The dearth of complex, leading female roles is an ever-present topic of conversation in Hollywood, but the new film Hello, My Name is Doris, starring a 69-year old Sally Field, offers a charming rebuttal in the case for gender and age diversity. Written by Lauren Terruso and directed by Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer), the film stars Field as Doris Miller, a hoarder in her late ’60s with some borderline personality issues who has just lost her mother, for whose care she was responsible.
When a handsome young co-worker (Max Greenfield) starts at her office, it sparks a consuming infatuation that upends her insular world and, ultimately, sets her on the path towards self-discovery.
On Monday night, The Cinema Society and Roadside Attractions hosted the film’s New York premiere at the new independent theater Metrograph, before the cast and guests repaired to Mr. Purple for the afterparty. Ever the seasoned pro, Field offered some succinct thoughts on May-December romances onscreen, kissing Greenfield, and the outlook for women in film.
Doris is bit of a hoarder and has some strong personality quirks. How did you go about accessing her character?
Just the same way I do any of my work. The exterior, interior — put all the pieces together and hope it turns out to be something.
The romantic daydream sequence Doris has about Max’s character [John Fremont] was something you had to do early on in the shoot. What was it like filming and building the chemistry?
We had two days, one-and-a-half days of rehearsal and playing with it. I’ve been here a long time. You get in and do your work. And he was so great to work with. So we just found a way to land somewhere.
But I imagine it’s the first time you’ve had a love scene with someone where there’s such an age difference?
I’ve had them the opposite way!
How did that compare to this?
I just didn’t think about it anymore than I thought about it when I was with Paul Newman [in 1981’s Absence of Malice], you know? I didn’t think, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s 25 years older than I am’ with Paul Newman or James Garner. You just do your work. And I’m sure Max was the same way — just get in and do your work. It’s everybody else that’s reacting to it.
Right. But you did just make out with him on the Ellen DeGeneres show [on Monday].
So you obviously felt some comfort there.
What would it be if not for fun?
There’s been a lot of talk about diversity in the industry with regards to strong, complex female roles. What are your thoughts on what progress we can make and how we can go about doing that?
Look, if I had any thoughts about it I would have been trying to perpetuate them or get them done years ago. I’ll be glad to see if any changes happen. But I’ve been here so long, with this very problem for so long, that I don’t think in my lifetime I will see any significant difference. Believe me, I started in show business in 1964. There have been a lot of changes but they have been so incremental, so absolutely incremental. The whole Wall of China could have been built already. So I’m hoping that somehow this time it’s different. But we’ll see.