“I almost wanted it to feel like a seduction,” says Noah Baumbach of a pivotal scene in his new film “Marriage Story.” It’s the moment when Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), an actress trying to amicably split from her director husband Charlie (Adam Driver), meets with high-powered Beverly Hills divorce attorney Nora Fanshaw (Laura Dern). “It’s like meeting the right person at the right time,” the writer-director adds, although it eventually becomes apparent that’s not actually the case.
Baumbach and Dern spoke at length about the tough-as-nails attorney in a new behind-the-scenes featurette highlighting the actress’s performance in the Netflix drama. Watch the exclusive video above.
“It’s a very odd relationship between the divorce lawyer and a client,” divulges Dern, “because you come, as Nicole [does], with your heart cracked open, looking for guidance.” Although “Nora probably considers herself as someone who does it with great etiquette,” in reality, “she’s a bully.”
That becomes crystal clear in a dynamite scene where Nora goes head-to-head with Charlie’s lawyer Jay (Ray Liotta) in an intense courtroom battle. “I wanted really formidable people representing this formidable couple,” Baumbach reveals.
Even Liotta, the tough guy star of Martin Scorsese‘s “GoodFellas” (1990), was intimidated by his costar. “She comes with her guns loaded,” he states. “She really does. It was great.”
Nora further shows her true colors during an extended speech to Nicole where she tells her client to portray herself as the best mother since Mary Magdalene in order to gain custody of her child. “As a woman, as an actor, to read this one particular monologue that Noah wrote for my character was like Christmas morning,” praises Dern. “It’s outrageous because it’s so speaks to how we consider mothers and motherhood.”
The role could bring Dern a long overdue Oscar victory in Best Supporting Actress (and according to our racetrack, she’s currently the odds-on favorite). She previously competed in that category for “Wild” (2014) and once more in lead for “Rambling Rose” (1992). It would certainly be a fitting cap to a career renaissance for the actress, which includes recent Emmy and Golden Globe victories for her supporting turn on HBO’s “Big Little Lies” (which could land her back in both races this year as well).
Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.