LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - She may be one of this year’s most unlikely Oscar nominees, and because of that, Amy Ryan believes she already is a winner even if she fails to take home the coveted award as best supporting actress in “Gone Baby Gone.”
Ryan has found recognition on Broadway, but mainly in supporting roles. Her screen work has been mostly in low-budget independent films and guest-starring TV roles. She got a big Hollywood break in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film “War of the Worlds” — playing “neighbor with a toddler.”
That was two years ago, and now the native New Yorker with a bright personality has earned a share of the spotlight at the upcoming Oscars, the world’s top film honors, to be given out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on February 24.
Since winning high praise and various award nominations for her relatively small role as a neglectful single mother in “Gone Baby Gone,” Ryan said Hollywood has at last come calling.
“No matter what happens Oscar night, I’ve already won the prizes, and those are the doors that have opened,” Ryan told Reuters. “It’s working with directors like Paul Greengrass and Clint Eastwood. That’s the real award, one you can hold onto.”
She said the fast changes to her career have surprised her, and she still fears that when the Oscars are over, she will go back to old routines of auditioning daily for casting directors and waiting patiently to learn if she landed a job.
But given her background — Ryan scored nominations for Broadway’s top honors, the Tonys, in 2000 and 2005 — Hollywood watchers believe the actress’ star should only soar higher.
“It takes some getting used to, but trust me I’m very happy to get used to it,” Ryan said of her new status. Then, with a laugh, she added, “I adapt easily. I promise.”
“Gone Baby Gone” is based on a crime novel by Dennis Lehane and was directed and co-written by Ben Affleck. The movie stars his younger brother, Casey Affleck, as a young private detective in Boston hired to investigate the kidnapping of a young girl.
Ryan plays the girl’s mother, a working-class woman who cares more about partying and chasing men than she does about caring for her daughter.
The part of Helene McCready appealed to Ryan because the character’s actions seem abhorrent, and Ryan said she loves dark roles that take her places mentally and emotionally that she would never go.
“I’m not afraid of dark emotions and material,” Ryan said “I actually can’t wait to go there. It’s thrilling because you can walk in those people’s shoes, but when the day is over, you know your life’s not so bad. So it’s safe, you know.”
One reason she won the role, Ryan said, was her ability to speak in a convincing Boston accent, so much so that Affleck believed the New Yorker really grew up in Bean Town’s working class. He also wanted an unknown actress.
But Ryan said she also felt a connection to Helene, and that allowed the actress to portray the character’s unsavory nature in a way that also allows audiences to empathize with her.
“I thought I’d never get the part, but I knew I could do it. It’s inexplicable why, but I knew this was in my range,” she said. After her audition, she recalled, “Ben said, ‘You are one nasty actor.”‘ Ryan laughs again, “I think that was a compliment.”
The actress said she is excited to walk up Oscar’s red carpet in a designer gown and jewels and to rub elbows with the likes of Tom Hanks and Nicole Kidman, but that is far from her only dream.
“It’s fun to dress in these beautiful clothes, but at the end of the day, it’s about telling these stories, and if I get a better part in the storytelling, that’s amazing.”
Editing by Steve Gorman and Jackie Frank