By Sumeet Bal
Updated March 05, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST
  • Movie

Portraying difficult women is nothing new to Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson. In PIECES OF APRIL (PG-13, 80 mins., 2003, MGM), the 44-year-old indie grande dame played Joy, a prickly mother battling breast cancer, who is en route to celebrate Thanksgiving with her estranged daughter.

How did you prepare for the role? I had to confront feelings about fear, death, and illness. I spent wee hours of the night with the script and my thoughts. What did you like best about her? Her wicked sense of humor. Did you choose the wig you’d wear? Yes, we went to a place where women who’ve undergone chemotherapy buy wigs. We’d talked about the look we wanted for Joy, swishy with bangs — a different look than she’d had. Also, this was a $79 wig, and that’s what Joy, a middle-class woman, would buy. Did you expect the critical acclaim that you received? Are you kidding? I just thought we’d go to Sundance and hoped someone would buy it! In the DVD extras, director Peter Hedges discusses your ability to dare the audience to dislike you. What attracts you to your characters? I’m not afraid of women who are on the edge. I don’t think of them as sympathetic or unsympathetic; their actions just have to feel justified and real. These women have a thrust, a voice, a complexity that attracts me.

Pieces of April

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 80 minutes
  • Peter Hedges