Actress Lauren Holly has been a fixture on television and in film for the better part of the last 30 years!
Holly first gained attention for her role on the Emmy-winning series Picket Fences, and has gone on to appear in such popular films as Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Dumb and Dumber, Sabrina, Beautiful Girls, What Women Want, and Any Given Sunday. But she is probably best known for her recurring role as Director Jenny Shepard on NCIS, which in 2011 was voted America’s favorite television show. The accomplished actress can now be seen once again on the big screen in the new American war drama Field of Lost Shoes, which opens in theaters on September 26th.
Field of Lost Shoes is based on a true story of the American Civil War, culminating at the Battle of New Market, May 1864. In the film a group of teenage cadets sheltered from war at the Virginia Military Institute must confront the horrors of an adult world when they are called upon to defend the Shenandoah Valley. Leaving behind their youth, these cadets must decide what they are fighting for. Holly plays Mrs. Clinedinst, the mother of a girl in love with one of the young soldiers. In addition to Holly, the film features a terrific cast that includes Jason Isaacs (Green Zone), Keith David (Platoon), David Arquette (Scream), and Tom Skerritt (Top Gun). The movie was directed by Sean McNamara (Soul Surfer), and written by first time screenwriters Thomas Farrell and Dave Kennedy.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Lauren Holly about Field of Lost Shoes, as well as the 15th Anniversary of Any Given Sunday. The talented actress discussed her new film, the real life story it is based on, her character, researching her role, the incredible cast, not having a Picket Fences reunion on set with her co-star Tom Skerritt, director Sean McNamara, what she is looking for from a director on set, choosing projects, Any Given Sunday, working with legendary director Oliver Stone, beating the crap out of Dennis Quaid, and which of her film or television projects she is most proud of.
Here is what Lauren Holly had to say about Field of Lost Shoes and the 15th Anniversary of Any Given Sunday:
IAR: To begin with, can you talk about Field of Lost Shoes and your initial reaction to the movie’s true story?
Lauren Holly: The film is a true story based on a historical situation where some boys that were studying at the VMI (Virginia Military Institute), which is sort of like the South West Point, were sent in as reserves in a big battle in the Civil War. They ended up not only fighting the battle, but also probably winning it despite their age and everything else. It was quite courageous, and lives were lost and whatnot. It’s really about them and the reason why they are fighting and all of that.
What can you say about your character’s role in the movie?
Holly: Well my part is not a lead role in the film, but it’s pretty much the only woman in the movie. So I guess it stands out a bit. My daughter has a love story with one of the young soldiers. I’m typical like many women at that time in that I sort of put my own interests aside and lend myself to the war effort. I turn my house into a hospital.
When you’re acting in a historical film that is based on a true story, do you do a lot of research or do you mainly use the screenplay to help inform your performance?
Holly: Well, a little bit of both when it comes to this one. It really depends. Every part is different, but with this, there was research and reading I could do about the real story and lots of stuff to learn about the VMI. That’s where we were shooting. There was so much material available to us, and we were at the real place and all of that. But my character wasn’t based on a real person like many of the characters were in the film. I was a type of woman that existed at that time.
The movie features a very impressive cast of veteran actors including Jason Isaacs, Keith David, David Arquette, Tom Skerritt, and of course yourself. Which actors did you have scenes with?
Holly: I had scenes with all the young boys, the young fighters in the movie and my daughter played by Mary Mouser. I did not have scenes and I missed them a lot with Tom Skerritt and the rest of the adults.
So there was no Picket Fences reunion on the set?
Holly: No Picket Fences reunion. I even missed the premiere in Los Angeles so it was quite sad.
Can you talk about your experience working with director Sean McNamara?
Holly: I love Sean. He actually gave me the biggest compliment with this movie because I made a movie prior to this one with him called Hoovey, which I was the lead. It was when we finished Hoovey that he asked me if I would join him on this one and play this part. That is a big compliment from a director because our experiences working together went so well. The thing about Sean is that he really just creates an atmosphere that makes it so easy to tell whatever story we’re telling. It’s kind of hard to articulate, but it was very interesting. The first movie I did with Sean was called Hoovey, and I played a farm wife in Illinois with a sick child in present day. Then I go off into this Civil War movie. Both places felt so real to me because of him.
You just said that Sean McNamara is someone who “creates an atmosphere that makes it easy to tell a story.” Is that what you are looking for from a director when working on set?
Holly: It’s not really what I’m looking for, but it’s what I noticed about Sean. That’s what’s so special about him. The most important thing for a director is that the he needs to know his story inside and out so that he can constantly help you modulate your performance and remind you of where you are in any given scene. Also, to sort of help tell the story with the camera and how the camera is placed. Sean also somehow created an environment where we felt like we were living and breathing in the story. I just adored him.
You are a very accomplished actress and have been working constantly on both film and television for many years. When you’re choosing projects at this point in your career, what is some of the criteria that you are looking for?
Holly: It’s always something different. I’ve done things for many different reasons. Whether it’s a part that I really wanted to play, or the director seemed like someone I wanted to work with, or there was another actor in it I like, or the DP is fantastic, or if it’s a drama, or a comedy that sparked my interest. There’s always something different. It’s almost like if I say something that I’m looking for, I’ll never get it. It’s just the way life works. You read something and it either grabs you or it doesn’t, or something takes your interest. Sometimes it’s just because I need the job. That’s the basic truth of it. It can be so many different reasons.
It’s the 15th Anniversary of Any Given Sunday, which I think is one of the best football movies of all-time. It seems like during football season that film plays on TV every weekend. What was it like working with director Oliver Stone on that movie?
Holly: Well, Oliver at that time was sort of a mad genius. There is just no doubt that he is one of the most accomplished filmmakers ever. I’m so lucky that I could’ve worked with him. That movie was just huge. I don’t even know how else to describe it. I had a golf cart to get around the base camp wherever we went. It was quite thrilling to be in that movie, but it was also so big. Working in Miami and then going to Dallas and shooting in AT&T Stadium with thousands of extras was just craziness.
You have one of the best scenes in the film, which is when you beat the crap out of Dennis Quaid. What was it like doing that scene and working with him?
Holly: Dennis is great! I’m proud of that scene. It’s so funny because Oliver and I got in a bit of an argument, and I think it was maybe on purpose as far as Oliver was concerned in order to get me in that mood. I think that was a little bit of what went on because I was ready to sock Oliver as well. I think there was a little bit of that going on. As much as I feel like Dennis and I played the scene well, it was also so heightened by the way Oliver decided to use the camera in that scene. That’s just such a good example of how great of a director he is.
Finally, as I mentioned Any Given Sunday has really taken on a life of it’s own over the years, as have many of your other films. Looking back on your career, do you have a film or TV project in particular that you are personally proud of?
Holly: Yes, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. I loved that movie. I loved making that movie. It was a tremendously hard movie for me to make for an emotional reason, and it was also a physically demanding movie. I was Jason Scott Lee’s training partner the whole time. We worked out every day. We traveled to China and to Macau. It was really just something spectacular.
Any Given Sunday 15th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray will be available beginning September 9th.