How Candice Bergen prepared for her Oscar-hopeful Let Them All Talk role
With the Oscar race in full swing, EW kicks off its 2021 Awardist video series with none other than Candice Bergen, who stars (along with Meryl Streep and Dianne Wiest) in HBO Max's appropriately chatty dramedy Let Them All Talk. She steals scenes — no easy feat considering her costars — as Roberta, a supremely pragmatic divorcee on the hunt for a rich husband whilst on a luxury ocean liner traveling from New York to England.
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Best known for her five-time Emmy winning role in Murphy Brown, Bergen has been acting for decades, but there was one thing she's never done before: A fully improvised performance. "It was intimidating," the 72-year-old star admits of the Steven Soderbergh-directed film. "But then you didn't really have time to be [terrified]. You just had to be there. [Improvising] kept you very alert and very on the ball and it was fun and you found yourself going to places you didn't know you'd go."
She had some help from acclaimed short-story writer Deborah Eisenberg, who wrote a synopsis for each character so the actors would have some background to work with. "[Roberta] was a very poor Texas girl whose father was an oil rigger," says Bergen. "So I went to Texas and saw an oil rig and it was very intense. And I had great barbeque and bought T-shirts at the University of Texas at Austin that I wear in the movie."
Still, Bergen says once the 10-day shoot aboard the Queen Mary 2 was underway she didn't have much time to think about her process. "We would start shooting at nine and we would break for a half hour lunch at one of the ship's magnificent dining rooms, and then we would shoot until nine at night we just worked all the time," she says. "There wasn't enough time to say 'Oh what did you think about that?'"
Watch the full conversation above. Let Them All Talk is available for streaming on HBO Max.