Oscar winner Melissa Leo doesn’t mind being considered a character actress—in fact, she takes pride in knowing that her talent is what gets her cast.
“I don’t get hired because I’m the prettiest actor around, I get hired because I can lay down the truth to the filmmaker,” she said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “When the character’s choices are being disregarded, disrespected, when I can’t ground her no matter what she might be doing, find a reality for it, I’ll call it. In the end, it’s the director’s film and I give them what they need, but I do try to protect my women.”
Leo does just that in her new film, Olympus Has Fallen, in which she portrays the Secretary of Defense to Aaron Eckhart’s president. The biggest challenge the 52-year-old faced was allowing herself to step back and let her stunt double do some of the work.
“That for me was probably the most difficult thing,” she admitted. “She’s not standing the way Ruth [her character]would stand. Ruth has been trained militarily, and she has trained toe-to-toe, no matter how fast her heart is racing, no matter how long it’s been since she’s done such a thing, she knows what it is to stand toe-to-toe with a killer.”
“So the stunt double got up there and she was acting like most of the women she had to play on film and was cowering from him, and you could see it in her back and body language, and I said, ‘Antoine [Fuqua, the director] get her to stand up to him, don’t be a girl up there.’”
Audiences will see whether the stunt double (and Leo herself) are able to pull off a convincing powerful woman in the drama when it hits theaters Friday, March 22.