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Monday, March 22, 1999 Published at 06:14 GMT

Brenda Blethyn and a pinch of salt

Blethyn as Mari with Michael Caine's seedy Ray Say in Little Voice

Brenda Blethyn talks to BBC News Online's Bella Hurrell

"I can't wait for my boyfriend to get here so I can just hide away," says Brenda Blethyn, who has been immersed in what she calls the "rather tedious" round of pre-Oscar interviews and chat shows in the US.

Oscars '99
Blethyn was nominated Best Supporting Actress for her role as the foul-mouthed northern floozy Mari in the film Little Voice.

Dame Judi Dench was the winner fo the award - before the ceremony, Blethyn said she thought she had "zero" chance of walking away with the award.

Brenda in action as Mari in Little Voice
But Blethyn had been through the whole process before - two years ago she was nominated for the Best Actress for her role in Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies.

"I know what to expect now. I thought I had more chance of winning last time than this time and my optimism was pretty low even then. But I suppose it is quite a close run thing this year. I meet people in the street and they say 'Oh you're going to win, you're going to win', but then they said all that last time. I take it all with a pinch of salt."

Speaking up for Little Voice

[ image: Brenda Blethyn wonders whether she can fit the Oscar in her handbag...]
Brenda Blethyn wonders whether she can fit the Oscar in her handbag...
Mari is a fish factory worker who has nothing but contempt for her shy daughter and lusts after a local showbiz agent, the seedy Ray Say, played by Michael Caine. It is an unsympathetic role and a long way from the put-upon, kind at heart characters Blethyn normally plays. But it was this that attracted her to the role.

"I normally play sympathetic characters. I also have to understand why she is the way she is. She is a desperate woman, but she also has an optimistic take on life which I find enviable. Whilst I don't approve of her behaviour, there is a reason for it and it was my job to work that out.

"I also knew that people might not like her and might not like me. But where is it written that we must always play nice people?"

The fact that many fail to distinguish between personality and fine acting irritates Blethyn.

It was Blethyn's job to work out what made her Little Voice character tick
" I thought Warren Beatty was wonderful as Bulworth and I thought he'd be nominated. And they said 'he won't - it's such a horrible character'.

"I said 'Well, it's the performance of that horrible character, not the horrible character that we should be looking at.'"

Like all the other nominees in Hollywood Blethyn has been going to a relentless round of parties. But the down-to-earth Blethyn is not angling for sympathy and says it has been fun so far.

"At the nominees luncheon there was a great feeling of camaraderie, everyone comes away with a certificate of nomination and a gift of some sort. On that particular day there are no winner or losers, in fact they are all winners and that's quite nice."

Hollywood's annual fashion show

"I thought I had more chance of winning last time"
For the big night itself she had a dress specially made, which she describes as "kind of nice". Diamonds and jewels "come at you from all angles" she admits, referring to the offers that Oscar nominees get to wear glamorous jewellery for free as a promotion for the designer.

"It's as much a celebration of fashion as it is a celebration of film and performance. Every camera crew one stops and talks to on your way up the red carpet wants to know what you're wearing, who made your shoes, who made the dress, who did your hair, who did your make-up. I mean it's bizarre."

Although she looked forward to the chance to dress up, Blethyn cautiously admitted that it is a bit of a circus.

"The Baftas we are nominated for in April, well they are is probably a little classier."

Back to business

Blethyn will soon be gracing our screens again in Daddy and Them, a film with director Billy Bob Thornton which will be released later this year, and another with John Hurt called Night Train.

She is also about to start shooting RKO 281, a film about the making of the Citizen Kane. Blethyn plays Louella Parsons, an American gossip columnist.

Her hectic schedule starts straight away and involves no sunbathing beside a pool or recuperating from a post-Oscars hangover.

Leaving Hollywood on 22 March - the day after the awards - hopefully with a golden statuette stashed in her hand luggage, she starts shooting in London a day later.

"I won't be jetlagged at all, will I?" she says with a giggle.

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