Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson Are the Dysfunctional Family at the Core of "August: Osage County"

By Michael Gioia
22 Dec 2013

Benedict Cumberbatch and Julianne Nicholson
The Weinstein Company

Martindale, who plays the sister to Streep's character, Violet, explained how the family truly became a "family" throughout the filming process. "We lived in town houses all hooked together," she explained, "and we did a lot of socializing together. We actually became a family together. We watched television together, cooked together, ate together, laughed, worried about Hurricane Sandy together… It was an incredible experience that really made for the perfect environment for this ensemble of actors to do this beautiful screenplay."

With a laugh, she added that she made her chicken-spaghetti casserole for downtime dinner with the cast.

More sisterly bonding occurred between Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson, who play Violet Weston's daughters. "We spent a lot of time together in getting to know each other," said Roberts. "We didn't know each other at all when it started, and by the time we began filming, I felt very familiar and entangled with these girls in a way that seemed correct for sisters. [I] had made just enough happy experiences with them, and [we] had a couple of appropriate, sisterly "Really? That's what you're wearing?"-kind of moments where I felt like it was all going to fall into place."

Meryl Streep and Juliette Lewis
The Weinstein Company

In the film, the trio of actresses — who all have the same first three letters in their names, Roberts noted at the "August" press conference — play Barbara (Roberts), Karen (Lewis) and Ivy (Nicholson), who return to their hometown and must confront the multitude of skeletons in the Weston family closet.

"Approaching it, you just want to honor the words that are there and be as honest and, in this case, as present to the people who are around you, which just ups your game tremendously," said Nicholson. "Tracy's writing is very particular and so beautiful and actually has quite a rhythm to it, so there was no improvising because we didn't want to mess with that rhythm, and it feels and sounds very naturalistic, but it's quite precise… There's a lot of freedom, actually, when you know you can't stray from the lines, so it was a thrill to be able to do that."

Lewis also praised Letts, who — after winning the Tony and the Pulitzer for August (not to mention a 2013 Tony Award for his acting work in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) — penned the screenplay for the film.

"Tracy Letts — his writing…!" Lewis said excitedly. "I was just so floored because you've seen the state of cinema today… This [work] is something that comes maybe once in a while. His characters are written so strong. They just leap off the page."

Dermot Mulroney, who plays Lewis' fiancé, Steve Heidebrecht, in the film, couldn't be happier that the award-winning work will now be exposed to the masses. "Now that we've filmed it, can you imagine?" he asked. "People long after we're dead will be enjoying Tracy's words."

( staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)

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