I grew up mighty obsessed with The Goonies, like many others out there. And yes, that’s the movie that first introduced me to Martha Plimpton, but right now it’s time to put the spotlight on Plimpton’s lengthy and hugely impressive list of achievements that span multiple storytelling formats.
On this episode of Collider Ladies Night, Plimpton revisits some major moments in her film and television career including the reality of what it was like after the release of The Goonies in 1985, what she learned from working opposite entertainment icons like Steve Martin, Dianne Wiest and Ron Howard on 1989’s Parenthood, how the Fox sitcom Raising Hope changed her life and so much more.
But peppered throughout Plimpton’s screen work is a significant amount of theater performances, three of which earned her Tony nominations. But the stage story that Plimpton shared that struck me most was the one that involved her finally starting to enjoy the work. She began:
“I think when I was doing a play, I think I was 29 when I was doing Hedda Gabler with Doug Hughes the director and we were at Steppenwolf and also at New Haven, that’s when I think I started to actually have fun. So it took about 20 years, 21 years to start having fun. But that’s when I started to really enjoy it.”
What was it about that specific production that made it fun? Plimpton continued:
“I think the way Doug directed. He’s one of my favorite directors to this day. He just was so rigorous and yet so fun and so specific and he just made it feel like a worthy vocation and I don’t know if I ever had thought about it really quite that way up until then.”
Plimpton recently had the opportunity to work with another director who made a huge impression on her, Fran Kranz. You’re likely familiar with some of Kranz’s work in front of the lens, The Cabin in the Woods being a personal favorite, but Mass marks Kranz’s feature directorial debut, and it’s exceptional.
Plimpton stars in the movie alongside Jason Isaacs, Ann Dowd and Reed Birney. Plimpton and Isaacs play the parents of a school shooting victim and Dowd and Birney play the parents of the school shooter. Years after the tragedy, the two sets of parents agree to meet and discuss their experiences in an effort to move forward.
I’ve got some very high hopes for Mass this awards season, and also for Kranz’s career as a director moving forward so opted to ask Plimpton what she appreciated most about working with Kranz that she’s excited for other actors to experience on his future films. Here’s what she said:
“I really appreciated his specificity and his preparedness. And I knew that he would have those qualities going in because the screenplay is so specific and it [has a] very, very authentic and organic feeling even though it’s a product of countless hours of work on Fran’s part. He really, really worked very hard to get this thing right. And you can see it in the script. You read it in the script. And so I felt very confident going in that the cast would be in really good hands. That said, he also really trusted us. He really sort of was willing to share his script with us. He really allowed us to take ownership of it, which not a lot of first time directors who’ve written their own scripts are willing to do. Sometimes they can be really controlling and really kind of oppressive with their image of how it should be. Fran didn’t have that. He had a very clear idea of what he wanted and he had very clear boundaries, but the space he gave us to work within those boundaries was enormous, and felt really unusual. He really gave us that movie, you know what I mean? It was an incredible gift, and one that not a lot of directors are able to give their actors.”
Eager to hear more from Plimpton on Mass, the Raising Hope cancellation, appearing on ER, and a whole lot more? Be sure to check out her episode of Collider Ladies Night at the top of this article or listen to our uncut conversation in podcast form below.
Mass is now playing in theaters.
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