Interview: Melanie Lynskey of Hello I Must Be Going

Melanie LynskeyWe’ve had our eyes on Melanie Lynskey ever since her screen debut in fellow New Zealander Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures back in 1994, a star turn that won her a Best Actress statuette at the New Zealand Film and TV Awards.

Strangely, Ms. Lynskey’s career has seen her shine in a long list of strong supporting roles in films and television over the subsequent two decades (unlike her Heavenly Creatures co-star Kate Winslet, who has since become one of Hollywood’s most popular leading ladies). Not that we didn’t love seeing Melanie in But I’m A Cheerleader (1999), Sweet Home Alabama (2002), Shattered Glass (2003), Flags of our Fathers (2006), Away We Go (2009), Up in the Air (2009), The Informant! (2009) and Win Win (2011), alongside her recurring role as Charlie Sheen’s stalking neighbor Rose on TV’s Two and A Half Men. We just wish she was the name that appeared above the title (or, hell, even right beneath it).

Happily, Melanie rides high atop the cast list in the 2012 independent comedy romance Hello I Must Be Going (Oscilloscope, DVD $29.95, available on Jan. 29, 2013), directed by Todd Louiso from a script by his wife, Sarah Koskoff. The film stars Lynskey as Amy, a thirty-something divorcée staying with her parents in their suburban Connecticut home, who gets romantically involved with a 19-year-old actor (Christopher Abbott, TV’s Girls), an action that actually re-boots her lost passion for life and love. It’s a fine role for a fine actress, and hopefully will mark the start of many more leading roles in even bigger projects.

Disc Dish recently spoke with the lively Ms. Lynskey about Hello I Must Be Going, her experiences as a leading lady, and how she wouldn’t mind appearing in a big-budget special effects movie.

Disc Dish: So here you are on the press trail talking up Hello I Must Be Going!

Melanie Lynskey: It’s really a whole other level of responsibility that I’ve never had before, but it’s super exciting. The nice thing is everyone seems to be responding so well to the movie and that I’m enjoying it very much.

DD: I hope it is enjoyable—you’re in every scene, after all…!

ML: I wasn’t really aware of that while I was reading the script, that I was in every scene. It didn’t even cross my mind. But when we started filming, that’s when it dawned on me, of course. It was a lot of work, but all very satisfying. When a scene ended and they announced that we were moving on, that meant that I was moving on, too.

DD: How many times have your heard journalists like me talk about how Hello I Must Be Going is your “breakout film?”

ML: It is part of the game, so I’m fine with that. I’m so superstitious and so wary of being hopeful, or too hopeful, of what may happen because I’m been doing this for so long. It’s never been super easy for me, but I feel so grateful that I’ve made a living doing this for so many years. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of auditions and I can’t imagine it changing. That’s just been my life for so long. I’m very happy with where I’m at—that’s my mindset. I get the whole breakout thing—people need some kind of little description for what they’re going to read.

DD: At first glance, the narrative for the film sounds familiar: Thirty-something woman deals with a post-divorce identity crisis and finds herself re-awakened by an affair with a much younger man. What made this idea fresh for you?

Hello I Must Be Going movie scene

Melanie Lynskey is driven to find happiness in Hello I Must Be Going.

ML: I think what appealed to me the most is that [filmmakers] really examined the character of Amy. They were patient with the character at the outset, having her sitting with the depression, with being lazy and with her anger. You’re so used to seeing slackery dudes in movies, that it’s a newish thing to see this kind of character for a woman. I thought, “This is interesting,” when I first read it. I like the idea of building a character like this. Amy starts out like an empty shell and Jeremy sees a spark in her, and sees potential. He brings more out of her, and she becomes happy and functional. I like that kind of transition from nothing to somebody.

DD: Your parents are played by Blythe Danner and John Rubinstein, both of whom have done a lot of work in the theater. Is that something you’d like to do?

ML: I would like to do theater. I’m working on my voice, getting up to speed on that kind of thing. If I’m going to do a play, I want to be ready. I did a little bit of theater years ago–I did The Cherry Orchard when I was starting out. I’ve always dreaming of doing a period piece. It’s an interesting thing to do, to study the period.

DD: And your dream role?

Heavenly Creatures

Melanie Lynskey (r.) and Kate Winslet in 1994’s Heavenly Creatures.

ML: It would be in an adaptation of The Sun Also Rises. There’s a role in that book, Lady Brett Ashley Brett, who’s a character that I’ve loved since I was a teenager. And the book is my favorite of all time.

DD: You haven’t worked with your fellow New Zealander Peter Jackson since appearing in Heavenly Creatures and The Frighteners, your first two films. Are you interested in doing a large-scale, Peter Jackson-styled effects movie?

ML: I would love to do a large-scale special effects movie, if I could do something interesting with my character. I don’t what to be the one who comes in and says, “Here, use this gun.” But if there was something to do, I’d love to run around and look troubled and jump around lots of powerful explosions.

DD: Okay, so you’d be game for a little green screen! What else would you like to do that you haven’t done in the past twenty years?

ML: I haven’t done a horror movie yet. That would be fun.

DD: That’s hard to believe, considering you’re a beautiful young actress. Without trying to embarrass you, if they’re not going to cast you in a horror movie, then something’s wrong.

ML: I think they go to a different kind of beautiful young actress, but thank you.



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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.