March 30, 2011 / 2:57 PM / 8 years ago

A Minute With: Vera Farmiga on movies, motherhood

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Vera Farmiga first caught Hollywood’s eye in low-budget film “Down to the Bone,” then vaulted to fame when she was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar in 2010, playing a traveling businesswoman in “Up in the Air.”

Cast member Vera Farmiga arrives at the premiere of her new film "Source Code" in Hollywood, California March 28, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

It’s been a busy year since “Air.” This Friday, the 37-year-old stars opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in sci-fi thriller “The Source Code” playing a mysterious woman who sends Gyllenhaal on a deadly mission into the body of another man.

On April 8, she stars in romantic comedy “Henry’s Crime” as a stage actress who falls for her leading man (Keanu Reeves), who is actually an ex-con planning to rob a nearby bank.

The Ukrainian-American actress also made her directorial debut with “Higher Ground” at January’s Sundance film festival. She produced the film and takes the lead role of a woman who questions her faith as she goes from childhood to womanhood.

Farmiga sat with Reuters to talk about her three projects and being a working mother.

Q: “Source Code” is the first film you took after “Up in the Air.” What made you want to take it?

A: “When I got to Los Angeles for the Oscars, I found out I was pregnant. Source Code came about and I grabbed it because I knew I’d be out of commission for the next nine months. It was a 10-day shoot that I could do in my first trimester.”

Q: In most of the movie, your character is seen only on a computer screen, talking to Jake Gyllenhaal. How was that?

A: “Lonesome (laughs). Actors spend so much time pretending the camera is not there, but here you’re acting with it. It’s a challenge. My favorite moments were when Jeffrey Wright would come into a scene, not just because he’s a treat to work with, but I genuinely love acting with someone in the flesh.”

Q: You also have the comedy Henry’s Crime with Keanu Reeves and James Caan.

A: “I did that right before the Oscars. I had just done Up in the Air and was receiving attention for being a savvy, sexy businesswoman. I wanted to go in the opposite direction. This character was adorable to me. She lit up, she was kooky. With Keanu Reeve and James Caan, I think it’s a wonderful, bizarre coupling of all of us! (Laughs).”

Q: You make your directorial debut on Higher Ground. In a time where getting money for a movie is more difficult than ever, how did you manage this?

A: “With an Oscar nomination, a lot of energy comes your way and financing happens to rear its pretty head (laughs). So after Source Code I finished off my first trimester with pre-production for Higher Ground, was in production in my second trimester and did (editing) in my third trimester.”

Q: Your husband also produced the film. So, you were coming off an Oscar nomination, a toddler on one hip, pregnant with another, about to direct a film you’re starring in and producing. Plus you’re employing family members. That must have been one heck of a shoot!

A: “You kind of feel like a whirling dervish when it stops spinning. It’s dizzying and amazing. But you take the opportunity when it comes. You can’t say ‘The morning sickness is bad, can we wait six months?’ Getting financing is so rare, getting a film greenlit is rare.”

Q: The nomination was directly responsible for Higher Ground. Any other career changes because of Oscar?

A: “No matter how many nominations, how many accolades, how much critical acclaim or praise, the roles don’t get better ... They’re few and far between with many talented actresses vying for them ... directing is creating your own opportunity. I gave myself that job. I hired myself as a director and cast myself.

I was sick of waiting around asking for permission. It doesn’t matter how much respect you received.”

Q: You tend to work in indie films, is that by choice?

A: “That’s where the inspiring work is for me. There are a couple of studio films that I’m not terribly excited by, but it will allow me to do my more inspired work. It all changes when there’s another mouth to feed! (Laughs)”

Q: Have you done any work since the baby was born?

A: “A film called ‘Goats,’ based on the novel by Mark Poirier. I play a New Age Bohemian hippie lunatic eccentric mother to a 14 year-old boy in a very unstructured home.”

Q: Let me guess, an indie film?

A: “Yup!”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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