In her seven feature films as a director, Rebecca Miller has brought to life indelible and complex characters rarely seen on the big screen. While one of her films, “Arthur Miller: Writer,” was a documentary about her father, the renowned playwright, the remaining six narrative films were of her own creation. These include a 10-year-old girl obsessed with absolving her sins in “Angela,” three women at the center of “Personal Velocity,” and a young mother scheming to reunite her husband with his ex in “Maggie’s Plan.”
Much like her characters, Miller excels in presenting unique worlds to viewers. This trend continues in her latest film, “She Came to Me,” which is set to open this weekend. The film stars Peter Dinklage as opera composer Steven, Anne Hathaway as his therapist wife, and Marisa Tomei as a tugboat captain with a love addiction.
Miller drew inspiration from her youngest son, who is studying to be a composer, to explore the world of opera in “She Came to Me.” As she started attending operas with him, Miller realized that her character could be someone who composes operas instead of writing. To ensure the film’s authenticity, Miller sought the guidance of several professionals, including her son’s teacher, composer Daniel Felsenfeld, Metropolitan Opera general manager Peter Gelb, and the Met’s dramaturg/director Paul Cremo.
The film also features mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard in her big-screen debut as Chloe, the lead in Steven’s new opera production. Miller was drawn to Leonard’s presence and her remarkable voice. Knowing that Leonard had been cast in a movie by the late Mike Nichols, Miller felt confident in her decision to cast her. Leonard describes the experience as both nerve-wracking and thrilling, allowing her to fulfill a hidden desire. Miller enjoyed directing Leonard, giving her permission to explore a more assertive and confrontational side of her character.
When it came to portraying the world of tugboat captains, Miller initially lacked connections. However, her random search for tug companies in New York led her to a company where she coincidentally had a previous relationship with the owner’s grandson. The company proved invaluable in helping Miller find a smaller tug company, allowing her to spend years immersing herself in the world of tugboats and developing a bond with a captain.
In addition to the main cast, Miller assembled an impressive ensemble, including up-and-coming actors Evan Ellison and Harlow Jane, as well as “Cold War” star Joanna Kulig and Tony nominee Brian D’Arcy James. Miller’s ability to bring out great performances from her actors likely stems from her personal experience in the craft. Her husband is Daniel Day-Lewis, and she has acted in films such as “Consenting Adults” and “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle” before transitioning to directing.
When asked about her approach to working with actors, Miller emphasizes the importance of meeting each actor where they are and understanding their individual needs. She believes in being of use to the actors and adapting to what they require, as each person is different. Miller’s instinctive understanding of actors’ language and her willingness to be of assistance contribute to the success of her collaborations.
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