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'Martha Marcy May Marlene': John Hawkes on playing 'evil' [video]

October 18, 2011 | 12:18 pm

John Hawkes as cult leader Patrick in Martha Marcy May Marlene
This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

Actor John Hawkes, an Oscar nominee this year for his role in "Winter's Bone," continues his streak of quietly authentic performances in "Martha Marcy May Marlene." In the new film, which opens Friday, Hawkes convincingly conveys a sense of still, inner menace to become a commanding presence as the leader of a self-styled agrarian community (most would call it a cult) that ensnares a young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) by leaching away her sense of self.

Though he shows flashes of violence and a darker malevolence, Hawkes' character wields his power over his young charges largely through words and mindgames. Hawkes' performance of the obscure Jackson C. Frank folk tune "Marcy's Song," which was filmed live with the actor accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, is at once intimate and chilling. 

In this clip from last Friday night's Envelope Screening Series conversation, Hawkes talks about how he and writer-director Sean Durkin worked to keep his character from seeming like an overt villain.

[For the record, 2:13 p.m., Oct. 18: A previous version of this post had the title of the song Hawkes sings in the film as "Martha's Song."]


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'Martha Marcy May Marlene': Elizabeth Olsen on prepping for the role [Video]

Sundance 2011: "Martha Marcy May Marlene" breaks out -- and faces some obstacles

-- Mark Olsen


Photo: John Hawkes as cult leader Patrick in "Martha Marcy May Marlene." Credit: Jody Lee Lipes/20th Century Fox