The Mary Sue Interview: Eléonore Hendricks On Motherhood and Magic Mushrooms In Come Down Molly
New Yorker Eléonore Hendricks, born and raised, has an impressive resume as a photographer, casting director, and actress. Often asked to hire non-professional actors, she cast (and coached) the Oscar-nominated film Beasts of the Southern Wild, along with Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, Memphis, Gimme the Loot, Young Bodies Heal Quickly, and the experimental documentary Teenage.
Acting since 1999, she’s appeared in a variety of indie films, including A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, The House is Burning, Wild Canaries, and the upcoming Boulevard and Heaven Knows. At the Tribeca Film Festival this year, she starred as the title character in Gregory Kohn’s Come Down Molly, as a new mother struggling with loneness and depression who reunites with her high school friends for a break from adulthood.
Lesley Coffin (TMS): I know you’ve worked with the director, Kohn, before. Did he think of you for the role while developing it, or did was the film already written when you signed on?
Eléonore Hendricks: I think he knew pretty early in the process that he wanted me to play the protagonist. We’d worked together on a film called ,, maybe two years before, and I had a very small role in that film. But he’s this real champion of me as an actress, which is so flattering. And he said he wanted to work with me again, and he told me about this story. And I was various curious because the experience with the mushrooms were very important to him, and I was a little apprehensive. But the rest of it felt very natural, even though I’m not a mother, because what she’s going through is very relatable.
TMS: Did you have any friends with kids who you spoke to about their experiences becoming mothers?
Hendricks: I have a lot of friends who are moms. I’m in my 30s, so a lot of my friends have babies, and I’m thinking of that stage of my life too, wanting to be a mother. And I spoke to them about the movie, but I also just observed them with their kids. And they are all so devoted to their children, it’s like this thing just came over them, as something they never experienced before but just a pure love and connection to their child. But there is also another aspect to motherhood which is so hard.
TMS: What were the key emotions that you needed to grasp to understand how your character is dealing and struggling with as a mother?
Hendricks: She’s asking these grand question, these big existential questions about “who I am? What is my purpose?” And I think when you have a child, those questions are amplified, because you think, “I have this child, they are my focus. I’m a mother. But I have another purpose and identity which is me.” And those two things can become compromised and cause a bit of an identity crisis. You suddenly realize there is so much time you have to devote to this child, that you are neglected, by your family, friends, and even yourself. And I think she just feels overwhelmed, and she feels trapped, and some resentment towards her child for trapping her, and that makes her feel guilty and feel like there is something wrong with you. And it becomes this cycle and because her husband is working hard and traveling, I don’t think she’s had a break since the baby was born. She needs a break.
TMS: Do you relate this other life she has with her group of guy friends who don’t seem to be connected, or even very aware, or her married home life?
Hendricks: I have all kinds of friends, female and male, but I have a tendency to sequester myself into groups, but it does happen naturally. And it goes through phases, but a lot of my girlfriends have moved out of the city since marrying or having kids, so I hang with a lot of dudes now.
TMS: What made you apprehensive about the scene with the mushrooms?
Hendricks: I don’t do drugs. I used to, but I’ve come to a different phase in my life and I’m not interested in partaking in psychedelic experiences. I’ve had experiences on mushrooms which were great, but I was in a place in my life now where I don’t even smoke weed. And I just didn’t want to do any drugs, and it turned out fine because I didn’t need to. No one was required to. But I think what that experience can be like, creating a spiritual center, I think it made total sense that she would take mushrooms and want to have that experience at this time in her life.
TMS: There is also an aspect of her reconnecting with her father, hallucinating seeing him. Why is he the representation of her past?
Hendricks: That’s an interesting question, but who knows why. I don’t know if it had to be him, it just had to be someone from the past that were left unresolved. And the aspect of him appearing to her created the visual of what happens when you’re on psychedelics, of ultimate connectivity. She had lost this part of herself, and he is the reflection of this ultimate connection to life all around, with little deaths here and there. But it was interesting, because I have a father who is still alive, but it was hard for me to connect to that overall because the loss of a father seemed to be informing the character too much. But I took it for what it was and I became very emotional during those scenes. Greg gave me the direction to see my father, and I did. And it didn’t matter that he’s still alive, or that it was an actor playing the role, it summoned up real emotions for me.
TMS: Were you visualizing your own dad?
Hendricks: Yeah. But also, [director] Greg’s wife Jane, who was acting as line producer on the movie, had just lost her father, so I was connecting with her during the scenes and feel her sense of loss.
TMS: The movie’s production was so small, did the set mirror the film’s casual, vacation mindset?
Hendricks: It did feel like camping, and Greg and Jane were maybe not parental with us, but they were kind of like camp counselors, and certainly in charge of us. We felt like rugrats on the set, and were given a lot of freedom to improve. There was a script, but we improvised a lot too.
TMS: Are there any scenes you improvised you were especially proud of?
Hendricks: The scene when my character talks about masturbation and the fact that she isn’t familiar with her body since having a baby. And the scene when I was smoking with Sammy and talking about the idea of concentrated self-inflicted pain. Those weren’t in the script, and I think they were things that we had been talking about and someone would say, that needs to be in the movie, and we would play it out. Greg really liked the scene about masturbation, because that is something most people don’t even think about, but your sexual drive changes, your body changes. I’ve spoken with women who say they have lower self-esteem and a lower sex drive after having a baby that they didn’t realize would happen, and I thought it was good to bring up.
Lesley Coffin is a New York transplant from the midwest. She is the New York-based writer/podcast editor for Filmoria and film contributor at The Interrobang. When not doing that, she’s writing books on classic Hollywood, including Lew Ayres: Hollywood’s Conscientious Objector and her new book Hitchcock’s Stars: Alfred Hitchcock and the Hollywood Studio System.
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