Anjelica Huston’s got trouble.
The legendary actress is stripping back her usually elegant exterior to portray the cowboy-hat-wearing, gun-toting Maggie in Trouble, the new drama from writer-director Theresa Rebeck. The pair previously worked together on the first season of NBC’s Smash, on which Rebeck was the showrunner before being unceremoniously fired.
Huston tells EW she missed Rebeck “tremendously” during the show’s ill-fated second season, and the pair resolved to work together again while attending the Golden Globes the year Smash was nominated. The result was Trouble, a feature about two siblings (Huston and Bill Pullman) engaged in a battle of wills and nursing old wounds while disputing possession of their father’s estate.
EW has the exclusive debut of the Trouble trailer before it hits theaters Oct. 5. We also called up Huston to get the lowdown on why she was eager to reunite with Rebeck, why the project was devised with her family history in mind and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You worked with Theresa Rebeck previously on Smash. What is it about her writing that speaks to you and made you eager to work with her again?
ANJELICA HUSTON: The first year on Smash was a really wonderful experience. Theresa was the showrunner and was writing a lot of the episodes. I really liked how responsive she was to me. If I said, “Theresa, I want a boyfriend in the show,” she gave me a boyfriend. If I said, “I want to make some money. We’ve got to turn this around for Eileen.” Theresa would say, “Great, we’ll do it.” It’s not that she necessarily plied all of my demands, but she really listened to them and took them into consideration and gave me some really funny things to do. I like the kind of woman she is. Theresa stands on both of her feet, and she stands for what she believes in. She’s a feminist in the best sense. She loves men, but she’s on the side of the women. I really enjoy that in her writing. It’s robust. It tackles issues that people are often afraid of going near, and she does it with relish and enthusiasm. That’s why I like her both as a person and as an artist.
Did she give you the script directly? How did you end up on this project?
There was a second year of Smash, where Theresa had been relieved of her job, and I missed her tremendously. It so happened that the show was nominated for a Golden Globe. It was the first time I’d seen her in the second year really because I’d gone back to work and missed her very much. Theresa was at the table because the show had been nominated for the year before. She said to me, “Wow, this is really boring.” This is after we lost, and suddenly things get very boring (laughs). It’s not so boring before your category comes up, but after you lose suddenly, it’s not such an enticing place to be. She turned to me and said “This is really boring. Do you think we can make something positive out of this?” And I said, “What do you mean?” She was looking at my brother Danny [Huston], and she said, “How about I write a movie for you and Danny?” About 6 months later, out of the blue I heard from Theresa, and she said, “I’ve got a script I want to show to you.” Of course, I loved it. Then we set about making it. Danny was working on something else so he couldn’t do it, so she went to Bill Pullman. She put together a beautiful cast. We were all very happy to be there doing a film that was truly independent. And truly an artistic endeavor.
Did the family drama aspect of the film appeal to you given your history and coming from a Hollywood dynasty?
Yes. It so happened that I was going through a similar struggle over land at the time. There’s this odd thing that happens to me. It’s an almost alchemical thing that my life starts to replicate my work or vice versa. In this case, I’d just had a rather bad fight with somebody over land and all of these issues that crop up about I own this, I lay claim to this. As per Willa Cather, the land belongs to nature. Nobody owns the land; the land is there for beauty and enjoyment, and it takes people to create war over it. It’s a very strange and tragic flaw in human nature that we have to possess things and own them in order to feel the full appreciation. We can’t just let things be. Yet we’re at our happiest in public places. It’s a very odd dichotomy. People and land — it’s worse than love affairs.
With your long family history and your career, do you feel there’s something different to working with a female director? Is there something you prefer or particularly enjoy?
I’ve never really been able to segregate things that way. I don’t really think Oh I’m going to make a movie with a female director now. It depends on the director. I’ve worked with fewer females, unfortunately, than I have men, but it all boils down to who do you get along with, who is simpatico, who gets it, who do you have a shorthand with? I’ve had hard times with men and women. And I’ve had wonderful, joyous moments with men and women. That’s the nature of the game. You go with the director, and you put yourself in their hands and hope that it will be a good result. It’s very hard with movies because one never knows. It can be the best experience in the world and turn out to be a really bad movie. I’ve had a few of those. And also the opposite. But there’s no formula. Women can be, of course, just as fine in the director’s chair as any man. It depends on whether they have a talent for it.
This character lacks the elegance of some of your most famous roles — was it fun for you to get down in dirty in a cowboy hat and tote a gun?
I was very happy with that. I love to do a Western every summer, and this is my summer Western. I like the idea of this woman Maggie who’s out there on her own trying to figure it out after the death of her husband, not knowing quite who she’s putting her make-up on in the morning for or who she’s living for or what she’s living for. The one thing she cares about is being decimated by her brother. I understood that just coming from a big loss myself. I lost my husband 9 years ago. After 9 years, it’s still pretty raw, and that’s where this woman was coming from too, and therefore, she’s enraged. There were a lot of things I identified with when I was working on that movie.
Was there something that was particularly challenging that you hadn’t done before?
In a long time, I hadn’t been in every scene in the movie. Since my movie Agnes Brown that I directed and acted in, in which I was in every single scene but one in the entire movie. That’s a big thing to tackle, and it’s fun, but also it’s hard work. That was the thing that was the most daunting to me. It’s wonderful too. It’s great to star in a movie, but it’s not always the easiest.
Do you have a particular favorite moment from shooting that stands out to you?
The scenes with the boys were the ones I really enjoyed most. There’s a scene early on where I’m losing my top over my brother. He’s attacking my land, and I lose it with him. I got to play with Bill Pullman, David Morse, Jim Parrack, and Brian D’Arcy James all in one scene. That was exciting. Those were the scenes I really enjoyed, the ones that were us getting into it.
Trouble hits theaters Oct. 5.