“I probably have never been as excited about a new play as I was when I read that,” veteran actress Lois Smith said of Marjorie Prime, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Jordan Harrison play on which Michael Almareyda’s film of the same name is based.
Breaking out at Sundance, where the indie auteur won the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, the film stars Smith as Marjorie, an elderly woman who has a holographic version of her younger husband (Jonn Hamm) created to keep her company. Prior to taking on Marjorie on the big screen, Smith had played the character in the theater, in New York and Los Angeles, getting the rare opportunity to cross mediums with a character.
Before an audience at BAFTA at Deadline’s inaugural The Contenders London event, Smith expressed her gratitude for the experience; the film, featuring supporting performances from Tim Robbins and Geena Davis, bowed in limited release in August.
“I feel so fortunate—first of all, to have been able to do it in the first play,” Smith told Deadline’s Joe Utichi. “But then, to have this really interesting journey, which is kind of once-in-a-lifetime. You don’t get to do this very often.”
While there was naturally a change in the material when Marjorie was adapted for screen, for Smith, the change was largely in the nature of the medium of film, and what it can communicate. “I don’t think the interpretation changed. I think what changed is the way she’s seen because it’s a film, and not a play,” Smith explained. “In the play, it took place in a single set, and Marjorie spent most of the time in a reclining chair. In the film, on the other end, it’s a house, an outside—an ocean, a beach—in and out of rooms and beds, et cetera.”
“That’s really fun,” she continued, “but it didn’t change the character I had come to know.”
To view more of Deadline’s conversation with Smith, click above.