The subject of equal pay for skilled workers is of course a serious subject, but in "Made in Dagenham," a little known but true story about a strike at a Ford plant in mid-century England is told with such heart and humor, many will call it a comedy. On Monday Rouge Tomate was bustling for a luncheon hosted by ReVive and Laura Mercier celebrating the film and its actors Sally Hawkins, the feisty Rita who leads the women seamstresses in a work strike, and Miranda Richardson, formidable and funny as Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity.
Of the casting, director Nigel Cole said, never believe a director who says he always wanted so and so for the part. They always have a string of actors and they keep going down the list. In this case, he got everyone he wanted including Rosamund Pike who plays an upper class wife stuck in stifling domesticity. Cole made another crowd-pleaser featuring feisty women, Calendar Girls. That's the one where all these women over 40 take their clothes off for a calendar to raise money. There I was with all of them, laughed Cole. We didn't know but the actors wanted to rehearse with the actual women and they made a pact, insisting on being entirely naked, even when they did not have to be. We found out: nudity on the set is a good way to get people to work hard. As no one wants to actually look, so they suddenly get eye-averting busy. With Helen Mirren, he quipped, the trouble is to get her to keep her clothes on.
The director continued with hilarious on-the-set tales, concluding with his time directing Christopher Walken having sex with Sharon Stone in "$5 a Day," a movie so fraught with legal troubles, it went straight to video. How do you direct a sex scene? You have to be specific. You have to say where to put your hands, and so on, because everyone is embarrassed: maybe others don't do what I do at home. With Walken and Stone, all you had to do was call action. We wanted to hose them down.
Dana Ivey brought playwright Alfred Uhry to the lunch. His 1987 Pulitzer Prize winning play, Driving Miss Daisy opened last week on Broadway. Even the critics who ponder the slight story line of the spry 72 year old white Jewish matron in Atlanta whose son Boolie hires a black man to chauffeur her around are enchanted with the acting. To age to somewhere in her 90's, all Vanessa Redgrave has to do is water her eyes dim and go gummy, drawing her lips over her perfect set of teeth. And James Earl Jones as Hoke Coleburn, shuffling about, bearing the weight of racism, does more than drive her to temple. A hotter couple you are not going to see on Broadway for tender banter.
The play's riches come across in a scene where Daisy is to attend a Martin Luther King benefit and her son (the excellent Boyd Gaines) decides it is not to his advantage to go. You recognize with pain how many decisions are made this way.
Uhry has acknowledged his joy in having had wonderful actors performing in the play and movie versions of his work, including Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, and Dana Ivey, present company his favorite Daisy.
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