just want someone who's happy with himself, happy with his life, he doesn't have to quash mine."
Marni Weisz is the editor of Cineplex Magazine. Take This Waltz opens in Cineplex theatres June 29.