Two of the finest actors of their generation, Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, portray a married couple seeking to rekindle the spark in Hope Springs. The Oscar winners are talking about their collaboration and why they believe people will see the film as a mirror to their own lives, or at least people they know.
“I think audiences will recognize these people. They may recognize themselves in some part of this marriage. They may recognize their brother-in-law,” Streep said and laughed.
Streep expected greatness when working with Jones and was not disappointed in the experience. She believes that it is his performance that truly makes this journey to saving a marriage work.
“I really think he is so transparent so what you see is both a person who is defensive and the reasons for it,” Streep said. “You see both why Kay is frustrated and why she loves him. That’s apparent from the very beginning. You don’t really doubt that… ever. That is due to Tommy.”
Jones dove into the part of a man who may have hit cruise control in his marriage some years ago and when confronted with the possibility of losing his wife, gives in to her request to attend a marriage counseling retreat. “He’s a pretty complacent fellow,” Jones said.
“My character didn’t want to go to any kind of therapy. At first he scoffed and then he found himself alone for a few minutes and, of course, realizes he’s objectively dependent on his wife, so he does go, with a grudge and a resentment -- based on a fear of intimacy.”
The actor reported that is exactly why Hope Springs has such a strong hilarity factor. “That’s funny, it’s essentially comic,” Jones added. “This guy hates the idea of therapy and when it starts to work, he doesn’t even realize it.”
Streep doesn’t believe that Hope Springs delves into stereotypes, but reported that certain things about marriage and therapy are simply facts.
“I think, generally, women are more interested in spelunking around inside a relationship and finding out what makes it work and trying to make it better,” Streep said. “My character wants more engagement. She wants to feel connected and to feel intimately involved with him and to feel that he’s intimately interested in her.”
When she was a girl, one of her favorite things to do was to race home from school and open up the Ladies' Home Journal. “I used to read this column that asked, ‘Can this marriage be saved?’” she said and laughed.
“Girls are interested in that stuff. As a general rule, guys are not that interested in going there. Part of the drama of Hope Springs is that part of the conflict is that she wants to go [to therapy] and he doesn’t.”
Streep shares that when the magic of therapy begins to take hold, the dissatisfaction with therapy switches partners in the marriage. “But once they’re there, things are presented that make her uncomfortable that she didn’t anticipate,” she said.
In the end, Streep feels that what transpires onscreen is something that is universal to millions of couples. The work it takes to maintain a relationship over decades is explored with romantic and comic flair in Hope Springs.
“It’s all the things that are so hard to do,” Streep said of what comes out of their onscreen therapy with Dr. Feld (Steve Carell). “They’re tiny, but so meaningful in life and making and keeping a connection.”
As for working with Carell, both actors believe he is one of our best and illustrates that point throughout the film.
“He holds back and knows when to sit. He has beautiful timing as an actor,” Streep said. “He’s a sensitive soul and has a natural grace to him, even when he’s playing his outrageous character on The Office.”
“He’s a thoughtful actor,” Jones added. “He played it very, very well.”