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Mad Props To The Prop Pros

November 21, 2007|MICHAEL ORDONA; William Georgiades; Paul Lieberman

AN actor's job is to defend his character, to find the emotional resonance driving that person and stay always in his story, no personal judgments allowed. The best of them pull from deep inside themselves to become their character. But, sometimes, they get a little help. Sometimes, it's not so inside-out. The addition of, say, a wine glass or a sweater or, yes, that haircut, can give an actor that little external nudge to full understanding.

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On playing the lovelorn Florentino Ariza in "Love in the Time of Cholera" and the psychopath Anton Chigurh in "No Country for Old Men"

JAVIER BARDEM

"In 'Cholera,' I was always working with something private, something smelly, like flowers, tea leaves, coffee beans. I was always carrying those things in my hands," he says, sniffing the imaginary objects in his fingertips, "in order to open the instincts. Because it's about a guy who is really open to Fermina's essence everywhere. He's trying to capture where she is, like a dog. No? So I was always wearing those things put in my jacket, it was a private kind of thing. Some cologne. Some vanilla leaves. Something pleasant, sensual.

"In 'No Country,' the hair helped me tremendously. Because when the hair is put together by the hair stylist and I see myself in the mirror, there's something that really puts you like -- in some other place.

"The haircut came out of the blue. It was the Coens' idea, I wasn't expecting it. It was part of the physical transformation. That was the only thing that has to tell us this guy is out of sync, this guy has a problem, this guy is walking down the street with a very ancient kind of haircut that is truly, like, weird. And also mechanical, mathematical almost, like everything has to be in place, which gives you the idea of a very kind of mathematical mind where click click, everything has to be in order.

"The rest has to be totally numb. Kind of one piece of a man. I never in the movie move this, the hip. I turn like one piece, cluck, cluck, cluck, you know? And the haircut was really doing the job, so you don't have to act the haircut; the haircut is acting by itself. Which is like, 'Wow, what is that? That's weird.' So you don't have to play weird if you have that weird haircut."

-- Michael Ordona

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MARION COTILLARD

On playing Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose" and costume designer Marit Allen, who also worked on "Love in the Time of Cholera" "Marit is a very talented person. We had no money at all and yet she managed to clothe all the extras and to clothe Piaf. . . . I wanted to look smaller, so I asked Marit to make the clothes a little tighter than normal, to help me contract. [The other actors] all wore inserts in their shoes to make them seem taller, and I walked around barefoot. I didn't keep any costumes. But I did keep the replica of Marlene Dietrich's cross because Marit gave that to me. Oh! And I kept one of the prosthetics. And the fake teeth!"

-- William Georgiades

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NICOLE KIDMAN

On costume designer Ann Roth, who won an Oscar for "The English Patient," and grappling to figure out her Margot in "Margot at the Wedding" "She just gave me the hat," which was floppy and reddish (think Diane Keaton). "She said, 'Here you go, walk around with that on.' " Then Roth gave her linen pants (think Katharine Hepburn) and director Noah Baumbach gave her a wine glass to hold at rehearsals. "Slowly these exterior kind of behavioral things started to just help me with the characterization. The way I walked, moved my head, because of the hat, and . . . a different gait because of the pants. And the wine actually penetrated deeper because there's something about just always having a wine glass."

-- Paul Lieberman

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ELLEN PAGE

On her title role in "Juno" as a free-thinking pregnant teen

"The immediate moment that I put on the pregnancy pad, the essence of my body language changed. It was important for me to get used to that, the general dynamic, to make it seem as truthfully awkward as possible, if that makes sense.

"The other thing is just how distinct Juno's wardrobe is. I don't think she's like a female teenage character we've seen. I really wanted sweater vests; I really wanted flannel. It doesn't mean anything; she's just a girl who wears sweater vests.

"The wardrobe process was long. It started with that cliche: Here is a unique girl's wardrobe. So it was still like, very mainstream-vague. You know, like 'unique' means My Chemical Romance or something. And I was like, [makes gagging sound]. I wanted it to be . . . something else.

"I guess it seems contrived and silly that it would be that specific -- it wasn't like I walked in and said, 'I demand flannel!' For some reason, immediately I thought, 'sweater vest' . . . and everything else just came along with it. But I was pretty adamant about the sweater vest."

-- Michael Ordona

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