Ellen Barkin’s new movie is the icing on the cake of her 2011
By Mark Peikert
“I don’t think I’ve ever said the words ‘I’m proud of myself,’” Ellen Barkin said over coffee recently at Soho’s MEET at The Apt. “But this movie is the greatest accomplishment of my career.”
Barkin was speaking of Another Happy Day, which she produced and stars in, but that statement could have been about any number of projects over the course of this past year. In April, she made her Broadway debut in The Normal Heart, winning a Tony Award in the process. This summer saw the release of the indie film Shit Year, with its sure-to-be-iconic poster of Barkin in runny makeup, eyes mostly closed, a cigarette dangling from the side of her famous mouth. But it’s Another Happy Day, writer-director Sam Levinson’s first film, that has the Greenwich Village resident so uncharacteristically happy with herself.
“Quite frankly, I’m having a very good five years,” she said seriously. “I never say nice things about myself and I get yelled at all the time for not owning my accomplishments, but I do have to say over the last five or so years… And it has really hit home in the last year.”
Another Happy Day finds Barkin leading a cast that includes Ellen Burstyn, Demi Moore and Kate Bosworth. Her role as Lynne—a divorced and remarried mother of four struggling to get through her eldest son’s wedding day amid family dysfunction—was, according to Barkin, “the most difficult, rewarding, complicated, cathartic role of my life. This was a killer.”
Among other reasons, Barkin found the role challenging because of her character’s less-than-stellar parenting skills.
“To sit up there on the screen and basically tell the world that I, Ellen Barkin, made some very big fucking mistakes as a mother…” she said, of how audiences might see her performance through the lens of her past. “I’m not a bad person, I’m not a bad mother. It could have traumatized my children.”
Some pressure was removed thanks to Barkin’s close relationship with Levinson, son of director Barry Levinson, who gave Barkin her big film break in 1982’s Diner. “As a producer, I was lucky enough to be working with an extremely gifted and wildly focused, unbelievably well-informed, very strong writer-director who worked really fast,” Barkin said, then grinned. “That writer-director was also a first-time writer-director, so anything that was asked of him he thought was normal. And it was fabulous!”
After being at Levinson’s side for the three years from writing to filming, Barkin said her need for his input as an actor had already been satisfied, leaving her free to focus on her producing chores. “So I’d have to finish the scene,” Barkin recalled, “and say, ‘OK, that’s an hour you’ve been lighting that. Too long. Kate Bosworth is maybe the prettiest girl in the movies. You don’t need that much time. Save it for me!’ So it actually really worked.”
Another Happy Day seems to be the perfect grace note for Barkin to end her anything-but-shit year. “I feel inspired, invigorated, energized,” Barkin said. “I feel brand new, with a life’s worth of experience behind me. And I feel that at 57 years old, I am ready to embrace whatever it is I have to offer as an actor and as a producer. And not to be afraid of it.”
Photo: Ellen Barkin in Another Happy Day. PHOTO courtesy of phase
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