I love disappearing. That’s what acting is. For me it’s about putting on a persona, stepping into a pair of shoes. It’s my face, but I’m using it as a tool for that spirit, that character.
2017 was a big year for Sally Hawkins with her leading role in the best picture winner “The Shape of Water” many who were unfamiliar with the actress and her work kept asking who she was. However to all those who have been fans of Hawkins’ since her early acting days with Mike Leigh, we have always known that she was meant for stardom in Hollywood. For her birthday on the 27th April, we thought it best to do a quick review of her career and discuss a few of her key performances.
Sally made her film debut in Mike Leigh’s All or Nothing in 2002, a film which revolves around three working-class families and the depiction of their everyday lives. Hawkins played the role of Samantha an unemployed teenager marooned on a dilapidated council estate. Despite this small role, Hawkins gained critical praise and it helped to launch her career. Mike Leigh has been quoted saying this about Sally Hawkins, “Sally is very special. Very funny. We communicate, we have a rapport. She’s a highly imaginative, creative person… she has this kind of openness and humorous-but-serious take on things.”
She continued working with Leigh, appearing in a supporting role in Vera Drake (2004) which was another small part, this time as a rich girl in 1950s London who has an abortion after being raped. Leigh then cast in her the lead for his film Happy-Go-Lucky (2008), for which she won several awards including the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and the Silver Bear for Best Actress. The critic Roger Ebert had this to say about the character Poppy that Sally Hawkins played, “Poppy is one of the most difficult roles any actress could be assigned. She must smile and be peppy and optimistic at (almost) all times, and do it naturally and convincingly, as if the sunshine comes from inside. That’s harder than playing Lady Macbeth.”
Leigh isn’t he only director that she has regularly collaborated with, she has also appeared in two Woody Allen films, Cassandra’s Dream (2007) and Blue Jasmine (2013); for the latter, she received Best Supporting Actress nominations at the Academy Award and the BAFTA Award ceremonies.
When describing her experience working with both directors, Sally told the Huffington Post that “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 talk about the process.” Both directors seem to have a way to get the very best performance out of Hawkins, and they manage to allow her to truly get into the role of the character that she is playing.
Aside from these films, Sally Hawkins has also played the lead role in Made in Dagenham (2010), Paddington (2014), Maudie (2016), and Paddington 2 (2017). But of course her other performance in 2017 is the one that is perhaps the best known, as the mute cleaning woman in the fantasy film The Shape of Water (2017).
Hawkins earned acclaim and received nominations for the Academy Award and BAFTA Award for Best Actress. She rightly received rave reviews, with the Standard saying that “Hawkins’s performance throughout is career-defining. With her eyes, mouth and physicality, she finds a level of emotional eloquence to render speech redundant. She radiates defiance and strength, avoiding any hint of sentimental victimhood.” I hope that Sally Hawkins continues to secure these excellent, well written roles because she’s such an amazingly talented actress that really can do a wide variety of roles.
Which Sally Hawkins’ film will you be watching to celebrate her birthday, let us know in the comments or tweet us as @filmotomy or @thefilmbee on Twitter