Mamma mia! After exploring the world of espionage in last summer’s The Bourne Supremacy, three-time Oscar nominee Joan Allen is back to playing house in two new films. As bitter, boozy Terry Wolfmeyer in director Mike Binder’s tragicomic The Upside of Anger, she rages against four teenage daughters and falls for her lumpy, retired-baseball-player neighbor (Kevin Costner). And in Campbell Scott’s Off the Map, she plays an eccentric mom who gardens in the nude. Alas, when we met the elegant 48-year-old to talk about The Upside of Anger, she was sober — and fully clothed.
You’re kind of a ham in Anger, yet you’re not known as a comedic actress. Where did that come from?
I did comedy on stage when I was starting out, and it scared me. What happens is that I got seen in a certain way [in film], and taking a chance on an actor is not easy because movies cost a tremendous amount of money to make. I’m quite sure that when [Mike] was trying to finance the film, there were times when people said to him, ”Great script, but cast somebody else.”
Does the notion of not being bankable enough annoy you?
You know, I love my career. [Laughs] I see the list of stuff that I’ve done in print, and I’m just… stunned. And I also get my time off. If I don’t work for six months to a year, I get to be with my daughter. It’s a win-win situation.
Any desire to return to the theater?
No. Doing the same thing every night just doesn’t interest me anymore. My favorite moments are what happens between an actor and their director or their fellow actors, and I can get that in film, too.
What about doing television?
If it was the right thing? Definitely. When I was first doing films in the ’80s, TV people just didn’t do film, and vice versa. I love that that stigma is gone, that that’s all melted down. Look at Judi Dench. She’s in a [British] sitcom, then she’s winning an Oscar, and then she’s making a Bond film.
In Anger, Terry is drunk. A lot. And you made it look strangely…natural.
I had to make a joke of it. I’d come onto the set and say, ”Plotzed? Tipsy? Toasted? Hungover? Sloshed? Where are we starting today?”
You came to prominence playing prim, moralistic characters — like The Ice Storm’s Elena Hood — so we have to ask: When was the last time that you, Joan Allen, just rocked out?
I certainly have my moments, and…[embarrassed], yeah! I like a lot of popular music, like Usher and Maroon 5. My daughter hates that. But I do my dancing in my own home!