Laura Linney in Hyde Park on Hudson.Laura Linney is talking mistresses. Specifically political mistresses. ”I think there are a lot of them in every scenario,” says the actress who played the wife of one American president in the miniseries John Adams and is now appearing as the secret lover of another in the movie Hyde Park on Hudson.
”Whether you’re talking about an American president, or leader of a foreign country, or the head of the company, people have liaisons all the time,” she says.
”And people have long-term relationships that are deeper than friendships – a little more important, a little more profound – regardless of whether they are sexual or not. These relationships have happened since the beginning of time and will no doubt keep happening.”
Linney, whose warm vulnerability and intelligence on screen have earned her Oscar nominations for You Can Count On Me, Kinsey and The Savages, plays Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s secret mistress Daisy Suckley in Hyde Park on Hudson. Bill Murray is the charismatic president juggling a messy personal life during a historic visit by stammering King George VI – yes, the one from The King’s Speech – to seek US support for Britain weeks before World War II.
One of the movie’s concerns is how public and private relationships have changed since FDR’s liaisons were considered off limits and photographers politely avoided shots of him being carried or sitting in a wheelchair because of his paralysis from polio.
Linney believes the more open attitude to private matters is awful for most people. ”It’s not just as far as relationships are concerned, it’s also people with their children, people who are going through a hard time, if there’s an illness or if, God forbid, an accident,” she says. ”Reality as entertainment has taken on a whole other force and no one is immune – no one.”
Reality as entertainment was predicted, of course, in one of Linney’s best films, Peter Weir’s The Truman Show. ”Isn’t that amazing,” she says. ”How brilliant was Peter Weir to tap into all of that.”
In an acclaimed film, theatre and television career that also includes Love Actually, Mystic River and television’s The Big C, the Juilliard graduate has also worked with Australian directors George Miller on Lorenzo’s Oil and Ray Lawrence on Jindabyne.
”There’s a delicious twinkle behind the eye of all of those directors and there is a fierce intelligence, which I love being around,” she says. ”And also a real sensitivity to telling stories in a visual context. All three of those men are incredibly creative in storytelling, intellectually and emotionally and visually. And they’re just fun.”
To prepare for her role in Hyde Park on Hudson, Linney read Daisy’s diaries and went to her home on the Hudson River. ”The letters and the diaries that were published gave you a sense of the voice and her cadence and the language she used in terms of affection and things like that.
”But the house was really incredibly beautiful. You go to this beautiful home, which is now a museum of her entire family, go into her room and seeing what she surrounded herself by was just incredibly helpful.
”She lived to be almost 100 years old. And she never married. But she woke up every morning to a large, large lithograph of FDR right across from her bed. Next to that was a vitrine filled with little knick-knacks that he had bought for her.
”FDR famously had a dog named Fala, a black Scotty, and the dog became symbolic of him and his presidency. And when I found out that Daisy was the one who gave him Fala that was a bit of information that took me back the most. I had no idea that his connection to Fala led right to her.”
Linney, who says she was an ”imaginative, shy but active kid”, learnt lessons from her playwright father that have helped her acting career.
”He certainly taught me early on what to look for, where to place my priorities and what makes a good story and why. He was a huge influence.”
So do these presidential and mistress liaisons still happen? ”I have no idea,” Linney says. ”But I have to say that I love watching the Obamas together, more than any other presidential couple. That’s a very different kind of relationship that we’re seeing and I love watching them together. It’s an intimacy that’s not forced. It’s a warmness that’s enjoyable and I’m a big fan of theirs.”
Hyde Park on Hudson opens on Thursday.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.