You may have seen Marcia Gay Harden in many films without knowing her name. Or, if you're like me, you've been an admirer ever since her stunning Oscar-winning role in Pollock. Whatever the case, it's high time to give this lady some props. I think she is up there with Virginia Madsen, Laura Linney, and Patricia Clarkson in the category of actresses who give subtle yet deeply riveting performances, where their extensive character analyses consistently come through.
Harden can currently be found in The Hoax playing Edith, wife to Richard Gere's character, Clifford Irving. Edith was German but had lived in Sweden, Spain, and London, posing a peculiar challenge when it came to mastering Edith's accent, according to the film's press notes. Harden watched videos of the real-life Edith and worked with a dialog coach to achieve the delicate balance of those influences.
Despite her con-artist husband's infidelity and illegal schemes, Edith retains an idealistic belief in him — and in their marriage. Her performance is heartbreaking, while at the same time lending incredible strength to a character someone else might have depicted as a doormat. In a cast full of excellent actors (Alfred Molina, Hope Davis, among others), Harden more than holds her own. To see what else I love about Harden,
She won an Academy Award in 2001 for her turn in Pollock, again playing a wife, artist Lee Krasner, whose own motivations are trumped by her husband's. Rather than be relegated to a background wife role, Harden pretty much steals the movie out from under Ed Harris.
The rest of her resume is just as impressive, specifically her role as the sympathetic but creepy Celeste Boyle in Mystic River and her pitiable performance as the uptight, lonesome woman who rooms with Julia Roberts' character in Mona Lisa Smile.
Thankfully, Harden's career is chugging along healthily; she stars in the upcoming thriller The Invisible and has five other films in various stages of production. She also just signed on to join the cast of The Christmas Cottage alongside Peter O'Toole. I can't wait to see her on screen again, in all of her thoughtful grace.