Many actors and actresses do all that they can to keep from being typecast, but not Francine actress Melissa Leo. As she told New York Magazine recently, it’s difficult for her to reject roles just because they resemble her past works – especially when art imitates life.
“People talk consistently about a strength in characters that I have: a many-sidedness that all people have that darkens the light selves in them,” she explained, adding that the world-weariness many of her characters share isn’t a stretch from real life. “There’s a fair amount of that haggardness (in me).”
The 51-year-old Leo, whose recent roles include critically-acclaimed turns in Frozen River and The Fighter, often portrays desperate and/or emotionally-drained women. In Francine, which recently premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, she plays a woman who takes comfort in her semi-feral pets after being released from prison. “I have a hard time turning my back on anybody who says they have something for me,” she said. “I play who the character is.”
The 28-year Hollywood veteran also stressed the importance of remaining physically-fit. “My body has done for me all these years things I couldn’t ever even dreamt to do for characters. It’s a tool, molecularly speaking, and I need to take care of it… Upkeep is important.”
Still, that doesn’t mean she encourages young actresses to follow the Norma Jean formula. “Ever since Marilyn Monroe was transformed from one of the prettiest girls you could ever hope to see into an icon, everyone has been trying to repeat that icon,” she said. “And now the entire industry is filled with, and by and large run by, wannabes. And bless their hearts; I’m glad they have jobs.”