"Happy-Go-Lucky"s Sally Hawkins gets Oscar buzz

Wed Oct 8, 2008 1:54pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Actress Sally Hawkins is relatively unknown in the United States but an acclaimed role in British director Mike Leigh's new film may find her on Hollywood's red carpets this awards season, a prospect she calls "gob-smacking."

The London-born Hawkins, 32, has been gaining Oscar buzz from critics for her role as Poppy -- a jokey, infectiously optimistic schoolteacher in Leigh's touching comedy "Happy-Go-Lucky" that is released in the United States on Friday.

Earlier this year she won the best actress award for the role at the Berlin Film Festival. More recently some film critics have named her as an Oscar contender for best actress while the Hollywood Film Festival just named her their breakthrough actress of the year.

With several Oscar-worthy movies yet to be released in the United States, Hawkins said she was not holding her breath, but would be a "mess" if she ever made it on stage.

"I'd probably by that point be so disturbed I don't think it would come out making any sense. It would probably be the most embarrassing Oscar speech ever," she giggled during a recent interview.

But such modesty combined with a sharp wit and intelligence is what her admirers say is typical, including Leigh, who first cast her in his 2002 film "All Or Nothing."

Leigh said Hawkins deserved an Oscar nomination, saying playing Poppy, whose carefree attitude belies a more astute and worldly perception, was more difficult than it looked.

"Because there are lots of complex things going on, she really has to be on the ball about playing the character," Leigh said. "She always has to be in the moment, it's a completely organic performance."   Continued...