Griffith surfaced at the Locarno Film Festival this week to promote her role in a short film, “Thirst,” which marks the first narrative effort from director Rachel McDonald. The 25-minute story finds Griffith playing somber, alcoholic prostitute Sue, who wastes her days away at a grimy bar, where she meets fellow lost soul Billy (Josh Pence) and helps him work through his own bouts of depression. The project, one of several that Griffith has recently finished, had personal connotations for the actress.
In a conversation with Indiewire in Locarno, she discussed how she drew from her own troubles for the part, as well as the rising acting career of her daughter Dakota Johnson, who stars in the adaptation of the erotic drama “50 Shades of Grey” coming out next year — a movie that, Griffith added, she won’t be watching herself.
Alcoholism, Real and Imagined
I had a reputation with people in my industry as being a wild child, being a drug addict and an alcoholic. After being sober for five years, this part comes along and felt like if I could act it out and do it — not for anyone else, just for me — to do that harsh of a life of an alcoholic, I would be able to get it out. I did stop before I got to that point, but I could’ve easily been Sue.
When I read the story for “Thirst,” I loved it, because I’m an alcoholic. I don’t drink anymore, but I did. So that really attracted me to it because I wanted to play that kind of part. But that’s a smaller part of it. I got a letter from Rachel asking me to consider doing it, it was very beautiful and moving. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but it was enough for me to say, “Please come over,” which she did, and I just loved her. I loved her vision and the way she spoke about wanting to make this movie. So I thought I’d just try it out. She was so prepared and it was really awesome to watch her directing and working with me, suggesting certain little things.
Avoiding Her Own Performances
I found it difficult to watch myself the first time, because I went, “Oh my god, I look so old!” Stupid shit like that. Then the next time I watched it, I cried, because I could separate myself from myself and look at the story.
When I was reading it, I was like, “Oh my god, do I have to do that?” Most of it was that kind of thing. I liked that. If it’s scary — if I feel like I’m on a tightrope and could possibly fall — then I want to do it, because I want to make it across. That was the draw for me.
I’ve worked with a lot of people now, because I’m old — older — and I’ve done a lot of movies. I’ve worked a lot. I don’t like to watch myself. I don’t go to the movies unless I have to go to the premiere. But this was really interesting because I really was shocked the first time, but the second time, I was going, “She really knows what she’s doing. It’s a beautiful work of art, like a puzzle she put together in such a beautiful way.”
Working With Women
I think Rachel’s an amazing storyteller and I’m so proud I got to work with her and be a part of this. I think that she needs to make more movies. She’s a woman, which is good — I like that, because we need more women directors in this world. There’s nothing wrong with a male’s point of view, obviously, but it’s just a different way of telling a story. We need to feel more stories. That’s what women do…I just did another movie [“Day Out of Days”], with another female director, Zoe Cassavetes.
It was meeting [Rachel] that was the catalyst for making me want to do “Thirst.” When I saw it, I was so shocked and impressed, because she really changed the story very much. It was a harsher story the way the script was written. There were a lot more characters involved. She really changed the movie. There were things that were taken out of the story. That’s one of the reasons why I’m one of her fans. She took that and made it into a really great little film — not that it wasn’t well-written, but it was kind of all over the place. She just narrowed it down.
I have not seen “50 Shades of Grey.” I don’t think I’m going to see it…[Dakota] was like, “You guys cannot come. There’s no way.” So we’re not going. I did go visit for a couple of days when they were shooting just normal stuff. I did see the Room of Pain — I did go in there and check it out.
On the eighth, I’m going to see my daughter filming another movie on Pantelleria [in Sicily]. She just did a movie with Johnny Depp [“Black Mass”].
She’s amazing — so good. It’s just so beautiful to see her doing this. She had her mom and her dad and her grandmother and she’s just taken us all and thrown us away. She’s like, “Here I am.”
I’m going to do a lot of things. I’m going to do “Pippin” on Broadway in January. It’s not about my career now. It’s just about finding great work and having a good time. My kids are almost grown. I’m getting divorced [from Antonio Banderas]. I’m just happy. I’m really joyful. Life is good.
I’m going to do a movie with Bob Saget. This is a really out-there, silly comedy. But I went and had a conversation with him and said, “The character is stupid, it’s nothing. I want to have to lunch with you and thank you for offering it, but I can’t do that.” So he went, “Well, what do you need?” Then we talked about it and he talked to the writer and they changed it. What you want, you can create.