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Video/Q&A: 'August: Osage County' co-stars Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson

Matt Pais, @mattpais

RedEye movie critic

January 8, 2014

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After revisiting the Beastie Boys’ album “Ill Communication,” “August: Osage County” co-star Juliette Lewis recently tweeted, “Kanye’s got nothing on Beasties.” Surely she’s heard from Kanye by now, right?
 
“No!” exclaims Lewis. “Do you think he would get mad at that?”
 
“I’m pretty sure if he’s perceived as anywhere other than No. 1” says co-star Julianne Nicholson, “It’s not good.”
 
“I revere and think Kanye West is amazing and revolutionary as a musician,” clarifies Lewis. “So it was showing how great Beastie Boys were.”
 
In other words, she’s not just trying to stir up maximum drama after appearing in a film with as much drama as “August,” opening Jan. 10, in which a trio of sisters (Lewis, Nicholson and Julia Roberts) is at the center of a constantly bickering family that comes together when dad (Sam Shepard) disappears. “August” co-stars Meryl Streep, Ewan McGregor and many more and comes from Chicagoan Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which debuted at Steppenwolf in 2007.

At the Four Seasons Hotel, Lewis ("Natural Born Killers"), 40, and Nicholson ("Boardwalk Empire"), 42, talked about feeling guilty around cops, if Streep ever has a bad take and why rage sometimes can be funny.
 
You guys have talked about this movie being something people can see and say, “At least my family’s not that crazy.” What if someone sees “August: Osage County” and says, “Uh oh, that’s exactly my family”?
Julianne Nicholson: Poor them.
Juliette Lewis: You’re like, “They’re still living?”I think what’s great about this is you will see seeds of not necessarily your family but family dynamics. The awkward speeches at a table. Everyone I know is touched by addiction in some way or another, whether it’s a distant cousin or an uncle. So there’s that theme. How you can have three sisters—we play sisters—deal with their parents’ abuse, neglect and upbringing so differently.
JN: I think birth order is such an interesting thing, where you fall in the family and how that informs your whole life really. Also keeping secrets. Don’t do it. [Laughs]
JL: Yeah, a lot of people deal with how we cover things and what we choose to reveal with our family.
 
How good are you at keeping secrets?
JL: I’m terrible.
JN: I think I’m pretty bad at it also. I think I’m flushing just thinking about keeping a secret.
 
It’s like when a cop drives by and you’re not speeding, but you feel like you are.
JN: I panic. I think I’m breaking a law. If I see a policeman, I’m pretty sure I’m doing something wrong. Always I think I’ve stolen something and when I walk out of a store, I think, “Did I steal anything?” In case the alarm goes off. I didn’t steal anything.
 
That’s something that someone who stole something would say.
JN: [Laughs] “I swear, officer!”
 
Everyone in the cast sings the praises of Meryl Streep, but even LeBron James has an off game. Do you think even the best actors have off takes?
JN: That was not my experience watching Meryl.
JL: We didn’t see it.
JN: She may feel that way about her own work, but watching her, I never [thought], “Oh man, she messed that one up.” That never happened.
 
“That sucked, Meryl!”
JN: “Do you want to take that one again, Ms. Streep?” She’s amazing. Every time she opens her mouth, it’s magic.
JL: In one way or another, it’s pretty spectacular.
 
That seems like it would be pretty rare.
JL: Yeah. The best pretty much are always striving for a level of honesty. Can there be an off game? I’m sure.
 
Do you guys have takes where after it’s over you say, “Oh, that was not the one.”
JL: Yeah, 100,000 percent. What, are you kidding? ‘Cause you’re always striving for better than great.
 
I was curious if the movie is cynical about marriage or just these people in the institution, which brings up: Should we hate the player or the game?
JL: [Laughs] Your questions! Who is your demographic?
 
18-35.
JL: Who is your editor? Let me talk to him.
 
Because it’s good or bad?
JN: It’s excellent.
JL: You’re making me laugh; I love it. Laughter is a good thing. The player or the game? [Laughs]
JN: About marriage? I’m too old to understand that question.
 
Is it the people or the institution in this case, where marriage is so difficult?
JN: In this movie, it’s the people.
JL: The institution, it should mean different things for different people. In the beginning of time, we know it was for state or tax purposes or something. Now I think it’s a really noble endeavor. I’m single, but I still think that the attempt at finding harmony for long term with another human being is a beautiful thing.
JN: It’s funny because I’ve actually been thinking about this. I’ve heard of a couple people recently who are breaking up, who are divorcing, and it’s made me question: Is it those people? You can’t speak to anybody else’s marriage; I see you have a wedding ring. It’s hard. It’s hard to be married, but at what point, why does one couple throw in the towel? Why does someone go through that period, hopefully to something better again? A life is long, a marriage is hopefully long, and there’s going to be ups and downs. It can be a challenge to spend your life with someone.
 
Juliette, you said rage can be funny sometimes. It reminded me of the “Seinfeld” episode when Jerry’s getting mad and people just laugh at him. Why do you think rage can be funny like that?
JL: [Laughs] Oh, dear, I grew up with a mom that would fly off the handle. And all her kids we’d be laughing because she’s Looney Tunes! She was a single mom working her ass off with her little rug rats. And half the time people are getting mad over the littlest things. You know, like, “WHO DIDN’T PUT THE ORANGE JUICE AWAY?!”
JN: [Laughs]

She’s laughing!
JL: She knows it, ‘cause she’s a mom.
JN: I think I’ve got upset for worse. Or for less, I should say.
JL: Rage is not funny if it’s threatening your physical person. But even when you see two guys who are about to fight in a bar, I mean, come on, there’s nothing more goofy than this.

Over who forgot to put the orange juice away.
JL: It’s probably, “I was standing here.” “No, I was standing here.”

I like your tough guy impression.
JN: [Laughs]That’s  Juliette as a man.
JL: I’ve seen it growing up in junior high school. Two guys shoulder to shoulder, “What’s up?!” “What’s up?!”

“Do something.”
JL: He knows!
JN: He’s a guy!

I obviously have been in …
 JN: Many, many fights.
 JL: So, yes, rage is funny, unless it has a gun or a knife, it’s not funny.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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