Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker play an aging couple in Cloudburst.
CLOUDBURST written and directed by Thom Fitzgerald from his stage play, with Olympia Dukakis, Brenda Fricker, Kristin Booth and Ryan Doucette. eMotion Pictures release. 93 minutes. Opens Friday (March 8). For venues and times, see listings.
Some actors feel apprehensive about showing a film to an audience. Olympia Dukakis feels proud.
Sitting in a sunny corner of the TIFF Bell Lightbox Blue Room just hours before Thom Fitzgerald's Cloudburst plays the 2012 Inside Out Film Festival, Dukakis is effusive and engaging, delighted with the movie and the chance to talk about her character.
Her third film with Fitzgerald (after The Event and 3 Needles), Cloudburst casts Dukakis as Stella, an irascible Maine woman who takes her ailing partner, Dotty (Brenda Fricker), on a road trip to Nova Scotia to get married.
"It's a love story, isn't it?" she says, happy that she got to play a romantic lead. And she's right; though Stella can be short-tempered and openly aggressive to people who stand in her way, she generally adopts that position to protect Dotty - and herself.
"My character is in such rebellion," she explains, "and really, what a price she's paid for that. That's the thing that got me about this. Gays and lesbians, African-Americans, people who've been assigned to the outside or put at the bottom of the ladder - or whatever language you want to use - and who have [still] insisted that their lives matter, they pay a price for that."
In Stella's case, that price is her peace of mind.
"That character is just never at rest," Dukakis says. "She's always at war. She's been fighting all the time. She has to, and she knows it. She'll go to her grave fighting."
Though Stella is a politically minded character, Cloudburst is by no means a gay-marriage polemic. Dukakis says both she and Fitzgerald wanted to tell a story about people, not sock puppets.
"He's very careful about that," she says, though she points out that as far as the civil rights issue goes, "it's all in there. These women, at the age when they got together, their behaviour [would have been] much more combative because of what they were confronting. Today, of course, there's a dialogue; I mean, you read some terrible stuff in the newspaper, but America has changed."
She's also happy to be working on something that values the idea of acting, having recently come through the meat grinder of a guest spot on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
"It was the most unpleasant experience," she says, stifling a chuckle. "There's no rehearsal, everybody just gets up and does whatever. We shot it in a studio that was filthy - nobody had washed this place; they had junk piled up. And then nobody cared about the script. It was formula time: nothing to do with people."