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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 14:26 GMT
Emily takes some light relief
Emily Watson
Watson takes on her first comedy role in Trixie
By BBC News Online's entertainment correspondent Tom Brook

British actress Emily Watson, best known for heart-wrenching roles in films as varied as Breaking the Waves and Hilary and Jackie, is now branching into lighter fare with a new film called Trixie.

Watson plays a gum-chewing private detective with a heavy Chicago accent who mixes her metaphors in a picture that director Alan Rudolph calls "screwball noir".


I've been to too many screenings where people have been quietly sniffling in the back row of movies that I've done

Emily Watson

The cast also boasts performances from Nick Nolte, who plays a corrupt politician, and Nathan Lane as a nightclub entertainer.

For Watson, the appeal of Trixie lay very much in the fact that it was comedy.

She says: "I've been to too many screenings where people have been quietly sniffling in the back row of movies that I've done. Just to be in a theatre and hear laughter, that's a fantastic feeling, it's very different."

Much of the humour comes from Trixie's malapropisms, which recur frequently throughout the film. Watson recalls that her character would say: "Between the rock and the deep blue sea, rather than a rock and a hard place.

Emily Watson
Trixie (Watson) questions an injured Dex Lang ( Dermot Mulroney) in her search for a murderer

"She has just about got the gist of everything, but it all just comes out a bit wrong, so she is never quite on top of the language."

The actress said it was quite a challenge to get the dialogue right, because at first many of Trixie's lines sound nonsensical.

Watson says: "I had to spend a lot of time working with the script to make sure everything made perfect sense, so when (Trixie) says, 'I've an ace up my hole,' I knew exactly what she meant. But it takes a little working out!"

Satire

On the surface, Trixie spends her time tracking down a murderer. But, as a private detective, she also represents a symbol who reveals how concealed the truth has become in modern society.

Trixie seems inarticulate and clumsy, yet she has integrity and respects the truth.

Nick Nolte and Brittany Murphy
Nick Nolte plays the film's corrupt element (here with Brittany Murphy)

The state politician, played by Nick Nolte, who becomes the focus of Trixie's inquiries is outwardly articulate and appears honest, but his words amount to a pack of lies.

In that respect, Watson sees the film as satire because "nearly everything Nick says is a direct quote from an American politician".

When Trixie was shown at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year it drew some disappointing reviews.

Critics had problems with the script rather than Watson's acting abilities.

It is probably fair to say that Trixie won't be a big commercial hit, since its release in the US next week will be limited to the art house circuit.

Sensible

Watson has generally chosen to work in smaller independent movies, but she maintains she has no aversion to big budget Hollywood productions.

In fact, she says: "I'm actually dipping my toe in that water quite soon.

Emily Watson
Watson says she is nothing like her eccentric screen character

"But I'm trying to go into it on the basis of it being very much an acting role, rather than a 'babe' running around in a short skirt with a gun thing."

The actress insists that, in reality, she is not at all like some of the disturbed and eccentric women she has portrayed on screen.

"I like to think I'm quite a sensible girl," she says.

She's says she's chosen to play women on the edge because she likes parts she can really get her teeth into.

"As an actor it's fantastic, because you really can lose yourself in a role, that's what I love to do. The further you push the envelope, the better the work you do, the more risks you take," she explains.

Watson has only been in the movie business for four years, but her screen performances have brought her wide respect in the American film industry.

It can only be assumed that Trixie will enhance her reputation as a powerful actress with all the skills to turn a gum-chewing detective with a Chicago accent who constantly malaprops into a compelling human character.

Trixie screens at the London Film Festival on 13 November and opens across the UK in the New Year.

See also:

12 Jan 00 | Entertainment
Angela's Ashes premieres in UK
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