Blackfeet Actress Misty Upham On Filming ‘Jimmy P.’ with Benicio Del Toro
Blackfeet actress Misty Upham (Frozen River, the upcoming August: Osage County), is one of several Native stars who appear in Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, which showed at the Cannes Film Festival in May. The film, starring Benicio Del Toro and directed by Arnaud Desplechin, will have its U.S. premiere on October 1 at the New York Film Festival. Upham took a few moments to reflect on the experience of working with Del Toro and making a movie on her home rez.
Tell us about your character Jane and her relationship with Jimmy Picard.
I play his childhood sweetheart. His first love. The mother of his child. I come in at the end when his mind is beginning to open up. Jimmy broke Jane’s heart and it’s really sweet to see how he tries to fix that.
What was it like working with Benicio Del Toro?
Amazing. He’s very shy and reserved. A gentleman and really generous. He asked me to ride back to set with him one day and gave me this amazing pep talk and promised we’d work together again.
How did this shoot compare to others you’ve been on?
It was short. It was also on my rez. It didn’t feel like a shoot. Felt like a visit. I was only there for about 10 days. My family came along and we got to see our family. I was waiting to hear if I got August: Osage County and the producers were all rooting for me and waiting to hear. They said we would have a party. We wrapped and the day I started the drive back to L.A. I got the call that I got the role of Johnna.
How about working with French director Arnaud Desplechin? Did he have a different approach from the American directors you’ve worked with?
Yes! Very different. I watched him and the way he works is almost a self-torturing experience. He’s very hard on himself. But I like that because that means he really cares about his work. He’s a silent powerhouse. During lunch he would sleep. Everyone buzzing around him, all this noise, and there he was with his quiet zzzzz’s.
His direction is very clean and very simple but strong. I loved working with him. One day I was having trouble with a scene because I couldn’t find exactly what he wanted. I knew what he wanted, but I couldn’t harness it. I started crying and went outside. He came out and we smoked in silence. He made me feel better somehow, without saying a word. Very amazing person.
Did you develop a bond with anyone during the shoot?
Yes. In particular, Jennifer Roth who produced The Wrestler and Black Swan. She helped me in so many ways and when I went home to Seattle she threw a party for me to introduce me to the local industry. Really successful people are super generous. She’s definitely a mama bear. Her husband did sound for August: Osage County so she came to visit and it felt so good to see her again.
Do you have any interesting or funny anecdotes you could share?
Michael Greyeyes and I had fun in the black-out entry way to dance hall scene. We were kind of trapped in there joking and laughing. Benicio would peek out like he was missing out on the fun. Michael is hilarious and an amazing actor. He’s really great at blocking scenes as well.
I was having a cigarette with Benico and Michael was there talking with us. We got called back in and I was gonna put my cig out on my shoe because I’m cheap like that and Benicio, being the gentleman he is, said, “Give it to me. I got it.” He threw down and stomped it out. I was like, “I was gonna save that.” All the Indians around us started laughing.