m i c k e y s u m n e r
Mickey Sumner is having a moment. The actress is starring in the wonderful Frances Ha with Greta Gerwig, is playing Patti Smith in upcoming movie CBGB and also has a part in Kristen Wiig's new film, Girl Most Likely. We were lucky enough to get her attention for a few questions.
Hi Mickey, thanks for talking to us here at Broken Shark. So let's start at the beginning, tell us about the audition process for Frances Ha, it was somewhat of a secretive affair right?
It wasn't that it was secretive, there just was no information about it. I got an appointment from my agent to go in for Doug Aibel (casting director) to audition for an Untitled Noah Baumbach movie - there was no script, there were no audition sides - i would be a cold read, there was no mention of Greta. I didn't know anything. It was a really fun audition - i couldn't over think anything as i had just been handed the sides and Doug is such a sweetie and great to read with. And from there I had a call back with Noah which was hilarious: we were reading the Starboard Anal Sex scene and we were all in hysterics. Laughter in an audition is so rare! And after that 3 more call backs, and then I was offered Sophie. It felt like a marathon.
At what stage did you find out Greta Gerwig was playing Frances? And the rest of the amazing cast?
I walked into my second callback with Noah and Greta was sitting there and I realised "oh this is a Greta Gerwig movie and I'm auditioning to play her friend". It wasn't until my final audition that i found out she had co-written it with Noah. And then the amazing cast - and they truly were amazing - we all just met each other on set.
I wrote in my review that 'seldom has female friendship been portrayed so fair and so true', did the chemistry between you and Greta come quickly? One must only assume you are friends now?
People keep asking me how i prepared to play her best friend - and i just tell them "have you ever met Greta?" - she is very easy to fall in love with, she is just someone you want to be around. I didn't ever think about how to play her friend, or try to have chemistry with her, it just happened - thank goodness. Trying to have chemistry with someone is so awful. And yes we are friends now !
What was your first day on set like? And the guerrilla style of shooting round New York? That must have been fun but hard at times.
No one told me that Noah does a lot of takes - so my first day I was convinced I was going to get fired. We did so many takes and I thought it was because I wasn't getting it - but after a couple of days I realised that was just how Noah shoots - and then I got into it. Filming in NYC with a small crew, filming on the subway and stealing shots outside buildings couldn't be more fun - you all become close very quickly - you are part of the film making process - you're not hiding in a trailer - it feels extremely collaborative.
Sophie is an interesting character, do you think you would be friends with her if you met her in real life?
God I hope so ! I think to play any character you have to really love them in their entirety - their flaws and all - you cant judge them - it just doesn't work.
How did you feel when you first saw the movie?
I saw it the first time at the Telluride Film Festival - it was a big audience and it was the world premier and i was terrified (and sweating). Greta was sitting next to me - and by the end we were both bawling. It was really emotional. It was a big deal for me - I don't think I had really understood the significance of the Sophie/Frances relationship - I didn't read the whole script - so when I saw the movie and realised it was really a love story between them it really touched me. Also I was so amazed by the movie - regardless of being in it - I just felt wow this is an incredible gem of a movie - Noah and Greta created something truly wonderful.
I love that Noah said black and white is a film maker's best friend as it makes everything look important, was the decision to shoot like this already in place when you came on board?
Yes. I was so happy when he told me it was going to be in B&W - a black and white movie set in Manhattan – I mean - come on! it doesn't get better than that.
I've seen Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton having little lover's tiffs on set and bickering which always makes me laugh – was there any of that with Greta and Noah?
Honestly no - and I'm not just protecting them - they were very professional - and because the script was so tight and locked - Greta could focus on acting and Noah directing. They have something really lovely and just work creatively really well together.
I loved the soundtrack, Noah's choices were inspired. I'm still singing Modern Life on a daily basis tempted to dance through Soho (I don't thankfully, it wouldn't be pretty!). What's your soundtrack right now and do you have a go-to song to cheer you up?
Oh David Bowie ! So good. When I was 18 I lived in Clerkenwell in London and would sprint from Farringdon tube station to the flat at full pelt- people thought i was mad, but it just felt so good to run through the streets. Right now I'm pretty obsessed with this new LA-based band called MY PET - their whole album is amazing. And my go-to song that gets me out of bed in the morning is James Brown's "I got you".
This movie has been so well received and I think will be taken to heart for many a generation to come because of it's many timeless and charming qualities. How does it feel to be such a big part of it?
Its a real privilege to be part of something that so many people relate to and enjoy. Its been really amazing to hear feedback from people - it seems to touch so many different people: men, women, different generations – I just feel very grateful to Noah and Greta for letting me be part of it - it has been life-changing for me.
Can we ask you about your upcoming cameo in CBGB? How amazing to be playing Patti Smith!
Yes, I have a cameo role in CBGB playing Patti - and although I felt a huge responsibility it was total dream come true. And working with Alan Rickman was also amazing, he is such a generous actor.
What else is next? Seems like this is shaping up to be a good year for you.
I just finished shooting a great arc on the new AMC show LOW WINTER SUN (Airs in the US on August 11th) with the incredible Mark Strong and Lenny James - three Brits playing non-Brits filming in Detroit: So much fun! And a very different role from Sophie!
Thanks Mickey - we expect to be seeing a hell of lot of you in the near future.
Frances Ha is in cinemas in the UK now. Read our review HERE