Indie queen Catherine Keener is no stranger to taking on difficult roles and in her new film, A Late Quartet, she learned to play the viola as a member of a string quartet with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken. The actress admitted the challenge of learning a new instrument did affect her choosing the project.
“I think what attracts me to a part is that it gives me something to think about and work on,” Keener told Vulture. “I don’t think people just want to go in and cruise through something. The funny thing is that when we were working, often, the focus is on getting the playing right, and you kind of forget that you’re supposed to be acting, too!”
Keener, who won Oscar nominations for Being John Malkovich and Capote, noted that the physicality of the role did help to inform her acting choices. “It works on you unconsciously,” she said. “Everything will affect a performance: the mood of the crew that day, who you’re working with, your costume. Everything counts, but that informed a lot. Because I got to know the instrument mildly, I felt like I could play at being an expert at it emotionally, rather than just feeling like a dilettante.”
A Late Quartet is now playing in limited release in theaters.