Julianne plays Ivy in the film adaptation of August: Osage County (read the full analysis here). She stayed behind to take care of her mother Violet and develops a clandestine relationship with a relative. Here are the parts where Nicholson talks about her character Ivy and accidental incest becoming more and more abundant in mainstream films from her interview with Vulture. Major spoilers ahead & in my review for those who have not seen the original play or the film adaptation.
Were you struggling to not reveal your character’s secrets before the film’s release?
Yes! In fact, I blew it once at a press conference. Somebody asked, “What did you learn from your character?” and I said, “Don’t fall in love with your brother.” [Laughs.] Uh-oh! It was all these people in the room who had seen the film the night before, and I forgot that people who hadn’t seen the film read those things. But you would think that’s a lesson we all learn pretty early on.
There are a lot of stories lately about accidental incest, or in some cases, not so accidental …
Yeah, from the recent Spike Lee remake of Oldboy to the The Mortal Instruments series, where they think it’s incest, even though it’s not. Even Flowers in the Attic is getting a remake.
[Gasps.] Oh my God, I loved that series growing up, those books! Wow, that’s bold. [Laughs.] So okay, yes, it’s out there. How bizarre. I don’t even remember the incest aspect of Oldboy from the original. I got stuck at the guy eating a live octopus, and I’m still reeling from that. But I love that movie. Comparatively, ours is rather benign. It’s the nice incest.
Before you know it’s her brother, when we think it’s just her cousin, you almost root for it. You wonder, Is it really so bad? Especially if they can’t breed together, since she had a hysterectomy …
Yeah. There’s definitely no babies coming, for sure. That’s a tricky one! You really do wrap your mind around the cousin aspect. I think brother does push it over the edge. [Laughs.] We think cousin is okay in the story line, but if I think about it in real life, I’m not a fan. Why not be with someone you’re notrelated to? How’s that for a bold statement? [Laughs.] I do think it’s interesting that it’s being addressed in all these different ways. Is it because we need to push the boundaries further because we’ve seen every version of man and woman, and man and man, and woman and woman, that aren’t related? Is that the next step? I don’t know. But I think things happen in waves. Whatever’s happening in the Zeitgeist, people just pick up on it. I’m not saying incest is a trend right now, but it’s something maybe people are thinking of.
In Ivy’s relationship with Little Charles, you get a glimpse of what kind of person he might have been, had his mother [Margo Martindale] not picked on him his whole life. If she didn’t treat him as a disappointment, he probably wouldn’t have been so disappointing.
You’re right — he’s the person he should have been, could have been, when he’s with Ivy.
And Ivy becomes the person she would have been, had she not stayed behind to take care of a mother who doesn’t appreciate her.
I know. And that’s maybe the people they will be. We don’t know what happens to them after the movie! Who’s to say? When she drives away, it’s just to get out of that place. I would like her to find happiness, of course. In the movie, I kind of want her and Charles to stay together [laughs], but I don’t think they can.
Besides the massive dinner fight scene that’s the focal point of the movie, you have another big moment, when Ivy tries to tell her mother about Little Charles, only to find out he’s her brother, not her cousin.
That was definitely the hardest scene to film, for me. Between the language, which is so specific, and those lines are quite similar, each of our lines, especially when Julia [Roberts] is saying, “Eat the fish. Eat the fucking fish. Eat the fish, bitch,” and I would have, “Barb. Barb, please. Please, Barb.” But if you mess up the order in which you say it, there’s a trickle-down effect with the lines that follow. And I was trying to not let on at the beginning that I know what’s coming at the end. And then when Meryl tells me, it’s like, Oof!