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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Pollock's Oscar surprise
Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden as Pollock and Krasner
Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden as Pollock and Krasner
Marcia Gay Harden's best supporting actress Oscar for Pollock was one of the ceremony's biggest surprises.

She beat off competition from the hotly-tipped Kate Hudson (Almost Famous), Frances McDormand (Almost Famous), Dame Judi Dench (Chocolat) and Julie Walters (Billy Elliot).

Harden plays Lee Krasner, the wife of tortured US painter Jackson Pollock.

The movie, starring and directed by Ed Harris, was made over a 10-year period and chronicles the alcoholic artist's breakthrough technique of splattering paint from the brush to the canvas.

Ed Harris in Pollock
Ed Harris planned Pollock for 10 years
Pollock, as the film's website points out, has been called "an artist dedicated to concealment, a celebrity who nobody knew".

Both Harden and Harris studied painting in preparation for their roles.

Harden also went to museums, met Krasner's friends and family and studied the works of Pollock.

Krasner's efforts at promoting her husband's career often hindered her own growth as an artist.

The movie shows her evolution from protector of Pollock's career to observer of his decline.

"She was the kind of woman who hung her hat on another man's peg to find herself, in spite of how brilliant she was in her own right," said Harden.

"They fed off each other in ways that weren't always healthy," she said.

First award

This was Harden's first Oscar nomination, and she praised her director and co-star Ed Harris.

Marcia Gay Harden
Marcia Gay Harden started out on stage
"I never felt that Ed was a first-time director," she said. "He was so comfortable all the time."

She added: "He's tough and he's rough. He would ask me to go that place with him."

Harden started her career on the stage and won a Tony nomination for her performance on Broadway in the Aids drama Angels in America.

"I'm a New York theatre actress and now I'm here with Oscar. This means more to me, personally, than it does in terms of my career. It's a victory for an actress who came up in New York City and was waiting tables," she said.

Harden's film projects have alternated between big Hollywood movies like Space Cowboys and Flubber with smaller independent projects.

She starred opposite Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins in Meet Joe Black.

The Coen brothers gave Harden the female lead in Miller's Crossing opposite Albert Finney, Gabriel Byrne, and John Turturro.

She studied theatre at the University of Texas and continued her training in New York.

Harden previously worked with Ed Harris in the New York Shakespeare Festival premiere production of Sam Shepard's Simpatico.

Artistic process

Harris had been working on ideas for his Pollock project for nearly a decade.

"During the years I spent reading and thinking and feeling about Pollock," said Harris, "and I spent time painting and trying to understand emotionally what it is to be a painter."

He said he made a concerted effort to show and accurate portrayal of Pollock's revolutionary artistic process.

"I've been painting and drawing off and on since I became committed to making this film," said Harris.

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