Gary Thompson: Actress' silver lining: Philly's pub sector

"Silver Linings Playbook" stars Jacki Weaver (left) and Robert De Niro (right): He "couldn't have been nicer to me," she said of De Niro.
"Silver Linings Playbook" stars Jacki Weaver (left) and Robert De Niro (right): He "couldn't have been nicer to me," she said of De Niro.

Yo, Aussie star Jacki Weaver fell for our city

Posted: January 18, 2013

OSCAR-NOMINATED "Silver Linings Playbook" star Jacki Weaver says she loved her time in Philadelphia, and why not - it sounds an awful lot like club-hopping.

"I went to a lot of pubs," said Weaver, speaking on the day she won a best-supporting-actress nod for the movie, which today goes into wider release to capitalize on its awards-season success (eight Oscar nods, a Golden Globe win for Jennifer Lawrence).

The goal for the pub-crawling Aussie (nominated a few years ago for that country's "Animal Kingdom") wasn't to get sloshed, but to learn how to be a Philadelphian.

"I would sit and listen to people talk, eat the crabby fries, try to acclimatize myself," said Weaver. "I just fell in love with the place. I walked and walked and walked, talked to as many people as I possibly could, talked to strangers in parks, tried to absorb the city."

I mentioned to Weaver that eavesdropping in pubs and talking with strangers in parks could lead to unpleasant incidents and unhappy associations, but Weaver said there was no downside.

She was shocked to be recognized by so many Philadelphians - people who knew her Aussie film career or her stage work.

"People knew me from 'Animal Kingdom,' and quite a few had been to Washington, D.C., to see me in 'Uncle Vanya' with Cate Blanchett," said Weaver, who'd been doing Anton Chekhov when "Playbook" director David O. Russell was casting the film in Philadelphia.

"I was working in Washington when David was screen-testing. I drove up with friends and my husband to Philadelphia to be interviewed by David. That went on for two hours, and I was almost late to the stage at the Kennedy Center. It was a bit of a scandal, actually," said Weaver, laughing.

All's well that ends well.

"Vanya" went on without a hitch, and Russell chose Weaver to play the doting mother to a mentally troubled man (Bradley Cooper), and wife to American screen legend Robert De Niro.

"It was difficult at first. I had to really talk to myself so that I wouldn't be overcome with awe. But you know, he is such a dear, and such a kind and generous actor," she said of De Niro. "He's very quiet, but he couldn't have been nicer to me."

Cooper helped as well.

"It helped that Bradley is a Philadelphian. Now and again he would correct a vowel sound," she said, although she credited her "awesome" dialect coach, Susanne Sulby, with doing most of the hard work.

And she loved the character.

"What a pleasure it was for me to go from playing the vilest mother in the world to the sweetest," Weaver said, comparing "Playbook" with "Animal Kingdom."

It's working for her, the mother thing. She's set to play Lee Harvey Oswald's mother in "Parkland," starring Paul Giamatti and Billy Bob Thornton.


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