Ellen Barkin's Happy Days

In 'Another Happy Day,' actress and first-time producer Ellen Barkin takes on the role she's been waiting 30 years to play.

by Mary Kate Frank
ellen-barkin-image
Ellen Barkin in 'Another Happy Day'
Photograph: Courtesy of Phase 4 Films

More: What has the response been like? I understand someone yelled at you at Sundance.
EB: We have had very rousing Q&As, which is wonderful. Sam [Levinson] would say, "I don’t want to make a movie and afterwards people say: 'That was great. What’s for lunch?'" I think his whole idea was to spark really aggressive conversation. So at Sundance—and this happened at a lot of Q&As—a woman all the way in the back stood up and started pointing her finger at me and screaming, "I used to have so much respect for you as an actor and as a woman and now you dare come here and do this!" And a man stood up next to her and said, "I don't know what movie you just saw, but that woman is an angel and this is a love letter to that woman."

More: The film definitely raises a lot of questions about the idea of family.
EB: Yes. What is a mother? The person who pops the baby out between her legs or the one who raises the child? And what is a family? How do you love the people in your family, who you are stuck with despite the mistakes they make, and how do you not judge them?

More: With the cast playing such a dysfunctional clan, what was the dynamic among you?
EB: We all protected each other. We were the most highly functional version of that family. I don’t think I could have done what I did without Ellen [Burstyn] there. And without the enormous support from Demi [Moore]. She gave me the confidence I needed to produce the movie. Demi has a rep for being a tough girl because of a couple roles she played. She’s done GI Jane, but she's really the girl from Ghost. In playing this role, she didn’t go to the angry place. It’s not who she is as a person.

More: You broke out in 1982's Diner, directed by Barry Levinson. Do you feel like you've come full circle now, working with his son, Sam?
EB: They are completely different. It’s like asking me to compare Sam with Sidney Lumet. Sam is exactly what I want in a director. He knows what he wants and how he wants to get it, and he will give every actor what they need. I will say there was not person on that set, cast or crew, who at any given moment did not know who their daddy was—and that was Sam.

More: I noticed that you recently started using Twitter @ellenbarkin. How do you like it?
EB: I’m loving it! I’m completely addicted. I’m annoyed, even right now, that I’m not tweeting. My assistant is always saying, “I am 23 years old and I am yelling at you to get off your Twitter feed.”

More: To top it all off, the Savannah Film Festival just presented you with a Lifetime Achievement award.
EB: Look, I’ve had very good year. After the Tony and after this film, I just feel like, for whatever reason, the universe is being very good to me right now.

Want MORE? Check out our interview with Mariska Hargitay.

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First Published November 15, 2011

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