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November 12, 2008

Rosemarie DeWitt's sister act

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As the title character in the Jonathan Demme indie flick "Rachel Getting Married," Rosemarie DeWitt rips her 12-stepping sister a new one -- with love, of course -- for threatening to ruin her Special Day.

DeWitt had done some kitchen table research with girlfriends to come up with those bridezilla moments with co-star Anne Hathaway and get added insight into the twisted love/hate dynamic that exists between sisters.

"I didn't grow up with siblings," DeWitt said in a chat with Gold Rush today. "I never experienced that fighting over the car keys and stealing each others clothes. But having eight half-brothers and -sisters, I still know what loaded relationships these are."

DeWitt, a film and TV veteran who's getting an awards push for her standout "Rachel" performance, is playing another sibling in a complicated relationship in Showtime's "The United States of Tara." She's the younger sis of Oscar nominee Toni Collette, whose Tara decides to toss her meds and deal, cold turkey, with her multiple personalities. The show has a behind-the-camera awards pedigree via writer Diablo Cody and creator Steven Spielberg.

On her day off from filming, DeWitt indulged us first with a "Mad Men" question, where she played the Boho mistress of one dapper ad man. It was less of a question, really, and more of a demand.

GR: So you dumped Don Draper for some smelly hippie? Explain yourself.

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RD: I can't! I said to (series creator) Matt Weiner, "What are you doing to me? Who doesn't go to Paris with this guy?" But the thing about Madge (the free spirited Boho character) is that she knew she would never be able to possess him, and that's a hard position for a strong woman. Maybe she thought he would come back around. I think they need another run-in.

GR: We couldn't agree more. But we'll get off the "Mad Men" kick now. What's it like to be immersed in your first major awards campaign?

RD: I don't have any frame of reference, so that's tough to answer. I'm so happy the movie is having a life because it was such a labor of love. You never know if those projects will be the ones audiences respond to. I'm thrilled to get text messages from friends who've seen it. I say to my actor friends that I wish for them to have an experience like this, working with Jonathan Demme, where there was so much trust and freedom and exploration.

GR: Rachel seemed to want a big party with lots of chaos but at the same time she wanted peace. What did Rachel really want?

RD: She just wanted a day. She wanted to include the people she loved and have it be easy. But it never is. It's like that holiday that you go home and you swear to yourself that you won't fight with your brother and as soon as you walk in the door, it's game on!

Keep reading to hear about DeWitt's presidential all-nighter, the metaphors in "Tara" and that indie feeling.

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GR: Are you forever the sister character now?

RD: I like to think I only play sisters to remarkable actresses.

GR: It's been a pretty stinky year for indies, boxoffice wise.

RD: I'm a sucker for small films and  those movies that people say, "What happened?" "Nothing happened!" And I say, "Are you kidding, everything happened!" Not everything can be Batman. I understand why those kinds of movies are popular, but I think we need all kinds of stories. I get scared that attention spans are shrinking and shrinking. Sometimes you really need two hours to tell a story, and I worry that people will just want to watch YouTube videos. It really made me realize how important it was that we got some nice reviews in a climate like this. We needed those to be seen. Otherwise, it would be a good movie that people would say, "Oh yeah, I heard about that, but I didn't see it."

GR: Since you're on your own campaign trail now, were you following the presidential race?

RD: Definitely. The last election, Gore was winning when I went to sleep, and then when I woke up, he'd lost. So this time, I got off work and forced myself to stay up all night. I wanted to make sure the results didn't go away.

GR: What stands out to you about "The United States of Tara," and why was it a project for you?

RD: It's a metaphor for all of us, because we all struggle with who we are and the parts of ourselves we don't like. Each week, we get a script with a title that somehow applies to every character in the episode, whether it's a 16-year-old boy struggling with his identity, or a 34-year-old woman doing the same. And Tara is always struggling with hers because she never knows who she'll be from one day to the next. It's so great when writers are trying for something, even if it ends up to be a glorious mess. And "Tara" is far from it.

For a family more dysfunctional than yours, "Rachel Getting Married" is in theaters now, and "The United States of Tara" is set for a mid-January premiere on Showtime.

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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

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