Sarah Paulson Explains Why She’s Never Watched American Crime Story
Sarah Paulson talks about executive producing and acting in Ratched and reveals why she hasn’t watched American Crime Story.
Sarah Paulson Almost Didn’t Star in Ryan Murphy’s Ratche
Sarah Paulson talks about her work with Ryan Murphy, playing a villain audiences root for and dipping her toes into interacting with fans on Instagram Live.
New images from Sarah’s new feature for Harper’s Bazaar magazine.
– Sarah Paulson Fan > Outtakes > 2020 > 005
Sarah is featured on the cover of the new issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Here is a highlight of the article.
I hate asking celebrities about their personal lives, but I love celebrity gossip. I will happily read Bossip or Lainey Gossip or People, and idly speculate about celebrities and their romantic entanglements, real estate transactions, mistakes, or triumphs. And yet I don’t want to be the person who extracts this information. I don’t want to get my hands dirty. It makes me uncomfortable to pry, intrude, encroach. But still I am nosy. It’s a real predicament.
Sarah Paulson is first and foremost an actor—and a formidable one at that. Over the course of her career, she has perfected the steely glare, the tight smile, the precisely arched eyebrow. Paulson has certainly found her lane, but when she has stretched her craft, she has done so with aplomb. In Ocean’s 8, for example, Paulson uses her dry humor to great effect as Tammy, a wife and mother who also happens to be a fence. Or in her new Netflix series, Ratched, as the iconic asylum nurse Mildred Ratched from Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Milos Forman’s 1975 film version, a notoriously cruel character who Paulson somehow makes human. It is because of her humor, intelligence, and creative versatility that Paulson’s fans are legion, and I count myself among them. Though she may not identify as such, Paulson is also a celesbian, a self-explanatory Internet portmanteau of affection. She is in a relationship with Holland Taylor, another great actor and celesbian. I love saying the word “celesbian”—it rolls right off the tongue—and I love any and all gossip about celesbians because they are so few and far between. No one should ever be defined by their romantic life, but as a queer woman it is surprisingly wonderful to see relationships that reflect my own.
As I prepared for our interview, my wife gently insisted that I ask Paulson how she feels about being a celesbian. I said I would try, cringing inside, but then it wasn’t a problem because Paulson was forthcoming about their relationship from the outset. She and Taylor have been together for almost six years. They both own homes in Los Angeles. They go back and forth between each other’s places every few days. Taylor calls everyone a “lovely girl” or “darling,” and is more inclined to respond to Internet trolls. They deal with the same issues any couple does trying to live a shared life. Our conversation was peppered with anecdotes about their relationship. I was delighted, I tell you. DELIGHTED.
An interview with Elle about Sarah’s new series Ratched.
“In my opinion, she was treating the patients the best way she knew how.”
Nurse Mildred Ratched, the coolly vicious antagonist of 1975’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, is one of the most iconic characters in cinematic history. But back in 1974 when the film was being cast, the role was a poisoned chalice. Hollywood could not give it away. Just about every A-list actress of the day turned it down, from Angela Lansbury to Ellen Burstyn to Anne Bancroft.
“They didn’t want to mess with their brand,” says Sarah Paulson, who plays a younger version of the character in Netflix’s new origin story series, Ratched. “They didn’t want to be disliked in that way. And of course, Louise Fletcher gave a performance that none of those women, as wonderful as they all are, would have given. It was very, very brave of her to do, because it’s an unapologetic performance. She’s not asking you to like her at all.”
Paulson is similarly unafraid of being disliked. When you hear the premise of Ratched—which follows a younger Mildred Ratched in one of her first jobs as a nurse—you might assume that Paulson is playing a softer, more naive version of the character. But rather than showing who Ratched was before she became the jaded monster of Cuckoo’s Nest, the show leans into the idea that the damage was done long ago. As the star of her own show, Paulson’s Ratched does have more room for nuance than Fletcher’s, and throughout the show’s eight episodes she’s intriguingly hard to pin down, pivoting smoothly from real empathy to unspeakable cruelty in the space of a single scene.
Paulson speaks to ELLE.com about what she took from Fletcher’s performance, why she doesn’t see Ratched as a villain, and how the show incorporates the events of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
Going in, how familiar were you with this character and with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?
When Ryan [Murphy] first came to me, I only had a cursory memory of having seen the movie when I was much younger. But once I knew I was going to do it, I decided it would be very important for me to watch the movie, even though I felt intimidated by having too much of what the brilliant Louise Fletcher did in my mind, for fear that I could never measure up. But then it started to feel like the most respectful thing I could do, to watch it and try to hold it as closely in my mind and heart as possible. So that’s what I did. And of course, I had a very different view of the character once I knew I was going to play her, which included me not thinking she was a villain at all.
Are there any scenes from the movie you found especially helpful as you approached your own version of the role?
I thought a lot about one particular scene, which to me is the moment when you can’t believe what she does. It’s how she responds to Billy Bibbit (Brad Dourif) after he’s hosted this kind of raucous and irresponsible evening on the ward. She comes in, and her way of dealing with him lacks such humanity. She threatens to tell his mother, which, as we all know from the earlier half of the movie, nothing could be more threatening or more traumatic or more upsetting to him. That’s the moment for me where the record skips, and I actually don’t understand her. How could you be so cruel? I have to believe she thinks she’s doing something right, by threatening him with the one thing she knows will make him realize he should never, ever, ever do anything like this again. She doesn’t think that by telling this to him, she’s going to provoke him into suicide, but that is what happens. It’s a moment of failure, a human failure on her part in responding that way to him. That’s the most indelible moment of hers for me. The domino effect of this choice she makes in the hallway to speak to Billy Bibbit that way has such consequences that alter everyone in that hospital’s life forever. But I do have to say, it’s the only moment in the movie that I don’t understand what she’s doing.
Do you find the rest of her actions easier to understand?
Yeah, because all the other things she does and the methods of treatment she’s offering, providing, seem to be what was the treatment of the day. Remember, this was the ’70s, and so she comes from a different era in an extraordinarily patriarchal system, the medical field. Who knows what she was able to contest, or what she was able to say, or what was possible for her in terms of questioning authority? In my opinion, she was treating the patients the best way she knew how. I really think she probably didn’t have many options available to her in terms of how best to manage the men in that ward. I mean, her patients were all men, and her bosses were all men. If she had wanted to lead with her softer side, would they just have said, “You’ve got no business here, you can’t run this thing”?
You mentioned you don’t see Ratched as a villain.
I came across something that Louise Fletcher said, which is she didn’t understand why everyone found her to be so evil—that she was a Top 5 Villain in cinematic history. She just didn’t see it that way, and I agree with her. Very famously, nobody wanted that part. All the most famous actresses of the day, they didn’t want the role. They didn’t want to mess with their brand. They didn’t want to be disliked in that way. And of course, Louise Fletcher gave a performance that none of those women, as wonderful as they all are, would have given. And she won an Oscar for it. And it was very, very brave of her to do, because it’s an unapologetic performance. She’s not asking you to like her at all.
Your Mildred has moments where she genuinely connects with patients, and she shows empathy, and it seems absolutely real—but in the next breath, she’s brutalizing them. In episode 2, she empathizes with the traumatized priest, and then turns around and forcibly lobotomizes him.
Well, yes, the action is savage in the sense that this man’s life will never be the same, but on some level, he was so traumatized from what he saw, that who’s to say that she wasn’t actually being merciful to him—in order to also get what she wanted? That’s how she soothes herself, by telling herself, “I’m doing this for his good as well. He’s in so much pain. He’s in so much pain.” Of course, she needs to silence him to serve her own interests. The things she’s doing, she’s doing for one purpose and one purpose only, which is to be absolved of a terrible, terrible guilt she carries with her. So, is it genuine? Yes. Does she manipulate? Yes. Is she a grifter? Yes. Is she a liar? Yes. Does she have a reason and a purpose that she could deem—and I think some other people would as well—as pure? Yes! What’s so great about the show is that you start this ride thinking it’s one thing. By the time you get to the end, I promise you, you will think differently. You might even really like her. You might even really hope she gets everything she wants!
Do you know if the plan is for the show to continue all the way up to the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest timeline?
I think so, yeah. We’re definitely doing a second season, but if we were to go on, the plan would be to do about four seasons. And in the fourth season, we end up in the Cuckoo’s Nest era. But I don’t believe we will ever find ourselves in the hospital [from the movie], unless it’s pre McMurphy being admitted, unless it’s pre all those patients being there. Unless you want to see computer-generated Danny DeVitos and Jack Nicholsons acting with me, which, I don’t know that that’s the way to do it.
Sarah Paulson, Cynthia Nixon, Sharon Stone, and Judy Davis read from — and react to — a Guide To Hiring Women.
Deadline gives us the release date for Sarah’s new film Run which will premiere on Hulu.
Hulu has set a release date for Aneesh Chaganty’s (Searching) Run starring Emmy winner Sarah Paulson and newcomer Kiera Allen. The thriller is set to drop on the streamer November 20.
Run was the latest film from Lionsgate to forego a theatrical release and head to digital. The horror Antebellum also skipped the big screen stateside dropped on PVOD. Hulu acquired domestic rights to Run from Lionsgate in what was reported to be a competitive situation. However, Run, like Antebellum is expected to be released theatrically overseas. The movie was originally set to have a May 8 (which was appropriate considering it was Mother’s Day) theatrical release but due to a little global pandemic, it, like other films pivoted to other release strategies due to the shut down the big theater chains in mid-March.
“Thanksgiving week is a wickedly fitting time to release the film, and we’re grateful to Hulu for trusting us to headline the holidays for them,” Chaganty told Deadline. “As the pandemic stretches on and mass communal activity shows no sign of returning to normal for at least another year, the merits of waiting for a theatrical release diminish – for most movies, but especially for a film as nimble as ours.”
Directed by Chaganty who co-wrote it with Sev Ohanian, Run follows a wheelchair-using, homeschooled teenager Chloe (Allen) who has been raised in isolation by her controlling mother Diane (Paulson). As the story unfolds, Chloe begins to uncover bits and pieces of a secret that leads her to believe that her mother is holding a bigger and darker secret from her. Ohanian produced the film along with Natalie Qasabian.
The film moves the needle in terms of representation by casting Allen a wheelchair-using actress. Based on the history of Hollywood, a film like this would use an able-bodied actress in the role of Chloe. As Hollywood attempts to increase its efforts in the diversity and inclusion space, Run gives the film more authenticity by casting Allen. This is a big deal considering the authentic representation of people with disabilities in film and TV is slim to none.
“I was told recently that this is the first thriller to star an actual wheelchair user since the 1940s,” said Chaganty. “That statistic is insane, and pretty much answers the question of ‘Why was it so important to cast with authenticity?’ for itself.”
Run is a follow up to Chaganty’s debut directorial feature Searching which was released in 2018 via Sony. Co-writen by Chaganty and Ohanian, the film starred John Cho as a father searching (hence the title) for his missing 16-year-old daughter. The thriller pushed the boundaries in filmmaking as it was told entirely through mobile devices and computer screens. One can say it was ahead of its time considering the Zoom era we are living in. The film grossed over $75 million worldwide. Searching was released the same year as Crazy Rich Asians, bolstering the representation of Asians in front of and behind the camera. With its inclusive story and casting, Chaganty is doing the same with Run and the disabled community.
Watch the release announcement for Run above.
Ryan Murphy released the main title for Ratched this morning … who is getting excited?
Main Title for Ratched
Premieres September 18 on Netflix pic.twitter.com/BlAArMo5Wk
— Ryan Murphy (@MrRPMurphy) September 14, 2020
Deadline shared the good news that the American Horror Story cast & crew are headed back to the set!
Ryan Murphy and his American Horror Story gang are set to return to production in October.
The FX series was set to start production earlier in the year but, as with most scripted series, was hit by the COVID-19 production shutdown. The long-running series generally premieres in September or October but season 10 is set to premiere in 2021 as a result of the delay.
Murphy, whose Netflix drama Ratched, a One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest prequel, launches in September, called the October return date “fitting” for his long-running horror anthology.
“Looks like American Horror Story Season 10 is go for an October (fitting) production launch. Thanks to everyone who is working hard to assure a safe start for the cast and crew,” he posted on Instagram.
Season 10 will Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin as well as the AHS dramatis personage Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Leslie Grossman, Billie Lourd, Adina Porter, Lily Rabe, Angelica Ross and Finn Wittrock.
However, not much is known about this season. Murphy put a photo on Instagram in May that hinted at a beach. Today’s cryptic clue is a pair of teeth, as below, although they look distinctly human rather than those of a shark.
Despite his massive deal at Netflix, which has included a litany of projects including the aforementioned Ratched and Hollywood, Murphy, and his co-creator Brad Falchuk, have remained busy in the AHS universe. In January, FX revealed it had picked it up for three more seasons, taking it to 13 seasons, and there’s a spin-off American Horror Stories also in the works.
Since things are a bit quiet right now I decided to start trying to add some of the missing pictures from the gallery. I have added over 3,000 images from events that Sarah attended in 2018.
– Sarah Paulson Fan > Events & Appearances > 2018
And it’s another Lionsgate film that’s skipping theatrical. We can confirm that the Sarah Paulson horror movie Run is moving off the theatrical release schedule and heading to Hulu.
The streamer has acquired domestic rights from Lionsgate in what is reported to be a competitive situation. Last week, the mini-major announced that its Janelle Monae horror movie Antebellum was skipping the big screen stateside for PVOD on all digital platforms on Sept. 18.
Like Antebellum, Run will be released overseas theatrically, but let’s face it, you need a domestic release to prop these movies’ profiles up. Even though the big circuits are opening in the near future, with Cinemark opening the doors to 43 venues this weekend, and AMC and Regal following on Aug. 21, increasingly distributors are deciding to forgo low-to-mid budget movies on the big screen, and put them straight into the home. Also, with everyone drunk on the PVOD and streaming release, it’s not certain that this model is working. Will audiences find these smaller genre films if they’re avoiding a domestic release entirely? All I can tell you is that exhibition, even the handful of hard-tops that are open, are starving for titles.
Run is from Searching filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty, who directed and wrote the pic. The movie follows a homeschooled teenager who begins to suspect her mother is keeping a dark secret from her. The movie was originally scheduled to have a May 8 theatrical release before the pandemic shut down the big theater chains in mid-March.