Joan Allen

The mysteries of Yes.

In her ritzy suite at the Sorrento Hotel, Joan Allen cuddles her plump, small dog, apologizes for the snoozing pooch's acrid farts, and explicates the mysteries of Yes (see review), which recently brought her to town for SIFF. How come it's in pentameter? "[Sally Potter] writes all of her screenplays first in verse, and then she chucks it and turns them into prose. But she felt that poetry would support the ideas of East and West and God and science without being heavy-handed or lecturey." Since Allen began as a stage star, did she have Shakespearean training to fall back on? "I've never done Shakespeare. I've never done anything that rhymed. Sally said, 'Think more Eminem than Shakespeare. Think more about rap.' We all went to see the Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, and it just relaxed me about the whole thing, that it was going to have a contemporary feel and it was going to really flow." Potter says that 9/11 inspired Yes, but that it took four years of effort; couldn't she make like her star and alternate classy art films and blockbusters to pay the bills? "I just think her sensibility couldn't tolerate it. I really see her as an artist, almost more than any director I've ever worked with. She gets offered pieces all the time to direct, and she says no. It has to be something, really, that she writes. She almost never reads anything that anybody else writes. "Now, Paul Greengrass, who shot Bourne Supremacy [in which Allen appeared] and had done pretty much only independent films and Bloody Sunday—he did very well under the studio system. He saw it with a tremendous amount of humor. He would say, 'There are benefits to this. I have a car-chase scene, they can get me the best car-chase choreographer. That's kind of cool.' It would be difficult for her. She loves to control things. And, because the stories that she writes are so personal." Is "She," Allen's character in Yes, in part a portrait of the director? "I really think so." Allen cites the scene at the end where She talks to the camera about the nature of God. "I love it, because [Potter] was raised an atheist, so she says, 'Of course, we talked about God all the time.' Those issues of God, the observer, my character as the observer, the scientist, looking through the microscope, looking at the smallest of the small, is very much Sally. Very much Sally, looking out at the world and trying to piece it together and question it. She's one of the most curious people I've ever met. So, I do think that there are aspects of Sally, very much, in the character."

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