Lynn Redgrave and her Gods and Monsters character — the hard-nosed Hungarian housekeeper Hanna — have almost nothing in common, save one defining virtue: patience. After all, Redgrave has waited 32 long years for a second Oscar nomination — ever since her 1966 portrayal of the frumpy titular fun-seeker in Georgy Girl.
The 55-year-old actress, whose big-screen renaissance was jump-started in 1996 with her joyous portrayal of Gillian Helfgott in Shine, brings a comically no-nonsense presence to Hanna. Though a lovingly devoted servant to openly gay film director James Whale, Hanna can’t help chiding him about his ”sins of the flesh.” ”I knew who she was,” says Redgrave. ”I can’t put my finger on how. She doesn’t look like me, speak like me, or think like me, but those are often the roles that I’m attracted to most.”
But Redgrave did have some personal inspiration for Hanna: the bond between her childhood nanny and her bisexual father, acclaimed actor Sir Michael Redgrave. ”My nanny knew about my mother and father’s relationship — and relationships — but she stayed very loyal, while disapproving,” remembers Redgrave. With such formative memories to guide her, she used masterful body language to transform herself completely into the homely, slightly hunched Hanna. Director Bill Condon recalls watching the metamorphosis while screening dailies. ”We both agreed something was missing,” he says. ”Lynn said, ‘You know what it is? I have to tuck my chin into my neck.’ She did it, and the last vestige of Lynn Redgrave disappeared.”
While hopeful that Oscar will pick her out of a crowd come March 21, Redgrave says the nomination alone was worth the wait: ”This role made me think, At last, I can do what I really wanted to do when I was a young actor, which is have a go at everything.”