Gwyneth Paltrow is back on screen sharing Joaquin Phoenix with Vinessa Shaw in James Gray’s Two Lovers.
Two Lovers arrives in theaters February 13 with a unique take on relationships for Valentine’s Day. Starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix as two-thirds of a love triangle that spins on the performance of actress Vinessa Shaw, Two Lovers explores the realities of relationships in the new millennium as only filmmaker James Gray can craft.
Grey, the genius behind The Yards and We Own the Night, has written and directed Two Lovers specifically for Phoenix. For the two female leads he turned to an Oscar winner in Paltrow and an up-and-coming talent in Shaw.
Shaw starred opposite superstars Russell Crowe and Christian Bale in 3:10 to Yuma and Josh Hartnett in 40 Days and 40 Nights, but her beginnings dates to childhood movies starring with Sarah Jessica Parker in Hocus Pocus and Rodney Dangerfield’s Ladybugs.
She commands in every role she tackles. Shaw spoke to SheKnows about the challenges of Two Lovers and how working with Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow was beyond a thrill. She confesses the true joy was being a part of a James Gray film.
SheKnows: When you first received James’ script for Two Lovers, what aspect of the story most appealed to you?
Vinessa Shaw: I think the fact that it is a true relationship story and it had a lot of meat to it (laughs) as an actor. Purely as an audience member, it is a true story about love and the complications of it. How love and loss and everything in between is not as straight forward as it seems in the movies. I thought James was very honest about the complications of love.
SheKnows: Had you seen We Own the Night before you showed up on James’ set?
Vinessa Shaw: No. (Laughs) I saw We Own the Night before we screened at Cannes.
SheKnows: I wondered because sometimes actors want to know what they’re in for, others want to show up and be directed without any preconceived notions.
Vinessa Shaw: I did want to see the film. It opened in New York when we were filming. But I never got a chance.
SheKnows: So you were filming a movie with him while his film was out there, that must have been neat.
Vinessa Shaw: Yeah, it was really cool.
SheKnows: What kind of set did you find it with somebody who wrote the story and it truly is his vision on screen?
Vinessa Shaw: It’s interesting. I tend to be a perfectionist as an actor. I grew up in the business. I was always taught to hit your mark and say your lines perfectly and don’t cause any trouble. Being a teenager, you are just asked to be professional as an actor. But growing up, you’re asked to explore and have more freedom in what you want to do with a character. But, I still have that perfectionist quality in me and meeting James allowed me to free myself of that. And here he is, Mr. James Gray…
Gray walks in and says a quick hello to Vinessa, James will be speaking with us in a few moments. Watch for Gray’s interview February 13.
Vinessa Shaw (continuing): He says don’t say anything bad about him. I have to make fun of him now while he takes a photo of me (laughs). With James I had to get rid any preconceived ideas. I had to run with it and go with what he wanted. That was unnerving for a perfectionist.
Working with Gwyneth and Joaquin
SheKnows: I would feel Gwyneth and Joaquin would edge towards the perfectionist end of the acting spectrum, what was it for you sharing scenes with them?
Vinessa Shaw: It was wonderful. Well, Joaquin is very much on the edge. He lives on the edge and his character is too. I kind of had to catch up with that, so he was so wonderful in this movie and so charming and sweet. I couldn’t help but be completely charmed by him in this film.
SheKnows: On the set you had an Oscar winner in Gwyneth and nominee in Joaquin, does that make you nervous arriving on a set? Or is it just about the project, end of story?
Vinessa Shaw: It’s always about the project, but I can’t lie all of that other stuff (laughs). Working with them was incredible.
SheKnows: I see you’re staring in Garden Party. That has got to be an experience of which you are particularly proud.
Vinessa Shaw: It’s a film of this generation. Especially, it’s a film about LA and how people get lost in the world of LA. It wasn’t very heartwarming story by any respects. That was a very different story that this one, that is for sure.
Mom knows best
SheKnows: Growing up in the business with your mom as an actress, were there any trepidations she had about your choice of work?
Vinessa Shaw: My mom, she definitely had experienced the business for a good while before I was born. Prior to me asking her to start acting, at first she was really hesitant (laughs). She wanted me to wait until I could drive myself to auditions at 16. She knew what it would take to actually pound the pavement to get any roles. The cautionary tale there was that she told me that you may miss your senior prom or graduation – actually almost did miss my graduation (laughs) – those things, you really have to learn to grow up quickly. I think for me, I had to just be honest with myself and say that this is something that I want to do for the rest of my life or do I want to be a kid and spend the night at my friend Michelle’s house, you know? So many times I had to forgo that in order to go and audition. I really had to grow up quickly and sacrifice a lot of my childhood for it.
SheKnows: Knowing that sacrifice and seeing where you are now with a James Gray, Gwyneth Paltrow-Joaquin Phoenix starring film, are you satisfied with the journey? Your film experience thus far — you’ve tackled westerns, comedy — you have a gift of seamlessly morphing into varied genres.
Vinessa Shaw: I enjoy as an actor doing something different than I’ve done before. I appreciate doing a different character whenever I can (laughs). That’s what makes it exciting and there’s never a dull moment. Regardless of the genre, you’re accessing the heart of a character and the heart of humanity. You have to be able to be open to doing any kind of thing. I find that exciting.
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