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Written by / 3/01/2010 / No comments / ,

REVISITING ANNA WITH SALLY KIRKLAND

Interview with Actress Sally Kirkland on ANNA
SALLY KIRKLAND is an amazing, highly versatile actress, a fact proven in many eclectic roles, particularly the 1987 independent film ANNA as the titular Czech actress struggling in New York City, a performance that garnered an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win.

What kind of preparation went into Anna’s accent?

I can answer that question… The way I achieved that voice and that accent… Initially she was Polish in the script, and then she became Czech. And then I went to the Samuel French bookstore and I got tapes on Eastern European accents. I combined that with restudying Meryl Streep in SOPHIE’S CHOICE…

Sally Kirkland Interview
I combined that with going to the Heidelberg Bar on 86th Street in New York and listening to all of the different Eastern Europeans in all of the different countries. I combined that with Marlene Dietrich… [Imitates Dietrich] “Falling in love again, what am I to do with someone like you, I can’t help it.” I tried to channel Marlene Dietrich with that voice, put that together with what I learned about the accent...

Sally Kirkland
And then once I found out that it was Czech, I knew there was an elevator man in my mother’s building in New York, and I went back to him in the back elevators, and I said, “Cleo, can you spring yourself for about a half hour – I’ll give you a bottle of wine, and come to my apartment – to my mother’s apartment – and I want you to help me with something.” And he read every line in the movie in that Czechoslovakian accent and I put them on tape. Plus I marked the script whenever he would change the W's to V's or role an R, or whatnot.

Sally Kirkland
And there were a lot of extraordinary women who I think were being considered – I’m just gonna take a wild that guess that I think maybe they approached Vanessa Redgrave’s people… Lee Grant, Shirley Knight – lot of different ways to go – and I don’t think initially he [the director] thought I was right… His name is Yurek Bogayevicz.

And I kept coming back; I think there were about three auditions. And I would send him flowers all the time. At one point I think I was standing in the rain, waiting for him to come out – like the scene in the movie. Waiting for him to come out of the building and I just stalked him, you know.

Pauline Porizkova & Sally
And finally I got a call, right when I was at the airport ready to go to Sidney, Australia to teach a hundred actors "Insight Seminars" (acting with Spiritual or New Age techniques)… And that had been planned for some time.

And I had got a call to come read with Paulina Porizkova. And I said to my agent, “I can’t do it, I’m at the airport and I’m ready to go to Sidney.” And they said, “Sally, this is this part you want.” I said, “I know, I know… But I feel terrible letting down a hundred people who have already paid their money. They’re expecting me tomorrow.”

And it was a real moment in my life where I didn’t know how to make a decision, but somewhere I honored the whole spiritual part of me that had already committed to doing this thing that, you know, was very far away and couldn’t be cancelled. So I just… leap of faith… I did a week long there. And I came back and he was waiting for me to test with Paulina Porizkova.

Sally & Pauline
And he had us improvise, and she and I got along instantly and she guessed that I was a Scorpio. I guessed that she was an Aries. It was kind of incredible and we fell in love, she and I, so to speak. And I coached her on acting, and she coached me on Czech, and it was a marriage made in heaven, you know. She was the number one model at that point.

Sally Kirkland
And there was another little trick I used for Anna’s accent. I had, starting in 1970, right up until recent years… I had been a yoga teacher for the Integral Yoga institute. And a man named Swami Satchidananda, who opened the Woodstock Festival… If you remember the guru sitting there, opening the festival… That was Swami Satchidananda. I taught for him, and we learned Sanskrit chanting, so we’d learn [Sally begins chanting]… So if heard in there: there was a rolled R, in a very literal sense. So I used that also for Anna’s accent… I combined Hindi with German with, eventually, Czech.

Did you use your own past experiences for the role of an actress struggling for work?

That and men… My experiences with men. I didn’t have to try too hard. Although one reviewer or journalist said: “Sally Kirkland: Overnight Discovery.” And I said, “Yeah, after twenty-five years.” I’d been doing this thing since I was… Making money at it since I was 17. And I started acting when I was ten… Not for money, you know. So by the time they said “Overnight Success,” it was sort of like: “Okay, sure.” But all the actors out there in the world really related to this role because it totally gives you the hopes and rejections of the actor.

Sally Kirkland
I really enjoy the scene where you’re auditioning for the play with the other actresses…

Wasn’t that great? We did that in one take. Bobby Bukowski, the cameraman there, had a track, and the camera would go from one end of the track to the other, and what you saw, we really didn’t rehearse a lot. We sort of shot the rehearsals. When I jump up on one leg – you know, “Humpy Dumpty sat on the wall…”

Sally Kirkland
In the audition he said, “Throw away the script; give me a nursery rhyme.” And I jumped up and down. I did whatever he told me to, and that ended up in the movie but we didn’t rehearse it. Everything you saw in the movie was filmed exactly how you saw it. Not every scene, but that scene for sure, what you’re talking about, with the actresses.

Sally Kirkland
I loved how Anna walks around in a sort of heavy, clunky manner, reminiscent of certain women from European countries…

Well that was my observation of the Eastern European women. There was a word for it that Yurek told me, and I can’t remember the word for it now… But it was definitely characteristic… Interesting you picked up on that.

Along with your friendship with the young girl, and the aspect of the struggling actress, there’s a love story that’s very moving…

Bobs and Sally
I’d been in love with Bob Dylan in that time-frame, I mean… All my life. But in the seventies, eighties and it was sort of… Ultimately I felt like my heart broke. And I used that for Tonda, the husband… I used Bob. I personalized Bob for Tonda.

Sally & Paulina
One of my personal favorite scenes is with you and Paulina lying on the bed…

It was a five-minute scene, and we only had enough film in the camera for one take. And they asked me if I would mind doing it in one take… We were at the Chelsea Hotel and we only had it for a certain amount of time that day, and this being a low budget film we had to really get that shot so they started out with a master shot in the corner of the room. And they came down closer and closer and closer to the two of us on the bed in more of a two-shot close-up. And I remember that it was a long, long amount of lines, and I was nervous that I wouldn’t get through the whole thing in one take.

Paulina & Sally
And so I had some lines written on a piece of paper, taped to the wall. And when you see my eyes look up, I’m actually looking at the lines on the wall. But being a good actress you would never know… It was just the very end of the monologue. I needed support from this magic marker from this piece of white paper on the wall.

I remember in that scene with her I was talking about having been in a Russian prison, and losing my baby. And I had had a couple of miscarriages, and as a method acting teacher, too… which I am… I used something called Emotional Recall where I was thinking about these two children that I would have had – and using that for losing the baby in the Russian prison, and getting mad at the Russians who kind of created that situation for me… And then holding onto this young woman who was my child and just transferring all of that lost love that I always wanted to have as a mother, to her. It’s a wonderful film, you guys… ANNA.
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