Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Maggie Gyllenhaal is no stranger to playing strong, confident women. The Academy Award-nominated actress has played roles ranging from a journalist and single mom in “Crazy Heart” to a liberal and outspoken academic in “Mona Lisa Smile.” Her latest film, “Hysteria,” which opens May 18, is set in London during the Victorian era, when various female “afflictions” — melancholia, frigidity and nymphomania among them — were bunched together and labeled “hysteria.” The supposed cause: a disorder of the uterus. The preferred treatment: “manual stimulation” of the womb.
In the film, Dr. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) joins the practice of a “hysteria” specialist, Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce). Granville becomes engaged to the very proper Dalrymple daughter, Emily (Felicity Jones). But what good film is without conflict? Granville falls for Emily’s sister, Charlotte (Gyllenhaal), a firebrand progressive fighter for women’s rights. Gyllenhaal spoke to The Arty Semite by phone about the strong women in her life, eating Jewish deli on Christmas and attending her first Orthodox Seder.
Curt Schleier: Tell me a little about your background.
Maggie Gyllenhaal: My father [director Stephen Gyllenhaal] was raised in the Swedenborgian religion — kind of a Christian mystic religion — and he grew up in a small Pennsylvania town. My mother [screenwriter Naomi Gyllenhaal] is Jewish and grew up in Brooklyn.
Maggie Gyllenhaal was decidedly not hysterical about missing the premiere of her new film on Monday. It wasn’t fear of the paparazzi that kept Gyllenhaal away, but rather her decision (a no-brainer!) to stay home with her newborn daughter, Gloria.
Skipping the red carpet scene at the Hotel Chantelle bash, Gyllenhaal opted for pajamas instead of an evening gown. The Shmooze applauds how the actress has set her priorities, but we are, however, sorry that she missed out on the fun at the party for “Hysteria.” Hugh Dancey, her costar in the sexy comedic romp about the invention of the vibrator, surely missed her as he hobnobbed with guests like Patrick Wilson and Mamie Gummer.
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