- RatedPG13 /GenreComedy, Drama
If there is anything that still brings joy to 80-year-old actress Diane Ladd, it is acting.
“My greatest joy is fulfilling myself as an actress,” she said.
“I love my work, and my work is to reflect humanity so that you can identify with the characters. I don’t want to retire until the curtain goes down on this play. No, I’ll hop out of bed and crawl to work.”
The veteran actress made her start on the small screen in 1949 before clinching her first major movie role in Roger Corman's 1966 cult favourite 'Wild Angels' with ex-husband Bruce Dern, Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra. Since then, the actress has earned three supporting actress Oscar nominations for 1974's ‘Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore’, 1990's ‘Wild at Heart’ and 1991's ‘Rambling Rose’. She and daughter Laura Dern made Oscar history with ‘Rambling Rose’, when they became the first mother and daughter to earn acting nominations for the same film.
In David O. Russell’s new movie ‘Joy’, Ladd plays a wise grandmother to Jennifer Lawrence’s titular character. The film tells the rags-to-riches story of Joy Mangano, who overcomes the odds to invent the Miracle Mop, and a host of other inventions, ultimately making a fortune on home shopping channels as well as founding a multi-million dollar business dynasty.
Joining Ladd and Lawrence is an ensemble cast including Isabella Rossellini, Virginia Madsen, Elisabeth Röhm, Robert De Niro, and Bradley Cooper.
“There are so many great performances in this film. Some of us have known each other for years. I think this is one of Bradley Cooper’s finest performances. He came in to be part of the movie and didn’t worry about anything and the performance just flowed right out of him,” Ladd recalled.
What interested you about this film and the character?
Every actress in town wants to work with David Russell! David is a genius. He tested several stars for my role. I didn’t have to test for the part. All David did was talk to me on the telephone. He offered me the role and I was thrilled. I love the film and what a beautiful name: Joy!
Can you discuss your inspiration for your character, Mimi, Joy’s grandmother?
You know, the Indians have a saying that the soul of the grandchild lives in the heart of the grandmother. I love that saying. I told David that. And when I first walked in that day to begin rehearsal, Jennifer [Lawrence] was standing there and David said, ‘Jennifer, meet your grandmother.’ Mimi is a woman who loves her granddaughter and sees something in her. There is a soul bond between Mimi and Joy.
Diane Ladd and Jennifer Lawrence in 'Joy' | Photo: 20th Century Fox
You’ve worked with many great directors. Can you discuss your experience of working with David O. Russell?
I think he’s a genius, one of our great filmmakers and I’ve had the privilege of working with a couple of them, like David Lynch and Martin Scorsese. David’s right up there with them. He doesn’t hit you over the head or preach at you. He lifts you up emotionally and lets you see things for themselves. That’s great filmmaking. I am so privileged to have worked with him.
What is special about Jennifer Lawrence?
She is a born actress. Her talent comes from her intuition. I watch her work and she goes into that ‘higher intuitive self’ almost without knowing she’s doing it. It’s like swimming. You watch some swimmers swim so smoothly that they don’t even think about what they’re doing. They cut through the water. That’s the way Jennifer works and she’s magnificent.
What was it like working with Jennifer?
She was lovely, she never pulled rank, she never played ‘star ’ and she is a star, she won an Oscar. But she was wonderfully nice and loving to me and very calm, and oh my goodness she is such a terrific professional. A lot of people have an attitude that something is owed to them. They get very snobbish when they get famous. But Jennifer is down to earth and she gives one hundred and fifty percent of herself. That’s the key. The harder you work, the luckier you are. And I can tell you this young lady really works hard. She’s a pro.
The film has been inspired by the stories of daring and courageous women particularly Joy Mangano, who invented the Miracle Mop. How impressed are you by her story?
She is amazing. Has she had success, or what! But she did have to fight for it every step of the way, just like Joy in the film. I applaud that mop she invented. Why wouldn’t I want a mop like that? I use her coat hangers [that she invented] in my closet. Also, Joy Mangano was inspired by her own grandmother.
There are powerful and complex female characters in ‘Joy’. Is it getting easier for women in Hollywood?
It’s not easy because there are not a lot great roles for women, especially for women my age. I think it’s just as hard or harder. There are 23 male acting roles for every one female part.
When I did ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’, we all thought it was going to change things, because in the old days, there had been so many magnificent actresses like Bette Davis, Greer Garson and Barbara Stanwyck, but it did not happen and that’s not the case now. We need more women in great roles like we have in 'Joy' and we need more human films to make people feel good.
‘Joy’ opens in cinemas 7 January 2016