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Melanie's Mini Memoir: Winslet, Jackson and "Heavenly Creatures"

Our Wednesday night series Hit Me With Your Best Shot resumes on May 4th with David Lynch's Eraserhead (see the May & June schedule here), but tonight we bring you A Very Special Episode.

We knew from Twitter that the actress Melanie Lynskey (Win Win) enjoyed this particular series. After our group gaze at Heavenly Creatures (1994), which happened to be her film debut, she sent us the following note with permission to publish it. How great! Melanie is currently in movie theaters as the troubled mom in Win Win but she's got two more films on the way. She's completed work on Eye of the Hurricane co-starring with Campbell Scott (another underrated actor) and Touchback, a sports fantasy starring Kurt Russell. 

Melanie takes it from here...

"So excited you did a Hit Me With Your Best Shot on "Heavenly Creatures". I loved reading what everyone had to say. I don't know if I can do a *best* shot, but the one that came to mind instantly as being the most symbolic of my experience on the movie as a whole is a small scene which is part of the montage in the early scenes of the friendship (you talked a bit about that montage). There's a shot where Diana Kent dabs her lips with a napkin at a dinner table and the camera swoops around the table and settles on me imitating the way she does that.

It's kind of a weird shot for me to choose; there are so many beautiful shots in the movie (the amazing Alun Bollinger, AlBol!) and so many moments I so clearly remember filming because I was so connected to Kate in that moment, or I was going through some crazy emotional turmoil for a scene and there it is, captured forever.

Filming that little dining room scene, to witness Peter's energy and how badly he wanted this tiny little moment to work out was about the most inspiring thing my little 15 year old self could see. He had this idea, and he wanted to make it work, and every take we did felt exciting, because we were all so invested in making that shot happen. I remember looking around the room and really feeling so grateful to be exactly where I was at that moment, with a group of frustrated people in a little room doing the same thing over and over.

I cant remember how many takes we did. We did it many times and I remember Peter just being so committed, even though it was proving very difficult to capture. The timing was very tricky.  The feeling of being part of a group of collaborators working together to create something was so powerful to me. I felt so fortunate to be part of the group.

The scene in the bathtub where it's all kind of blue - i remember that one like it was yesterday, it was so intense, the feeling in the room. And the shot of Kate is insane, about as beautiful as it gets. And any scene with Sarah Peirse feels extraordinary to me because she gave such a beautiful, honest performance. She just amazes me.

When I think about that shoot, the thing that I think about is how completely excited I was to be doing my first professional acting job, and how the most exciting times for me were those where I was sitting there thinking...

This is a movie. This is what it's like when people make a movie. This is amazing.

When Peter would get all excited about something, he would get like a little boy and it was adorable. Every camera move he and AlBol came up with was just mesmerising. The pieces would all click together and the chemistry of the scene would start to be created, and to me, it felt like magic.

They always wanted movement, and we as actors were always timing what we were doing to the camera move. Kate and I needed to have so much energy at all times, and Peter and AlBol and the way they were shooting really contributed to this sort of breathless, intense, excited headspace that we pretty much lived in for 3 months. Kate and I would go home at the end of a long day and hang out for hours just jabbering away to each other."

We sincerely thank Melanie Lynskey for this mini-window back to the making of one of the best films of the 1990s. [Here's the original post which prompted it.]

Next Wednesday on "HMWYBS" we're discussing David Lynch's Eraserhead (1977). Join us with your own choice or just be here for the discussion. Eraserhead is currently available on Netflix Instant Watch.


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Reader Comments (16)

This is so great! I love that she likes the series, that she shared her memories and the shots themselves!

Melanie Lynskey for Reader of the Day. Hee.

April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

James T -- i say "reader of the month!" I mean really. She's going above and beyond. :)

This note really made me want to visit a working movie set someday for like a full day. I'd love to see it happen just once. I'm sure much of it is boring (as we always hear), lots of waiting around, but i refuse to believe it.

April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

I've been an extra in some commecials (not the same thing, I know) and it was mostly boring and tiresome. I remember complaining A LOT.
But yeah, it would be great to be on a set where people you admire do their thing.
(No, I don't mean Brangelina's bedroom ;) )

April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

She was so great in that film. She was great in Win Win, too. She continues to be great!

April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWhitney

Amazing! This kind of thing will make your blog an even more invaluable archive for film historians - think of how precious this kind of recollection of a HItchcock movie or something is now.

Also, I thought she was really good in Up in the Air. Yay!

April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeRightBack

This is awesome. Congrats!

April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

wow. this is amazing.

even though she's mostly doing supporting stuff these days, i think she's still such a joy to watch. her cameo in The Informant was terrific. and in Win Win she was also amazing. true definition of a good supporting actor.

April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

This was such a wonderful surprise! I always look forward to Melanie Lynskey's impeccable supporting performances, and I'm pleased to see her offer such insightful, yet still personal, analysis of the film.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrosengje

Let's not forget that she was far and away the best part about Away We Go.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRose

The stars read us! Yay! But also kind of scary. Her doing a best shot for Heavenly Creatures is the best idea ever. Second best would involve her sitting with Robert Osborne to discuss cinema.

Melanie, if you're reading this, you and this movie helped shaped my childhood. Thank you for being a part of it. :D

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo

That's great, you've hit the big time Nathaniel!

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJim Wilson


April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRJ

Great post, Nat.

What a treat to get such personal insight to the production. It's actually been years since I've seen HC - Now I'm inspired to re-watch.

Also, great to see you last night - we must get together more often! :)

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan P

Fantastic, so amazing to her her perspective!

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlexa

I just looked up Eye of the Hurricane and was really surprised to find out that it was directed by a professor at my school. I almost took his class, I don't remember why I dropped it but now I'm kinda bummed because I can't say that my professor directed a movie with Melanie Lynskey in it.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterthefilmjunkie

It's so nice to hear the actual actor remember the moments on sets, this is a great post and shows just how nice Melanie. (Congrats on landing this.)

As an aside, when watching this for the series I was thinking if it was made now Marion Cotillard would be an obvious choice for Juliette's mom.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.
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