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A Classic Comedy With Modern Charm

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Sally Field and Max Greenfield in Hello, My Name Is Doris. Photo by Aaron Epstein.

Two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field stars in writer/director Michael Showalter’s heartwarming new film Hello, My Name Is Doris. Following the death of her mother, Doris finds herself stepping out of the shadows as she forms an unlikely friendship with her young new co-worker John (Max Greenfield). Earlier this year, Academy Art U News had the opportunity to sit down with both Field and Showalter to discuss their new film.

Field, who absolutely shines in this charming late in life coming-of-age story, said that her decision to play the eccentric Doris wasn’t a hard one to make. The actress shared that she loved the screenplay, although she had questions for her director about how the comedic tone of the film would be balanced with the more intensely emotional scenes.

“The big question for her was like, how are you going to do this sort of slapstick, screwball comedy—there’s a lot of classic screwball comedy—with this really intense sad stuff,” Showalter explained. “Like, I don’t want to water either one down to make it a fine line. I want the comedy to go all the way. We’re going to play every level as loud or as soft as we want. … It was all about trying to figure out all these different shades of the character and how to piece it all together.”

Some of the many highlights of the film involve watching Doris opening up to people outside of her small close knit group of friends and experiencing new things. From her giddiness over her burgeoning crush on John, to being accepted by his trendy Williamsburg friends, the film shows that certain life experiences aren’t always exclusive to young adulthood.

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Max Greenfield and Sally Field in Hello, My Name Is Doris. Photo by Aaron Epstein.

“When you’re older, society doesn’t let you feel ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know where to put my feet down. I’m brand new and I’m too old to be this new.’ And that, in a lot of ways, is what this film is,” said Field. “[Doris] has arrested development, yes, and she’s in her 60s and having a kind of adolescence, kind of a birth of her own voice—her own vision of who she is and what she wants. It has to do with her mother passing away. Her life is changing whether she wants it to or not and that is something I really responded to as well as the fact that age is such a weird thing. Inside, whether you’re 20, or 30, 40, 50, 60, you’re still who you are. … And human beings need to make contact with other human beings. And sometimes they don’t match chronologically. And if I’d been the man and [Max had] been the female, it would have been an Audrey Hepburn movie.”

Even as the audience watches Doris come into her own, she’s still surrounded by her past. The cluttered home that she shared with her late mother is filled with items that to her brother and sister-in-law are meaningless, but to Doris mean everything. When faced with the prospect of parting with some of these items, Field presents the audience with a gut-wrenching performance. When asked about where she draws inspiration from for such an emotional scene, Field shared, “I’ve taken 52 years of my life to understand the craft of acting and all I can do is what I’ve learned to do and the various tools of how you do it. Every actor, you know, blends and weaves and crafts a performance out of, a great deal, obviously...it comes through them, who they are. So, it’s just what I do.”

For Field, the role of Doris is the first leading film role she’s had in quite some time. The actress discussed her thoughts on the double-standard for women in film. “In this country, age, ageism, for women, not necessarily for men, is a deterrent. If you’re talking about the motion picture business, it’s hard for women in every arena, in every part of it. It’s not getting exponentially better,” she said. “And if you add any other ingredient upon being female, like diversity of color, and then you add age, you know the statistics on all of that. Those who participate in [it], whether they be in front of the camera or behind the camera, are pretty horrifying. They do not reflect where we are in society, but you know, I think the whole world has something to work on when it comes to empowering and bringing women to the table in an important way. And unless we can do that, the whole world will not heal. We’re out of balance. We’re out of kilter.”

Statements like that are what makes Hello, My Name Is Doris so special. It’s refreshing to see a comedic film with an older female lead at the helm who’s really taking life on, and it’s wonderful to see Field (and Doris) prove that age really isn’t anything but a number.

Hello, My Name Is Doris is now playing in New York and L.A. and opens nationwide on Friday, March 18.