Okay, so I’m cheating a bit here but each scene is equally
important and delightful.
Kitchen scene end s1:
I adore that
they are lost in each other’s eyes in the kitchen. In that moment, no-one else
exists. It takes Dot to remind her of her guests to break the
moment. It’s a measure of how important Jack has become to Phryne that she asks him to help her celebrate. Her hand on his emphasises her heartfelt request. Also, I think the shot at the end of Jack leaning against the doorway
watching Phryne is probably my favourite. (Warning:Gratuitous shot of Jack ahead)
Stairs scene at the end of season 2.
I think we all collectively held our breath after Phryne left Jack
comforting Rosie. Would he decide to return to her? But then we saw him in the
car, obviously debating with himself and we all breathed a sigh of relief when
he knocked on the door. A man of honour?
Not always Miss Fisher and then DAMMIT Aunt P shattered our dreams.
Still, it established the setting for season 3 rather nicely.
And finally the farewell scene at the airfield at the end of S3.
Whilst I still have trouble with how Jack could
possibly be expected to follow her, I adore the interchange between them.
Phryne is most definitely committing to him by asking him to follow. She will
always seek adventure but she makes it clear she wants Jack by her side. And
it’s about time we were finally rewarded with a kiss and what a delightful kiss
it was. Arms flailing, feet stamping and a collective ‘aawww’ , closely
followed by ‘About bloody time’ could be heard across the country as hearts melted everywhere.
And, like every story, it starts somewhere. This time it started with a man. Namely, Ron Nyswaner. Screenwriter who told his agent “I’ve discovered the story I was born to write, and you have to make sure I get the chance to write it”. Few more things fell into place… and that’s how the project came to be… The production company, the director, the script… the casting…
“We struggled with the role of Calpernia the most,” Nyswaner says. “The actor would have to be believable as a pre-op transsexual, neither a fully anatomical woman nor a drag queen…”
And while countless actors were auditioned for the role of Calpernia, the aforementioned script has somehow found its way to Lee Pace, fresh Juilliard graduate with couple of off-Broadway productions under his belt… but not too much to show for his on-screen acting.
And you know what? It’s not one of those roles you grab easily, not that obvious of a choice, especially for a beginner… Still… there was something about this particular project…
“When I read Soldier’s Girl, it was not a character I was prepared to play. But I was thinking about it all the time — on my bike, on the bus, everywhere I went. It became something I couldn’t shake… I read the script and I had a few other auditions that week; I could have worked on any one of them, but I couldn’t stop reading it and rereading it because it was so fascinating. There’s so many interesting details and turns and discoveries that, for an actor, to play discoveries and twists like that, it’s gold. I found that I came into that audition off-book, ’cause I’d read it so many times.”
Finally, Lee’s obsession with this script pushed him to show up for the audition… and he has had enough courage to admit that he has no idea how to look transsexual.
“I didn’t come to the audition dressed in drag, I was just wearing a T-shirt and jeans… I knew how to connect and mean what I say. I didn’t know how to play a drag queen.”
Luckily, the creators of the movie saw beyond Lee’s obvious masculinity into his acting genius that was prominent enough to compensate the challenge of physicality. “Lee’s talent was so spectacular that it seemed obvious to choose him,” Nyswaner remembers, “but we were concerned about his physical build. He’s very tall, very broad-shouldered, and he’s a good-looking, lean, but hunky guy. In the end, someone said to the director, ‘Frank, you always go with talent. The other stuff can be worked out.’”
After he was cast, Lee told director Frank Pierson that he was having a difficult time finding his way into the drag queen element of the character: “Pierson just said, ‘Play the woman and the story will be clear’. He said to just watch real women— how they talk, how they walk. Observe all the tiny details… [After that] all I had to do was play the integrity of it, falling in love with someone else, getting away from her past. All I had to do was focus on falling in love.”
OK, lets be honest here for a second. No matter how brilliant we think Lee is… it was still his first acting job… and he was going to do A LOT of acting mistakes here… Until he met Calpernia. The real one.
“Meeting Calpernia actually got me to tone down my performance,” Pace says. “At the time I met her, I hadn’t shot anything yet, [and] I was prepared to play her really girly and really flirty and lay it on really thick. But when I met her… We became really good friends. She’s so forthcoming and articulate about her life, and she gave me a lot of important details. I realized that she doesn’t try that hard [to be girly]. She’s serene. She just is. And she’s exactly as complicated as I thought she would be.”
What else… what else… there’s always something else with Lee’s method acting. Oh, yes, the physicality I already spoke about! How to make a man to play a girl convincingly? Well… make him into a girl!
Make him lose 25 pounds (Lee said he lost the weight by not eating anything and sleeping a lot and described it as one of the most depressing times of his life), pluck his eyebrows (ah-huh, they really did it!), get him to grow his nails to a decent manicure length… and… am I forgetting something? Oh, yeah, a wig, prosthetic breasts and hips. By the way, those were new for every day of the shooting and took about three hours to apply… and in order not to repeat the prosthetics application between takes Lee actually walked around on set transformed into woman. Full-time woman.
Male crew members fell naturally and unconsciously into treating him with gender-based courtesies: holding door for him, touching him lightly on his back as they guided him onto the set. Lee says: “I remember walking on the set for my first screen test, and I was wearing that red wig and the blue dress, and the crew was kind of whistling and saying, ‘You’re hot,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, right’. And then I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever, let’s get this over with’, but a week later, I was walking on stage and they started whistling, and I kind of smiled and said ‘thanks’. I just kind of got into it.”
Not that it helped a lot… Constant starvation didn’t help either… Lack of experience, controversial subjects… How much of it can 23-year-old boy handle?
“I felt I couldn’t do it at all during Soldier’s Girl… I didn’t know how cameras worked, and I wasn’t eating anything because I had to lose so much weight for it and was running around on the set in a dress. I remember thinking ‘This character’s so far from me I don’t know WHAT I’m doing. I’m kind of trusting Frank Pierson, who’s directing it, and crying a lot,’ and I just didn’t know what I was doing. I walked off that set the last day thinking ‘I’ve just done the most horrible performance and I’m never going to work again’.
But then I watched it, and that’s what he caught. He caught a woman who was dealing with a crisis in her life. I was dealing with a crisis in my life because it was my first movie. You take that feeling with you. So after that, you go into things thinking ‘OK, this movie’s about something pretty rough and chances are I’m not going to feel good for the next month and a half’”.
I kinda wish I could quote family support here… but… it doesn’t seem like his family was very appreciative of his role in Soldier’s Girl…
“When I broke it to my parents that I was playing Calpernia, my mom was like, ‘Oh, well, at least you’re not playing a killer’… There were times I’d look in the mirror and wonder, ‘What am I doing to my life here? My dad is going to kill me!’”
Yet… still… He did it. They all did it.
Soldier’s Girl was screened at 2003 Sundance Film Festival as a part of the Dramatic Feature line up. Lee Pace won his Gotham Award for a Breakthrough performance as Calpernia Addams, and the movie itself was nominated for several awards. American Film Institute considered it one of the ten best television program in 2003.
“The reason I went into acting was to be able to play parts as complicated and important as this one. In playing a transsexual, I got the chance to help change people’s perspective about other people and that is a powerful thing.”
So… should I go for a silly light-hearted ending here? As a thoughtful individual, Lee Pace sent a pair of his prosthetic breasts to his 14-year-old brother Will when the film wrapped. (Also… we know that he keeps a pair of Thranduil’s prosthetic ears in a book… he has a thing for silicon body spares, doesn’t he?)
Or… should I go for not-so-silly-and-totally-important ending? It has nothing to do with Lee directly… but since many of us, Pacekeepers, will watch Soldier’s Girl over and over again… I just want you to know this: for the murder of Barry Winchell Calvin Glover was sentenced for life of prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years… And as for Justin Fisher… he is already a free man. Fisher has been released from prison after serving seven years of an original 12 ½ year sentence… Just like that.
Fact out of nowhere: the soundtrack for the movie was supposed to hold one more song – the theme song for the whole movie. When I listen to it… really listen… I know why it didn’t make the cut. I would’ve been too painful… Dreamer - Toni Childs
This piece is complimentary to the one about The Fall. Maybe I’ll make it into the project of sorts…