Get Low - Sissy Spacek
Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek) © Sony Pictures

Sissy Spacek first gained the attention of critics and audiences with her role in Terrence Malick’s 1973 drama Badlands. She went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for the title role in the horror film Carrie, and won an Oscar for her portrayal of country singer Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter.

She is currently starring as Mattie Darrow in dramedy Get Low. Mattie is a strong, independent widow, who has always loved Felix Bush (Robert Duvall), a recluse who has lived in the backwoods for 40 years. To everyone’s shock, Felix turns up at Quinn’s Funeral Home, and asks its owner, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), to arrange his funeral while he’s alive, because he wants to attend it. He wants to hear what people say about him – but what he really wants is to speak to the town, and Mattie, to tell them a terrible secret he’s held for decades.

What was it about this project that attracted you?

Get Low - Sissy Spacek
Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek) © Sony Pictures

When I read the script, I never knew what was going to happen next. It’s so NOT a formula film and the script had so much depth – it’s a great group of characters in this odd, peculiar story that is really about something.

My character really is the emotional center of the film. There’s a lot of unrequited love here with both Mattie and Felix. It’s kind of sweet and it’s kind of sad that these two people can’t really see what’s going on right in front of them. And for me, what was also quite amazing is that, at my age, I get to be ‘The Girl.’

What is it about the character that resonated within you that made you want to do the role?

I really loved Felix Bush. He’s a peculiar character, he’s funny, and he’s deep, and I’ve often felt like Felix Bush. I’ve wanted to what I call, ‘Go to ground,’ and just get away from the maddening crowds, not for 40 years. I didn’t think, ‘Oh Mattie is this character I have to play.’ It was the piece really that pulled me in. It’s a very lyrical story.

I’ve known people like that, I grew up in a rural area and I live in a rural area now, and there are people that their personas are very expansive like Felix Bush’s character. It was just the overall lyricism of the film, and the quirkiness of it. I think it’s deep, more than it being about the characters, or what the characters do, it’s about what the characters feel and think.

What was it like working with Robert Duvall?

Get Low - Sissy Spacek and Robert Duvall
Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek) and Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) © Sony Pictures

Robert Duvall has embodied this character. When he came on set, he just was Felix, which meant all I had to do was react to him. He was fantastic – working with him was so easy. It was also very combustible while were making the film. Things happened in scenes that took us to places that we didn’t really expect. It just really felt like something different and wonderful.

We really didn’t have any rehearsal. Robert and I ran lines on the set occasionally, just so we’d remember things. But this man comes in prepared.

I came in thinking, ‘I’m going to watch Bobby and see his process.’ You can’t see it. It is invisible.

What did you think of the casting of Bill Murray for Frank Quinn?

When I found out Bill Murray was playing Frank Quinn, I just thought it was a stroke of genius because he brings a whole new dimension of humor and emotion to this character.

When you get role, what kind of preparation do you do?

Get Low - Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek
Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) and Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek) © Sony Pictures

It depends on the role. For Coal Miner’s Daughter, I went to Nashville and worked with Loretta and worked with her producer and her band.

One movie they set up a real kitchen for me on location. I was playing a farm wife, and I baked pies and bread all day, and I had the crew eating out of my hand. I would say when we were shooting, ‘Could you move that light a little,’ and he’d go, ‘Oh, you made that good cherry pie, sure I will.’

That’s one of the beautiful perks, you get to do these things that you wouldn’t ordinarily get to do and people help you.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.