Sally Hawkins, “Made in Dagenham” – FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

By Sean O’Connell A Tweet from film critic Roger Ebert carries a lot of weight.

He has been known to boost or sink a film’s profile with brief, 140-character reviews. From time to time, he weighs in on individual performances, as well, and comments on how an actor might fare in the ever-shifting Oscar race.

Of Sally Hawkins, who fights for female equality in Nigel Cole’s crowd-pleasing “Made in Dagenham,” Ebert recently <a href="!/ebertchicago/status/7456477501460480">Tweeted:

“Sally Hawkins is an Oscar candidate as a fed-up Ford worker in “Made in Dagenham.” Pay me same as a man!”

He’s right. Hawkins, who many thought would earn a nod for her overtly sunny performance in Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky,” puts a human face on a national struggle when she plays Rita O’Grady, a Ford plant worker who demands equal pay and leads a labor strike when she doesn’t get it. She receives excellent support from Bob Hoskins, Daniel Mays, Miranda Richardson and Rosamund Pike. But it’s Hawkins’ show, and the several pundits have said that Academy would do well to recognize her work in this winning piece.

We recently spoke to Hawkins about “Dagenham” as she was on her way to a special screening of the film in New York City. Hawkins was in the Big Apple because she’s busy performing in the Broadway production of “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” with Cherry Jones. But she took a few minutes to talk “Dagenham” with us as she ramps up for the busy Oscar season. The scene that won our crowd over was the one where your character, Rita, emerges in that stunning red dress. You could feel the electricity pulse through our audience. I need to know, did you feel as radiant and powerful in that scene as you looked?

Sally Hawkins: What a lovely thing to say. That’s really sweet of you. I knew it was quite a powerful moment in the film. It’s the moment where she finally realizes what she has to do and the importance of what she’s got to do. It’s like she has been given the image in order to make herself known in that [political] world and actually have an effect in that world. And like you say, it’s such an iconic image, the red dress. It has such power. And also it’s iconic because it … the color red in the UK has significance with socialism and all of the connotations of that. Red is just such a powerful color.

But I think it just gives her that confidence. And when I was in Rita’s shoes, it did give me a spring in my step. Rita’s wardrobe up until that point had been very High Street fashion and very drab, in comparison. [Laughs] Especially next to Rosamund Pike’s character. She was wearing designer dresses, and then gives one to Rita on loan. I think Rita understands, then, the importance of image in that world, and to have an effect and to be taken seriously … to be spoken to as an equal … she realizes she can’t go in there wearing anything. She has to look the part, and she certainly does at that point.

HN: You also made the decision not to play Rita as a born leader, as a Type A personality. She’s uncomfortable with leading, and that shows in your performance.

SH: Absolutely. And that’s what I got from the women when I met them. They are just very normal, down-to-earth women. They are not politicians. They’re not very comfortable, because that’s not something that is very natural to them. They’ve had to learn on the hump, as it were. The political language isn’t something that’s at their disposal. They haven’t had to hold their own in the public scale before, so it’s a very scary [prospect].

So I was quite aware that I always spoke with a voice that is something we can all relate to. It’s women that we know and love in our own lives. They’re just normal women, like our mothers and friends. I was quite aware of making sure that I got that voice right, and when I met the women, I was aware that that was the voice they were speaking to me with. I didn’t want to make them too confident too early, if that makes sense.

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