Puzzle interview: Actress Kelly MacDonald commends the growing confidence of women in the film industry
Although Kelly MacDonald has often been at the side of stories, her presence an actress is never forgotten. After playing supporting roles in eminent films like Trainspotting and No Country For Old Men, as well as the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, the Scottish performer has finally landed her first live-action leading role in Puzzle. She plays Agnes, an insulate, Catholic housewife whose existence centres on cooking and cleaning for her husband and two sons. After discovering a talent for completing large jigsaw-puzzles, she begins to develop her own independence and begins to question her life – risking her relationship with her family.
The Upcoming was thrilled to chat with MacDonald about the film, which opened this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. We discussed her character, how the cast bonded with cooking rather than rehearsals and whether she thinks the presence of more female-led movies means the industry is changing.
You play the main character, Agnes. What can you tell us about her?
Agnes is a very ordinary woman. She’s a wife and a mother, and has a very small world. It’s basically her family and the church, and nothing else. Nobody really pays her much mind. This story is about her finding that she has a voice, an inner world that starts to bubble up and leak out.
Is that what attracted you to the character?
I was just really intrigued by her. There’s a sort of quiet strength that I was interested in portraying.
This is your first live-action leading role, and in the film, the camera rarely leaves you. Was it daunting or did you love it?
It’s funny, I didn’t really think about that aspect of it. It’s just not the way my brain works. It’s now that I’m doing press that people keep talking about it. I’m always part of an ensemble, I’m a team-player, so I didn’t feel pressure at the time. I slightly feel pressure now [laughs].
Director Marc Turtletaub didn’t want to have rehearsals prior to shooting. Does this affect how you prepare for a performance?
No. We had what was, near enough, rehearsals. We didn’t read anything out, we didn’t really read a scene, which was a bit more unusual. But our rehearsal time really was just conversing, talking through things and spending time together. We went out and cooked our own food together, and it was really fun. It was a bonding exercise.
And what did you cook? Do you remember?
I think we were meant to cook chicken paprikash, but I feel like it wasn’t that. To be honest, for me and Austin [Abrams, who plays Agnes’s son Gabe], it became about the wine on the table. We weren’t really paying too much attention, but we cooked food and I think it was nice – I don’t really remember [laughs].
Alike to Robert teaching Agnes in the film, did you have anyone teach you how to “puzzle”?
No, I was a natural [laughs]. I was a natural at the age of five with my Paddington Bear jigsaw. No, I didn’t do a single puzzle before I started filming. And then suddenly I was in a room with a puzzle, and I thought “gosh, I should’ve thought this through!”. But once I got started on them, I was hooked. There was me and a group of other members of the crew constantly puzzling. At a certain point in the movie, that was our main concern. The movie took a back seat!
Puzzle is one more in a string of films in recent months to centre on a female protagonist. Do you think the industry is changing?
I think there are conversations being had, and it’s about time. I think it’s good not only for this industry, but for every industry. It’s given women a confidence that maybe they wouldn’t have had before to talk about it, because everyone is talking about it. It’s been a long time coming.
Puzzle is released nationwide on 24th August 2018. Read our review here.
Watch the trailer for Puzzle here: