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Sally Hawkins on Surviving 'Blue Jasmine'

It's always challenging when you're stepping into the role of someone who isn't you. It's Woody Allen, so you worry - you have to get over your insecurities about what you're doing.

Some things never change, especially regarding sisterhood. Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen's latest cinematic masterpiece, could just as easily have been entitled Blue Ginger, due to actress Sally Hawkins's understated yet outstanding performance as Cate Blanchett's (Jasmine's) younger sister. Ironically, despite the fact that Hawkins (Ginger) is meant to play second fiddle to the more successful, glamorous Blanchett (Jasmine), she still manages to end up with no less than what the Golden Globe-winning actress describes as "a lovely collection of men," including Andrew Dice Clay (Augie), Bobby Cannavale (Chili), and Louis C.K. (Al).

In Blue Jasmine's masterful tale of fragility, failure, and survival, its Hawkins's character (Ginger) who remains the only one unwilling to abandon an emotionally destabilized Jasmine. So who is the real winner in the end? Luckily enough, I had the rare privilege of discussing just this with Hawkins last week at The Corinthia Hotel in London:

What was the most challenging aspect of portraying Ginger, Jasmine's (Cate Blanchett's) sister?

Sally Hawkins: Well, it's always challenging when you're stepping into the role of someone who isn't you. It's Woody Allen, so you worry - you have to get over your insecurities about what you're doing. It was more nerve-wracking than (Woody Allen's) Cassandra's Dream because it was a much bigger role and more responsibility. Also, this time, it was American.

Don't worry, you nailed the accent. You often play happy, light-hearted characters. Do you ever wish you were given darker, edgier roles?

SH: I feel like I've done a lot of those as well, like in early Mike Leigh films. Its just that the films that have hit a larger audience happened to be my happier roles. But I always see all my characters as different, even if they have a common light-hearted spirit. I don't have preferences, I just love working on a good script.

You've repeatedly worked with both Woody Allen and Mike Leigh. What was the biggest difference between the two directors in terms of style?

SH: There are so many similarities - yet they start at incredibly different ends of the scale. With Mike you spend months improvising and developing the character, creating and changing the script. Woody is outside-in, and gives you the script complete: the lines, the story, the characters. He doesn't want to to talk about the process. In Blue Jasmine, all the clues are already there in his script, and its up to you to piece it all together backwards, like a jigsaw puzzle. I'm lucky that Cate loved doing that as much as I did.

What was it like working with Louis C.K.?

SH: He is king, and I adore him. He acts, writes, directs, edits. Its like nothing else I've seen. Woody adores him because they come from a similar background as stand-up comedians and just the way they both think alike.

Blue Jasmine is very much about sibling rivalry. Do you see Ginger as the unluckier sister?

SH: Well, she survives. Actually, the simple life is key: it's her strength. She has a high morality, her heart is completely broken. And she's angry and frustrated with Jasmine. And yet devastated that she can't reach this lost soul that is splitting in front of her eyes. Its even sadder for her, because she will always be there for Jasmine.

So is the lesson of Blue Jasmine is compromise?

SH: No, but Ginger doesn't have to expect better. She doesn't want for much, just for her boys to be happy. Both Ginger and Jasmine have their bad points, and it remains unresolved at the end; I think the best films are. Neither of them is the winner, but neither of them are losers.

Though severely tested by Jasmine in the film, is Ginger is too loyal to be true?

SH: It goes right back to childhood. They regress, and of course, as with old family relationships, they go right back to where they left off. They haven't seen each other for a long time, and Ginger always looked up to Jasmine. Yes, Ginger can be frustrating. You do want her to be equally complex and have her own problems. They will never be the same again, either of them. But Ginger will be the one who remains.

Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, starring Sally Hawkins and Cate Blanchett, opens in UK theatres on September 27th 2013.

All photos used courtesy of Thinkjam.