IN AMERICA directed by Jim Sheridan, written by Jim, Naomi and Kirsten Sheridan, produced by Jim Sheridan and Arthur Lappin, with Paddy Considine, Samantha Morton, Djimon Hounsou, Sarah Bolger and Emma Bolger. A Twentieth Century Fox release. 103 minutes. Opens Friday (November 21). For review, venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 96. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Los Angeles - the publicist leads the way deeper into the hotel suite and practically squeals, "This is quite possibly the first interview you've ever done in bed !" He swings open the door to the inner chamber and there she is, Samantha Morton, reclining on sheets of a dizzying thread count. She squeals, too. "I thought this was a phoner!" We all fall out laughing.
I'm not sure what role I'm playing in this little scenario, but it's a fun game.
Morton's fun to play with. Today she's in a black zip-up dress and grown-up lady makeup, but she's still as ardent and adorable as a child telling a really good lie. It's the talent she put to such good use as the savant in Minority Report and the mute lover in Woody Allen's Sweet And Lowdown.
It's those wide, wide eyes, and the push of her forehead that mirrors the little buck in her front teeth. Even reckless and spiteful in Morvern Callar and Under The Skin, Morton acts with an all-at-once passion that's burnt away in most of us before puberty.
Strange, then, that it's no stretch to see her as a mother. In America has her playing an Irish mom landed in New York City with her actor husband and two small daughters. It's a contemporary fable drawn from Sheridan's own experience of coming to America.
"When I first read the script I burst into tears," Morton exclaims. "I felt like my heart had been ripped out and cooked and cuddled by God."
She says "summink" for "something," slipping into a light Midlands accent as she heats up.
"I went and picked up my daughter and kissed her. It sounds re-e-eally pretentious, but it is a life-affirming film."
At 26, Morton is a mother herself, though she rejects the idea that parenthood guided her ability to persuade in this role. She credits craft.
"I'm still young, but I've been doing this for a long time," she says. It's been 10 years since she started acting professionally.
"I don't try to force a performance on a character," she says, clasping her hands. " I just give the character space and breath, and say, 'OK, come to me. '"
Morton draws on "instinctive feeling," she says. "I'm not very good at doing the same performance twice. I can be very frustrating for some directors. I can do the same effect, I'll have the same emotional connections in my brain, like a circuit board, but different things will happen."
Having worked so early in her career with directors as varied as Amos Gitai and Steven Spielberg, Lynne Ramsay and Jim Sheridan, Morton says she's learned the precise bounds of her job.
"I don't try to get involved heavily with the director's vision. I separate," she says. "I become like paint on his palette, or her palette.
"Then, at the end, I can come and see what the editor's done, or what the music supervisor's done, what Jim's done, and go, 'Wow, I was involved in that?' It's always a surprise for me."
She's also learned what all these directors see in her.
"Honesty. Massive honesty and truth," she says. "That's become some sort of label."
True to her mischievous nature, she doesn't always comply.
"Sometimes I'll turn up and say, 'Actually, the character might be lying.'
"I have a massive sense of magic in me that I never ever want to lose," she proclaims.
"People can be cynical around you, and you have to keep flicking it off, because it can tarnish you. I don't want to become polluted with negativity in that way."