*“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” takes its spin on 9/11, with the film focusing on nine-year-old Oskar Schell, played by Thomas Horn.
He is devastated when he finds out his father, Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks) died in the twin towers on that day. Sandra Bullock, who portrays his mother (Linda Schell), has to muster up all her strength to not only be there for her grieving son, but be a steady ship to get them both through rough waters.
The Film Strip asked Bullock how did she deal with the grief?
“…In the book I loved how she [Mrs. Schell] was basically regarded just as a mother,” Bullock explains. “She was not given a life. And I loved that, because it was through the child’s point of view. And often we children [Laughs] don’t appreciate our parents the way we should!
“And the way that the story was told through the eyes of Oscar, and through Thomas subsequently, allowed me — and I think so many people — to grieve an event like this. I don’t think as adults, that we allow people to grieve. I mean it’s so important, people needed to talk about it. They should be allowed to talk about it. But there will never be closure, I think, for me. And I think for so many people. I was there and saw it. I saw the second plane. I saw people. I saw people helping people. And that to me is what resonates about the City of New York, is that I saw within a second, the entire city come together, and helped each other in a way that they hadn’t the day before.”
Sandra, you were one of the first to start production after 9/11?
Yes, “Two Week’s Notice,” we came here right after 9/11, and it was brilliant, brilliant. And I’m so glad we did.
This time around, how was it playing a mom now that you have your son, Louis?
You have to always feel, you pray that you feel maternal to whatever child you’re working with. And I’ve played moms before, but they’d always been in a lighter context. Something that was very sparkly. And she’s the perfect mom. And everything’s okay. And there’s conflict. But not depth like this. And as an actor, and as someone who needed to love him in that way, and be frustrated by him, was so easy. And it helped me do my job. It helped me to be frustrated, and angry and hurt. I just loved building a relationship and character with Thomas. And I said, wow, I’m doing this with someone who’s not even a teenager yet. And his depth and his level, and his commitment, was just exciting. Because you worry. You know, they say don’t work with dogs and children. And I always seem to work with dogs and children! But I love it. And I loved this experience with him. And it made me a better actor, playing opposite him. Truly.
You had access to some original messages left on 9/11. How did they resonate with you?
Director Stephen Daltry brought in this documentary that was not shown in the US, right? It was voice messages that people left when they weren’t able to make contact. I get goose bumps thinking about it now, but the thing that I was so haunted by and I think in a good way, if I can say that, was that so many of them were messages of strength and calm. As they kept calling back, there was the ‘Don’t worry, I’m fine,’ then the worry realizing they’re not fine. Inevitably the last message left was one of resolve almost. They understood where they were going and their gift to the person they were leaving this message to was, ‘I love you.’ So many of them had a peace within them. They wanted the person on the other end of the line when they heard it to have support and peace. It’s almost like they’re supporting from beyond, and to leave this piece of love behind, I thought, was so emotional. It’s hard to understand because I don’t know how many of us have been in the situation where you thought, ‘okay, this is it.’ I’ve had a couple close ones but not where I said ‘okay, this is really it.’ You heard that reflected in Tom Hanks’ voicemails and the way that they were written and the progression of them. You just are in awe of human beings. You’re really in awe of human beings, and that’s what I think I took away from that.
Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected].