Viola Davis FENCES & Tom Hanks SULLY

Variety, November 29, 2016 | Go to article overview

Viola Davis FENCES & Tom Hanks SULLY


Tom Hanks: Is the perfect preparation for shooting a movie to have done the same exact text for 800 performances already?

Viola Davis: I would say, Tom, that it probably is not. I think that when you've done the text, yes, you have done the prep work. But what you have to be is still surprised. You can't do it by rote. So with [the theatrical version of] "Fences" we rehearsed for four weeks, we did four weeks of previews, and I did the play for 13 weeks. And so, yeah, there's a knee-jerk response: "Oh, I already know it" And then something surprises you - you wake up. Someone throws you a line in a different way, and you're like, "Oh, wait a minute" So it's a great preparation, and it isn't a great preparation.

Hanks: But you have to [act] so surprised in "Fences" because you get some huge news there. And you've already responded to that huge news, I'm going to say, a thousand times.

Davis: Yes. And it's life-changing news.

Hanks: I find that when you're no longer thinking about the dialogue as dialogue - meaning, something you had to memorize - when you know it as well as you know the Pledge of Allegiance or your favorite song that you've been singing since you were 13, there's a freedom of just starting, and it takes you wherever it is that you go. So if you've done the play for 150 performances, you don't have to think of the dialogue as dialogue.

Davis: You don't have to think about the dialogue, but you still have to think about the characters. You don't feel like you quite really ever know them, even when the play is over.

Hanks: So you're still discovering yourself as that character?

Davis: Absolutely. The parts of the play that I didn't hit - that I feel like I never discovered onstage - now it's a chance to discover it.

Hanks: The bad thing about doing things on film is they live forever. If you're going through the grid seven years after you've made the movie and boom! - there it is on HBO or Showtime, and you end up catching seven or eight minutes - that's all I can stand of any one of my movies. And I just pray that I have no memory of doing it, because if I do have a memory, it's a painful one: Here's a moment that I didn't land it, here's a moment that I never thought was great. But every night in the play, you react - you react to the moment one time, and then it's gone. The great thing about doing plays is they're gossamer things, and in the wink of an eye they disappear. But every film you've made is going to live forever.

Davis: I did a play, "Seven Guitars" for over a year, and I didn't feel like I ever got it. …

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