Ellen Barkin's Happy Day
The Tony Award-winning actress discusses her new film, Another Happy Day
After winning last season's Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her wrenching performance as Dr. Emma Brookner in The Normal Heart, there's already some Oscar buzz for Barkin for the meaty role of Lynn, a hyper-emotional mother coming back to her parents' home for her estranged son's wedding.
She has to face not only meeting her abusive ex-husband (Thomas Hayden Church) and his hot-tempered new wife (Demi Moore), but also her own aloof mother (Ellen Burstyn) and aging father (George Kennedy) plus her two bickering, jealous sisters. She also brings along her three other children (Kate Bosworth, Ezra Miller and Daniel Yelsky) each of whom has his/her own set of problems.
The actress and director -- who are a couple offscreen -- first met on the set of the 2010 film, Operation Endgame, which he wrote. The name, Levinson, was no stranger to Barkin, however, since Sam's dad, Barry Levinson, directed her in her breakthrough film, Diner.
"We'd been sitting around for awhile, talking about the film when I noticed the name, Levinson, on his script cover, and I said, 'Are you Barry's kid? And he said, 'Didn't you know?'" she recalls. "Both men -- at very different times in my life -- gave me roles that were so close to the surface of where I was at the time and so raw and true in terms of the work I needed to do in order to succeed for myself. Sam has now given me a whole orchestra to play."
Indeed, Barkin was immediately taken with the script to Another Happy Day. "When Sam first gave me the script, I went straight home and read it and I was really shredded. I was sobbing," she says. "It really got to me, and then I burst out laughing. Emotionally, I literally did not know what to do with myself and I think that's the experience the audience has."
"There are mothers who want to do better than their parents and sometimes -- to the point of damaging -- they want to protect their children from the outside world. But if you do that too much, you're not giving them the tools to protect themselves. And I think, within that framework, mistakes are made all the time, big ones, small ones and profoundly traumatic ones and you just hope that when these mistakes begin to resonate in their lives, that they do better than you did."