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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: John Hawkes

'Martha Marcy May Marlene': Sean Durkin on researching cults [video]

October 20, 2011 |  3:42 pm

Elizabeth Olsen and Sean Durkin

In this latest clip from Friday's Envelope Screening Series Q&A for "Martha Marcy May Marlene," writer-director Sean Durkin gives some insight into how he envisioned the group from which Elizabeth Olsen's title character must escape -- the film dramatizes her struggle to shake herself loose from the emotional and psychological grip of a nameless cult.

In fact, the word "cult" is never used in the film, and actor John Hawkes, who plays the leader of the group, has said he preferred the term "community" to describe them. Picking up aimless young people and drawing them into an agrarian commune run on a darkly oppressive power dynamic and subtle mind games, the group preys upon lost souls such as Olsen's Martha.

Doing some research of his own, adding a bit of imagination and with a keen sense for human behavior, Durkin shows just enough of the group at work to create an unnerving disquiet that carries over to after Martha has reunited with her sister (Sarah Paulson), who has no idea what she is truly dealing with.


No sibling rivalry for Elizabeth Olsen

'Martha Marcy May Marlene': Sean Durkin on casting Martha [video]

'Martha Marcy May Marlene': Elizabeth Olsen on role prep [video]

-- Mark Olsen


Photo: Elizabeth Olsen and Sean Durkin. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times


'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."]


No sibling rivalry for Elizabeth Olsen

'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


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