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« Linkomaniac | Main | Love Letters Pt. 1: Zachary Quinto, Ahna O'Reilly, Chris Messina »

Love Letters Pt. 2: Kathy Najimy, Rosemarie DeWitt, Xander Berkeley

Melanie Lynskey Guest Blogging!

I made a little dream list of people I respect and admire beyond all reason and sent them a little e-mail saying:

I've seen you do work that has made me want to write you a love letter because it's moved me so deeply. Who or what would you like to write a love letter to? What piece of art or artist or feeling has moved you in this way?"

Here are a few amazing responses I got. [PART ONE featured Zachary Quinto, Ahna O'Reilly and More...]


To the beautiful, soul-baring goddess Rosemarie DeWitt "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Rachel Getting Married OF COURSE BECAUSE I'M IN LOVE WITH IT"

Rosemarie's love letter:

Seeing Mark Rylance in "Jerusalem" is momentarily eclipsing every other performance I've seen or fallen in love with. He made me rethink what was possible as an actor and at the end of that play my body was literally quivering in anticipation of the gods coming. I felt as if I had witnessed some sacred ritual and was blown away by the transformative power of that kind of whole bodied- soul stirring-storytelling. I had long admired him but now my love for his work makes me feel like a 14 year old girl who would hang a poster of him on my bedroom wall. And in fact I have the Playbill cover hanging over my desk. :)

Sonya Walger and Adam Scott in "Tell Me You Love Me"To the glorious, strong, sexy, and really fucking brave actress Sonya Walger "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Tell Me You Love Me..."

Sonya's love letter:

I have a strange moment I think of often when I work and it was when I first became aware of this fragile line between life and art and how the best work leaves you not knowing which one you just witnessed. my grandmother was on the board of governers for a school near her house and she would diligently attend all the school plays and fetes and events even though none of her grandchildren/family attended. she took me with her to see the school play of "BUGSY MALONE". I must have been 8 or 9, and the kids peforming must have been maybe 14-15? I couldn't believe what I saw. I was blown away. I'd never seen anything so glamorous, so alive, where everyone was having so much fun. I'd been to plays in London and musicals, but nothing, nothing like this. It was completely transporting and unlike anything I'd ever seen. And at the very end, they all sang the finale, and Bugsy pulled Blousey into his lap and they were all breathless, panting as we stood and applauded, rained applause on them, and he beamed at her and pulled her in and kissed her. quickly, on the mouth, on stage. and I remember feeling so alive in that moment, so completely full of wonder, was that real? was that supposed to happen? is he allowed to kiss her? was that in the script? (although I doubt I knew the word script at that age). I think about it still.

I wonder if those kids remember that production, those kids now in their 40's with wives and children and jobs and mortgages. I wonder if it sparked anything in any of them the way it did in me. i think about it often, strangely, that one tiny moment in a school play. and I still don't know exactly why or what it means, except, that, as I said, it made me feel so alive, so engaged, so curious, so full of wonder for what they had done, pulled off, been swept up in. and more than anything, it made me long, body and soul, to be up there with them too. to be kissed on Bugsy's lap."

Gillian Jacobs, Xander Berkeley, Kathy Najimy, and Matt Ross after the jump

To the beautiful, hilarious, smart, sweet, weirdly specific in the most brilliant way, the amazing Gillian Jacobs: "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Choke (and obviously I love Community)..."

Gillian's love letter:

I keep thinking of Shelley Duvall. I love her because I think she's emblamatic of that golden era of 70s filmmaking. There is no woman starring in major motion pictures today that is as odd as Shelley Duvall. I adore her films with Robert Altman- "Nashville", "Three Women", etc. She has a confidence and this wonderfuly goofy smile. Everything about her is slightly off-kilter and I just think she's terrific."

To one of the truest artists I know, the amazing actor and painter Xander Berkeley "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: how great you were in 24..."

Xander's love letter:

My love letter is to the spirit of adventure in the actors I've had the great good fortune to work with. The willingness to throw a 'normal' existence completely out the window when embarking on this ignoble profession. To accept the reality of endless rejection and scrutiny along with absolute unpredictability and constant upheaval even when one is lucky enough to be hired. For the sake of storytelling and make believe. It is a gypsy's life no matter what. And it attracts a lot of brave souls to its community of players. The best ones tend to be the most daring. Occasionally deranged. And very rarely dull. When the right combination are brought together in the right place (or even the wrong place!) for a good story to be told well, the result is often like a kind of falling in love, but group love. Like family. Sometimes just for that time and place, but the sense of it in retrospect is no less resonant and memorable.

It occurred to me that we are like a tribe of wanderers who gather together in different clans for periods of time and then move on. For survival. But we form friendships fast and deep. So we bond in the extreme and then move on. Life is ultimately unpredictable and unstable by nature, so in that sense our lifestyle more closely approximates the nature of reality. And those who have chosen this steep path and excelled to any heights within it get a great view together in the thin air and have a feeling of being tethered like climbers. The lack of oxygen sometimes makes us crazy, and there are fatalities. But the danger is part of the pact. We come from a hundred broken families, but rarely were these families loveless ones. Instead they were charged with strong emotions and shared experience (joy and adversity), and a feeling of belonging to a tribe. Outsiders banded together, not against the world, but very much in it. I feel so incredibly blessed to have worked along so many brave, big hearted, crazy mountain climbers over the years. And I will l always feel strong love them individually and as the families they became for me along the way."

To the amazing filmmaker and actor who slides between "adorable" and "terrifying" as though the adjectives were "bothered" and "annoyed" - Matt Ross "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Big Love..."

Matt's love letter.

This is an impossible question. Every day might bring a different answer.  But today, if I were to write a love letter to someone whose work has given me the most joy, nourishment, solace and happiness, and ultimately inspired me to want to add my voice to the great cacophony, I would write a love letter to Francis Ford Coppola. This man made "The Godfather," "The Godfather, Part 2," "The Conversation," and "Apocalypse Now" in a single lifetime. He is a sublime madman and I bow before this greatness.

Okay, fuck it. I'm adding Woody Allen for making "Love and Death," Mike Leigh for "Naked," Hal Ashby and Peter Sellers (and Jerzy Kosinski) for "Being There," Steven Soderbergh and John Huston for too many to list, and Terry Gilliam for "Brazil." 

To the glamorous, profound, funny, heartbreakingly real actor and writer and incredibly loving and involved activist, my hero, Ms Kathy Najimy "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Kathy and Mo "

Kathy's epic love letter to Bette Midler.

So one day 1973 I am on the porch eating a Scooter Pie, listening to the radio and writing a song for my self made girl group The Honeybees, when I hear my first Bette Midler song “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”. Who is that?   I love that!

The next day, I ride my bike right over to our scuzzy K Mart and buy the album… "THE DIVINE MISS M" -- I believe it cost three dollars and some cents—I paid for it with the money my drunk Uncle Fred had thrown at me that week before while I belly danced for spare change in our living room. We’re Lebanese. I did it all the time.

we didn’t have the dough a record player at home.  So I brought the bette album to the school gym to listen to. I –loved- her- voice. I made a cocoon for myself, away from the popular kids, and jocks, away from the cool druggies, and the girls who could wear shorts and midriff tops and away from my cousins’ hot urban crowd. Every day, every recess, every song, every word. I. Was. Obsessed.  I’d listen to it -----over and over again by myself..  

“Oh you got to have friends the feeling oh so strong you go have friends…”

When I got home from school I ran to the TV Guide (my mother’s Bible) and, miracle of miracles, Bette Midler would be on The Tonight Show THAT night…   Shiiiit!!! the Tonight Show was past my bedtime, but I bartered with my mom. “Mom-a!  I will sweep the rug for a week straight (yes, sweep…we couldn’t afford a vacuum cleaner---    

There we are, my dad is sitting in his chair (isn’t it interesting how there’s always a “dad’s chair” but never even a mom’s “footstool”?) My older two sisters and brother and I have TV trays in front of us with chocolate space food sticks, Shasta and babghanough.   We turned on ....We GET UP and turn on our three-channel, faux-wood-paneled console TV.   And --There --she --was, looking like someone I had never seen before: wrapped up in a sequined, tight as a bagel dog–halter dress, speed-shuffling on mile-high platform shoes, belting out “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

And she moved like a penguin on meth.   She shook, and shimmied, and sang out as if she was the queen of her own parallel universe governed by her own laws----  Like Barbra in Funny Girl (which I saw 14 times that year) Bette  was “different” than those lady-like, “follow the rules” show bizzy women we had gotten used to. She had big boobs, but they didn’t subtly peak out in a playful, bashful, flirty way, like a proper TV lady… Bette proudly let them fly. She was IN on the joke, and it was on her terms: “This is what you want? Then here they ARE!”   

I grew up watching Totie Fields, Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller on TV, all funny women, but its like we accepted them, and we let them be famous women…on ONE condition: that they made fun of themselves. They weren’t skinny, or waspy looking. They actually looked like most of us.  But it seems they were accepted ONLY if they talked about how fat, or stupid, or old, or ugly, or undesirable they were.   But then there, with no apologies, on our shitty TV set with a plastic dial to change the shitty UHF channels, was Bette. Authentic, fearless.  

It wasn’t so much that I fancied myself a singer, but I knew I would be something. And somehow, deep inside, I knew, however impossible, I wanted to do that.   I wanted to make my own rules too. Bette held the key.   I spent years scraping money together following her every move, Every concert, every Film, TV show,— I collected  her albums, books, magazine articles- she was the decoration the walls in my first apartment.. in fact one year she was actually the star at the top of my Christmas tree."

I hope this was as interesting for you guys as it was to me!

I'm so grateful to all these amazing people for getting back to me. Wow.

 xo - Melanie

Love Letters Pt. 1
Noah Taylor
Photos "Hello I Must Be Going"
Venice 1994
My DVD Collection

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Reader Comments (17)

This was amazing Melanie...I love how 'into' the guest blogging you're getting! Oh, and I love you! Was that weird? Is it weird to say that over the internet? But seriously...I do.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

Love this. Especially love Sonya and Kathy's story. Man, I can't even tell you how much joy TFE has brought me today.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWill H

Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.

And I love the call-out to Mark Rylance.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

I am right there with Rosemarie about Mark Rylance in Jerusalem.

That man.


A million thank yous, Melanie, for gathering and sharing these wonderful, thoughtful letters.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Can I act my shoe size and not my age for a second?

Peggy Hill! *jumps up and down*

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

Kathy Najimy's love letter to Bette Midler may be one of the coolest things I've ever read online. Loved the notes from Quinto, DeWitt, Jacobs and the Six Feet Under guests (such a good show!). These are amazing. Thanks for sharing.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

What a wonderful idea Melanie!
Exciting to hear someone else loves 'I've Loved You So Long' - incredible. And Kathy's love letter was so beautiful

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEllsworth

I was happy to see Gillian Jacobs’s inclusion of actress Shelley Duvall. I consider myself among her fans as well. THIEVES LIKE US (1974) being a personal favorite.

While on that subject (and if not too much an imposition), I’d like to throw some “love” out to two other courageous actresses who have left their mark: Charlotte Gainsbourg and Isabelle Huppert; both fearless and remarkable in their own right.

This was fun Melanie. Thank you.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Merk

I would like to write a love letter to these love letters.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSVG

SVG -- me too. it's like a shot of positivity on an otherwise dark night (RNC)

August 30, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

how i'd love to read an account of when kathy got to work with bette on that witch movie

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

@par3182: I was thinking the same thing! I even felt a little sorry for Kathy that she almost got to work with Bette in Sister Act, but then I remembered that it all worked out anyway.

I would like to go on the record and say that I learned what Google Alerts were from Nathaniel, years ago, when he said on the phone, "That's what I have that keeps me up to date on people like Shelley Duvall." This is still the only thing I know about Google Alerts and have never actually used or received one, and I don't even know how you do that. In my mind they are a Shelley Duvall-specific technology.

Xander Berkeley's statement is almost as inspiring as his work in Safe. Which is a lot!

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Thanks so much for the great responses! I love, love, love what all these people wrote. I feel so lucky to know all these inspiring, inspired, passionate people!

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Lynskey

I should have said I love Sonya Walger's story, too. Those gaps in a given moment that mean everything to one person and nothing (or possibly nothing) to another person are so fascinating, and I love the centrality of this one to Sonya becoming who she is.

Nathaniel, please to track down these Bugsy Malone actors and find out what they remember. Settled great thank you.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Oh my god. I absolutely love Kathy's letter about Bette. I am much, much younger obviously, but I am also a bit obsessed with Bette. I feel like she's my spirit animal or something. And she's an amazing performer. I would also like to hear about how Kathy felt when she got to work with her! That must've been amazing.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

My favorite kind of column! Thank you!

I sometimes find that it's a supporting role that brings a movie into focus for me.

Is pot-growing Edward Norton twin's life a waste? No, because we go into the kitchen and there she is, beautiful and warm, and the heart of his life.

Is high-flying manager George Clooney too detached from life, and does no-one really care about him? Wait, there's his sister, anchored and real, justifiably angry, but still loving him no matter what.

Can Michael J. Fox not be swallowed up by the spirit world, and does goodness exist to hold on to? Yes, there she is, working beside him, good and true and thoughtful.

My heart lifts whenever this actress appears on screen, and I'd like to be first in line to see her new movie, the one that sounds like a Groucho Marx song.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Rosemarie Dewitt is so astonishingly talented. It surprises me that she didn't get best in show recognition a la Mare Winningham in Georgia for Rachel Getting Married; she is easily my win that year (so are Hathaway and Bill Irwin). She has this unbelievably calm grace and serenity not unlike her long lost soul sister Mary Louise Parker. Someone please write them as sisters.

September 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W
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