patricia year 11b

Maranda Pleasant: I feel like we’re super-aligned on a lot of humanitarian, eco, and philosophical issues. You’ve inspired me over the last fifteen years. We have four national magazines, and most of the strong women here have received some inspiration from you, so I just wanted to start with that.

Patricia Arquette: Aw, thank you!

MP: Was there some part of this film, Boyhood, that you really connected to on an emotional level?

PA: When we first talked about watching a child—or, really, two children—starting first grade and graduating from high school, I’d been watching my friend grow up and seen how fast things go with him. And we started talking about mothering and motherhood, our experiences of mothers, me being a mother, his mother, my mother, friends who are mothers. It was also that we really hadn’t seen the story of this mother very often, a struggling single mother. Sometimes, when you briefly glance in Hollywood, there’s a tendency to play it in a very “Yes, she’s exhausted, and yes, she’s working, and yes, she’s taking care of her kids full time, and yes, she’s a mom, but she’s also in a great mood all
the time.” I didn’t want to tell the story that way. I didn’t really think it was authentic, so I felt this very powerful connection to a lot of mothers who had done it alone for a long time.

MP: I’ve been a struggling single mom for about fifteen years. But I don’t like to use the word “struggling,” because when they get older, there’s so much beauty in that. We get to do it our way, and then we have this special connection.

PA: I think there can always be beauty in struggle. I mean, as far as childbirth, I had my son in the hospital, but then I had my daughter at home. There’s no doubt that there’s a struggling in birth, and a beauty and a horror and fear and joy too. Throughout history, the human species has struggled to some extent. Maybe less at this time in this country, but it’s part of us, as human beings, to provide better for our children and to try to do all these different things. The expectations have changed drastically, and thank God they have. Women have more rights, and women do have their own power in the world.

There was a time when only men could provide or work, and still a lot of countries are like that. But there’s a price to be paid for that when you’re expected to be the full-time caretaker and you’re expected to be the full-time breadwinner.

MP: And expected to have some kind of love life or any time to actually take a shower!

PA: Yeah, all of those things! I mean, mothering is one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I’m very grateful to have my kids in my life; they’re my greatest teachers. But to pretend it’s always easy is just not really true.

MP: One thing I didn’t expect in mothering was all of the resentment. I don’t hear women talking about it, especially single moms who, a lot of the time, feel like they’re absolutely drowning.

PA: Something interesting happened to me in the course of watching this movie. We shot it over twelve years, and I had a really beautiful lesson in resentment come to me at the end. Rick [Linklater], our director, would tell me, “Oh, Nathan Sr. [Ethan Hawke’s character] is going to come pick up the kids and take them on a camping trip.” But until I watched the movie with an audience, I didn’t really know what happened on the camping trip. So even though, yes, this father didn’t really contribute equally in time, he didn’t contribute equally financially, even though my character had the burden, and the joy, of most of the responsibility of parenting, when my character saw the movie—which was strange, because usually as an actor, you have the script, so you know what happens in all the other scenes—my character got to see his quality as a father, what he was, what he did give those kids when she wasn’t around. It was so beautiful, who he was as a father and who they were as children, and part of that came from him as well. So it taught me a lesson about releasing resentment and having gratitude.

MP: Isn’t it so funny when things are not the image of what we think they should be? Then we get older and it just seems so perfect. It all plays out.

PA: Part of what I love about getting older is realizing that there’s something perfect in the imperfection. It’s all very human.

MP: What’s been one of your biggest struggles as it pertains to you personally, either in parenting or as a woman? I don’t know about you, but I have a grocery list of struggles.

PA: Maybe finding the balance between being loving to other people, helping people that are in need or that ask for your help, but also having good boundaries about when I need to take care of myself or when I can say no. I’m learning how to say no.

MP: That’s a really good one. I think I started isolating a long time ago because I couldn’t balance very well.

PA: I definitely isolate, but I also always have people in front of me, and I have to be OK with that. I’m in a business where, on the set, you’re around two hundred people every day, and if you’re high on the call sheet, you sort of set the tone for the set. And you want people to feel appreciated, and you want to ask them how their kids are. You want to talk to people and invest in them and let them know that they’re appreciated and heard. But then I do like to just kind of withdraw. If somebody needs, like, a phone call every day or some kind of constant companionship, I’m not a really good friend for them. I can talk to my best friend every couple years and be really happy.

MP: What makes you feel vulnerable?

PA: Love. Love is a vulnerable thing. Falling in love is like a great drug. But then to really be known and really let someone else be known is very vulnerable. It’s a weird thing. Just being an actress in Hollywood is very vulnerable. To let all these other people decide whether you’re really of value or not, you have to really be strong to know that, of course, they have a right to their opinion, but their opinion doesn’t matter as far as yourself. Maybe there’s also a big component of time. The film is not just the kids growing up but Ethan Hawke and me getting old, or older, on-screen. That’s apparently something you’re not supposed to do in Hollywood. You’re not supposed to age. You’re supposed to be in this nebulous state of youth. And I know that’s not true and I really want to see that shattered.

MP: I would really like to see that shattered as well. I just hit my late thirties and I’ve finally seen my face change. It’s really funny seeing how our value is rated in a youth culture.

PA: In particular for women, it’s really different.

MP: It might be impossible to go totally unaffected by that.

PA: Of course, a lot of courtship and dating is about sexual attraction. If you’re an attractive person, you have that sort of interest from people, whether you cater to it or not, but when you get older, that’s not really the leading thing anymore. All these questions apply to the movie and why I was interested.

MP: What does love mean to you?

PA: That’s a good question. What does it represent to me? I’m not sure, really, because I think, in theory, it represents more than I’ve ever given it, like total acceptance. I don’t know that I’ve ever really had that. I could maybe talk for a long time with someone who was racist, and maybe I could see how they became that way or the environment they grew up in or what, but I don’t know if I could love them if they had something diametrically opposed to me ethically. So I don’t know if I’ve ever really been able to love anybody all the way. Maybe I’ve been able to give away fractions of love.

MP: What truth do you know for sure?

PA: I know I love my kids and I know they love me. I know I have beautiful friends and a great family, and I know I’ve been really blessed in this life.

MP: How do you keep your center in the middle of chaos?

PA: Well, I grew up in chaos. [Laughs.] I know when we were really little, my mom would say to me, “If you can, the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning, just get quiet and ask God, ‘Who is Patricia?’ You can feel your own nature and know who you are.” So I was raised by somebody with the perception of trying to allow me the space and show me the importance of knowing who I was and figuring out who I was and appreciating who I was. There are a lot of parts of who I am that no one in the public has ever known, but the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve appreciated my own strange little self and come to terms with that.

I also grew up with a lot of spirituality. It wasn’t necessarily organized religion, because my mom was Jewish and my dad was Muslim. I went to Catholic school. There was a lot of conversation about comparative religions. What I did find out because I grew up with a lot of chaos early on: sometimes, you’re born into a family, and their norm is already in your red zone of dangerous feeling or feeling too chaotic. You don’t get to really do anything about that when you’re a kid. And maybe you’ll be in some relationships where immediately you’re already in the red zone again, and you don’t even know what your own baseline is because you never got to know it. So I did find at one point in my life that it was really important to recalibrate and figure out what my own baseline of safety felt like, what my own boundaries were, and sort of go forward with that. It’s always beautiful to see people striving to grow.

MP: You’re one of those kinds of women that . . . you think and you feel and you make space for a lot of us who are different or maybe even exceptional. Thank you for being one of those bright lights.

PA: Thank you. I’m excited about the state of women’s spiritual life and interior life and who women are. I wish the political establishment would catch up, because we still don’t have equal rights in America; we still never passed the ERA. The fact that women don’t legally have equal rights in America, are legally paid less and that’s allowed, are legally charged more for insurance and that’s allowed. Older homeless people are more likely to be women, because they don’t have pensions and they are caretakers, so they withdraw from the workforce and end up having no pension if their husband leaves them, so the whole thing is just a nightmare. Things are very rudimentary as far as women’s rights really go here, and it seems fine, but once you start scraping the surface, you start to see the ripple effect of how not having equal rights is so detrimental and how many mothers are single parents trying to raise their families.

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