Sally Hawkins is an English actress, who is most known for her role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, which garnered her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Octavia Spencer is an American actress and author. In 2011, she captured the hearts of many with her portrayal of Minnie in the breakout hit The Help. Since then, she has appeared films involved in the dystopian genre and historical drama genres. Both will be starring in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which is out now in theaters.
Screen Rant got a chance to talk to Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer on press day, where we discussed what were their initial reactions to hear the pitch for The Shape of Water and where inspiration from Elisa was drawn from.
I know Octavia. I know that both of you guys have been wanting to work for Guillermo for awhile now so, when you hear about The Shape of Water, how does that pitch go? And what are your initial reactions when you hear it?
Octavia Spencer: Well, my agent told me that and it was out of the blue. I was doing something and he was like, “You have a meeting with Guillermo del Toro and it’s a fairytale. And I was like, “Okay.” So I go and it was supposedly a 30 minute coffee at breakfast, but we had a 3 hour lunch or conversation. We kind of went into the changing of the shifts, so it was late and all he said about the movie, and we talked about everything, but all he said about the movie was the last 5 minutes of our movie. He said, “I wrote this movie with you in mind for the role of Zelda. I’m not going to tell you anything about it, but I’d like to hear what you think.” And I was like, Oh my God, he’s seen me play this archetype and thought I could bring something unique to the table. So I was in before we even sat down. So let’s just be clear about that.
Sally Hawkins: It’s the same. Guillermo del Toro sort of wants you in a film and you jump and you say, “ Yeah. How high? And when do we start?” I had heard about it a few years before and it was just a vague premise. My agent didn’t know and he didn’t have a script at that point and didn’t really want to release too much of the story I expect nor should he. I just heard about it and it gave me goosebumps at the time and thought it was like nothing else. I just hear this woman works as a cleaning lady, you know a janitor, and falls in love with a fish man. And I was like, yes. Yes. Yes. And, of course, I just like Octavia’s mention before that you are sort of surprised that he even knows who you are. And then when you meet him, he knows who you are. He knows all of your work. He’s just obsessed with film. He is this film.
Octavia Spencer: Yeah.
Sally Hawkins: This is his heart.
Sure. And you can see it all over this film. With Elisa, specifically, what did you base some of your performance on? Because I noticed that there’s a lot of throwbacks to the Silent Film era. So is there any inspiration that you got from Charlie Chaplin or any of those?
Sally Hawkins: Oddly, Guillermo and I talked about Buster Keaton and Stan Laurel, you know, Laurel and Hardy. Laurel and Hardy, in particular, as a child growing up I was obsessed with them as I was with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I loved them in those Sunday afternoon matinees I would watch with my mum. So it’s like he taps into each one’s psyche and knows what makes you tick, but it’s the same for him. He has similar interests. He is obsessed with that Golden Age of film and we talked about, there is a very technical silent movie way of moving and the classical way you sort of hold your way and almost you run and there was a particular run she had. It is all very poetic and also like a dance and she has an inner music and there is a dance. Everyone has their own particular dance and that’s what is so lovely that there is a whole choreography going on and it’s beautiful and that’s him. He’s got this attention to detail.