W: Did you both have to audition for The Town?
Jon Hamm: I was on a list of people that the studio was considering. They go down the list, basically.
Rebecca Hall: I don’t think I was on a list. I auditioned. My agent flew me to New York because I couldn’t afford to pay the airfare, and then if I got it, I’d pay her back. I met Ben in some hotel room and we chatted for about two hours. I didn’t hear anything for about three months, and then I got the call.
W: Rebecca, your audition for Vicky Cristina Barcelona consisted of Woody Allen making sure you could do an American accent. The Town is set in Boston—is your accent Bostonian?
Hall: No. It’s general American, because I’m meant to be a yuppie from Marblehead who’s moved into a rough area. Her accent has little bits of Boston and little bits of “I’m tough.” I was determined to make her quite streetwise and savvy and strong. I was nervous about portraying the woman who gets subjected to violence and then becomes the love interest, victimized and fragile, of a protective man.
W: When did you both realize you wanted to perform?
Hall: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an actor. It has just always been an inevitability on some level.
Hamm: I played Winnie-the-Pooh in first grade. I was an early adopter of standing up in front of people and looking like an idiot. In high school I was a middle linebacker and I played Judas in Godspell.
W: After you joined the William Morris Agency, you didn’t work for three years.
Hamm: I went up for everything. I’d get down to the end on big movies and then I’d flame out, which is devastating. It just sucks, especially when it’s fraught with, “Oh, then I can pay my bills.” I would get so in my head that I would f— up the auditions.
W: How long were you willing to stick it out?
Hamm: I had given myself five years to be self-sufficient as an actor. I was already self-sufficient as a waiter. But I knew a lot of 40-year-old waiters and I didn’t want to be one of those. I had taught school and I knew that I could always go back to teaching. I gave myself to my 30th birthday, and my 30th birthday actually happened on the set of We Were Soldiers, which was my first big Hollywood movie—a Mel Gibson vehicle. I was making enough money to quit my waiting job.
W: Is there value to trudging the long road as opposed to getting a fast track?
Hamm: I guess the benefits of my trajectory were learning humility, learning to be patient and learning how the system works in some way. But I think the benefits of Rebecca’s path are that you get to spend some great years doing some pretty cool s—. Your 20s are fun. If you can manage to also do good work, which Rebecca clearly has, then you’re very lucky. [Looking at her] Is that dumb?
Hall: It’s a wee bit reductive, but I’ll go with it. The irony is that I’ve never really been an ingenue. Even though I’ve been working since I was eight, I stopped for a long time and started working again when I was 20. I’ve always played parts that are 28, 29, 30 years old.
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