With the Academy Awards right around the corner, we look back at Amy Ryan’s exciting performance in Gone Baby Gone, a role that earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In the film, the 37-year-old actress plays Helen, a single mother who’s addicted to drugs and desperate to find her kidnapped daughter.
Ben Affleck’s acclaimed directorial debut boasts an all-star cast that includes Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris, who play a veteran cop and an aggressive detective on the case, respectively. Casey Affleck and Michelle Monahan play private detectives also involved in the search. The thriller takes place in a poor neighborhood in Boston, which Affleck portrays as a city of dark secrets and corruption.
Ryan’s character is complex; she plays a selfish and irresponsible drug dealer and drug user. In a powerful performance, the actress manages to make the audience sympathize with Helen, despite her despicable traits.
In real life, Ryan is open and carefree, and she spoke to us about her passion for film and her profession.
Were you excited when you landed this role?
It was very exciting, absolutely, I didn’t know Ben before the audition, but I had received the script from my agent and I loved it right from the start; it was such a page-turner. The role was wonderful but I kept thinking ‘oh no, this part is too good, I’ll never get it.’ I auditioned the old-fashioned way and had practiced a Boston accent. Ben actually said to me at the audition: ‘where are you from in Boston?’ and I said ‘I’m from New York’. He said ‘I’ve never been fooled in my life before.’ It was such a compliment that he thought it worked.
What did it mean to you to get the part?
Those kind of roles never go to unknown actresses. There are so many incredible actresses with big names who could bring more money to a film. So I was greatly shocked that I got the part.
Was there a sense on the set that this film was special?
I knew from the beginning that this was a rare, juicy, complicated part. And then on top of that it was Ben Affleck’s directing debut, so there was a real feeling of excitement. There was an electric feeling in the air. It felt like something new and thrilling was happening. Sometimes you’re doing scenes in films that you know are not good and you’re privately apologizing for, thinking ‘oh this is stupid I can’t believe I had to do that.’ But in this film I would finish a scene and want to do it again because it was so much fun, there were so many layers. I loved the interrogation scene with Ed Harris. The whole film has a great quality.
How did you manage to identify with your character? She’s not exactly an exemplary human being…
I don’t think she’s all bad. Maybe there are a couple of characters in history who are purely evil, the ones who twirl their moustaches! But I think most people are doing the best they can, but sometimes their best is just atrocious, and that’s why it was so interesting to play a character like this. You have to put aside your own beliefs, your own life experience and stand behind the character without any judgment.