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Film Studies 101

Right At Your Door
Rory Cochrane and director Chris Gorak
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Mary McCormack
McCormack on her latest film, Right At Your Door.

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Screaming, crying and dying of a deadly virus. It may not sound like a good day but it’s Mary McCormack's rather unfortunate lot in Chris Gorak’s Right At Your Door. Read on to hear about her love for Christopher Guest and to find out why 18 days of hell was less pressure than shooting The West Wing.

So, when you prepared for the role did you inject yourself with any deadly viruses?
No I did not! [laughs]. I don’t think!

Do you prefer these tough, gritty roles or do you like the smooth, slick operation of some of the other stuff that you’ve done, like The West Wing?
The West Wing was hard for me because, you know, the actors are so good and you never want to let them down.
It’s just different, I mean, you want to do a lot of different kinds of things. See if you can do different stuff emotionally. One is just a harder day at work. [The West Wing] was hard for me because, you know, the actors are so good and you never want to let them down, you definitely want to bring your best and its fast talking and there’s quite a lot of “one-ers” where if you mess it up you’ve fucked everybody and they’re like “oh, no! Let’s go back to one!” So there’s pressure on The West Wing. This, on the other hand, is a hard shoot because it’s 18 days of hell! Really hard, I mean every day I was near death and crying - just a nightmare.

You do spend a lot of time coughing...
Coughing and screaming and crying and it never let up, you know, it just never let up so it was an 18 day shoot and it was a dog.

With a heavy film, is it tough to keep spirits up on set?
You don’t keep spirits up on set, you can’t. Normally I can, that’s part of what I love about acting actually, just how sort of social it is. I don’t each lunch in my trailer, I eat with the crew, and on TV shows I play on the softball team and I like the sort of family stuff and none of this was like that. I don’t think I spoke to anyone, just because I put my headphones on to try to stay in that place while they’re lighting around you. Normal every day film set stuff is happening but you have to stay in that other horrible land. There was a day in that scene where they drag me away and I remember looking at the call sheet and thinking “This is a kind of nice day.” If you’re looking forward to that scene, that’s a tough shoot!

The film’s almost a two-person show, how did you find that aspect?
I know every line of Spinal Tap, I’m obsessed.
I like Rory Cochrane a lot, and I like working with him a lot, I think he’s a smart and sensitive actor and really made a tough role believable. I think when you read it you think “Oh who would do that?” but I think he really sold the fact that that someone might, with a lot of angst, do that in that situation and I think that’s a credit to his performance. I just got along with him and thank God, because it was hard enough and if I hadn’t it would have been harder still.

So, on a more general note, what got you into the acting game?
Oh, you know, I did it just in neighbourhood theatre and stuff just for fun, and I always enjoyed it. I grew up in New Jersey and it was close enough to New York to see really good theatre which I got to do just for my birthday and class trips. Being near enough to it allowed me to think “those are grown-ups up there, that’s their job!”, so I grew up thinking that was a possibility. After university I thought If someone’s willing to pay me for what I love to do I might as well do it. And, you know, you’re just young enough to think that anything is possible so you don’t know not to! Thank God, it worked out.

What have you been most proud of in your career?
Actually, one I’m really, really proud of is from this year. I have one line in Chris Guest’s new film. This is my all-time life’s goal, I know every line of Spinal Tap, I’m obsessed, his biggest fan, and I’m in it for a minute. But I’m in it!

How was it?
Brilliant of course, it was like a dream come true, literally.

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