That old cliche about there not being small parts, only small actors? It's proved once again by Laura Linney in "The Fifth Estate." The Emmy-winning actress steals her scenes in the new Julian Assange film, playing a U.S. State Department worker tasked with trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube after Assange's WikiLeaks published thousands of classified files and diplomatic cables in 2010. (It doesn't go all that well.)
Before the film's release on Oct. 18, Linney spoke to HuffPost Entertainment about her brief-but-crucial role in "The Fifth Estate," why she loves working with director Bill Condon and what she thinks of the internet.
"The Fifth Estate" is the third time you've worked with Bill Condon. What keeps you coming back?
Making "Kinsey" was probably one of the best experiences I've ever had. I loved making that movie, and it was really all about working Liam Neeson and working with Bill. So, when "The Big C" was happening, I called Bill and asked if he would direct the pilot. I never expected him to do it, but he did. We've just remained friends over the years, and we just really like each other. I just like being around Bill Condon, in any way possible. As you sort of work for a while -- in any business, I guess -- you learn the people who you work the best with, and who you have the most satisfying experiences with. There are five or six people who, if they whispered my name, I would show up. I would dust furniture in the background. Bill is just one of them. He's just wonderful.
There is a little more to this role than just dusting furniture, but you do have a small part here.
It was literally five days. He said, "I have this part, would you do it?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Will you read it first?" I said, "Well, I don't need to read it, but, yes, I'll do it." So, I read it and still wanted to do it. I'll do anything to be around Bill Condon for five days on a movie set. The business is so hard, and you can work in situations that can be so discouraging, that something like this can make you realize that you're not crazy. That there's a way of working that is creative and collaborative and enjoyable and challenging. It does exist. We all need that every once in a while. So, even if it was one day, just to reconfirm that for me, I will do that.
I think the enjoyment you felt translates to the screen, too. Your scenes in the film are so fun.
Me, Stanley Tucci and Anthony Mackie and a few other people, we showed up after Benedict Cumberbatch [who plays Assange], Daniel Bruhl [who plays Daniel Domscheit-Berg] and everyone else had wrapped. We were like the addendum. We were the very tail end. So the crew had already been together for months at that point. The three of us came in and we weren't tired. There was a crew that was working very hard, so in some ways it was fun for them also to get a totally different feeling from a different group of actors. We had a ball. Stanley Tucci and I have known each other, socially, for years, but we've never worked together. That was just a hoot. It was just fun! There were times where you're just trying to keep a straight face.
The character you play is based on a real person. Are you the type of actress who likes to do a lot of research or was that not necessary for this film?
You have to look and see what the most important thing is for the movie and the storytelling. For this, it was that we were the counter-argument to the core of the film. We are not the most important thing in this movie. Our characters should not take up that much space. But we have an important responsibility, so that's really what our job is: to counter what's going on with Julian Assange and Daniel Berg. Then you figure out how to do that. How do you do that without a character being too broad? How do you do that without it being too specific? You have to pitch it in the right way, so you actually help the audience move along with the story and help point them in the direction where the director and writer wanted to go. So, for this particular case, there were certain things we had to know, but making the material work was more my responsibility, I felt, then delving into the life of a State Department worker.
At the end of the film, your character says she isn't sure who history will judge more harshly: her or Julian Assange. What do you think of that question?
The impact that he has had is undeniable. The ingenuity and the skill and the strength that it took for him to do what he has done -- that impact is enormous. Now, what you feel about that, one way or the other, is confusing for most people. There is a lot about it that I don't understand. There's a lot about it that I will never understand. So I get uncomfortable speaking in absolutes about what I feel about it. Because it's not as simple as I want it to be. I'm not educated enough to really make an emphatic statement. My reaction to it is more emotional than factual or looking at the consequences of action. What I am very aware of, however, is how he is a product of his time. He's a person who, at this time, was able to break open this whole world in a way that has had tremendously good impact and some detrimental impact as well. It's complicated. But it really is all about the internet, and how the internet has turned the entire world upside and nobody knows how to handle it and it's freaking everyone the fuck out.
It freaks out business, politics, privacy, and it's changing our culture. Now, all of a sudden, the importance of information and getting information out -- what used to be a culture where it was more important to keep private matters private -- now with Twitter and Facebook, has completely changed the culture. Now you're sort of looked down upon if you don't share every intimate detail of yourself. You're sought out for that stuff. Fifty years ago, it was seen to be in horrific bad taste to do that. So we're in such an upheaval -- politically, socially -- and no one knows how to handle it. No one knows how to behave right now.
Is it hard for you to navigate that terrain as someone in the public eye?
I just have a hard time when people aren't respectful of people who choose not to expose everything about themselves for marketing. Because, you know, really, that's what it is. You can't stop how a culture evolves, but you can choose how you participate in it and how you don't. People can ask, and I can say no thank you. You can't be angry for people for asking when now it's acceptable and expected.