Rebecca Miller on Identity
Rebecca Miller is an American author, film director, screenwriter and actress, most known for her films Personal Velocity: Three Portraits (winner of the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award), The Ballad of Jack and Rose and Angela, all of which she wrote and directed. She is the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller and Austrian photographer Inge Morath. She studied art at Yale University and initially pursued an acting career, landing parts in the TV-movie The Murder of Mary Phagan (starring Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, and William H. Macy; 1988) and the feature films Regarding Henry (starring Harrison Ford and Annette Bening; 1991), and Consenting Adults (opposite Kevin Kline and Kevin Spacey; 1992). Miller is married to actor Daniel Day-Lewis and and has two sons, Ronan and Cashel.
Question: How do you identify yourself?
Rebecca Miller: Well, you know, I think it’s a very interesting question. I don’t really know the answer to how you construct yourself. I think… I remember when I was a little girl, I was about 7 or 8 and I had realized that I had not been myself in my own head for so long that I didn’t remember what my own voice sounded like in my head ‘cause I was always playing in my head. So then I thought, “Where’s my voice?” And I had to actually invent my own voice. I had to make it up because I didn’t have a thinking voice. You realized that you just take for granted that you have a thinking voice, you think I’m going to, you know, I’m going to go get a cup of coffee, I’d really love to do this. And, like, what happens if that’s for some reason missing. And that, with my case, was true. I didn’t have a voice for a while there. And I had to, I remember for quite a long time, I remember a kind of panic coming over me and then saying, okay, I have to make this person up and maybe that’s who I… maybe that’s me, I don’t know, I don’t know.
Question: Has it shifted from when you were a child?
Rebecca Miller: Of course. Yes, I’m sure it has. I’m sure it has shifted, with experience, absolutely. And, you know, there’s no, I don’t know if there’s any way of cataloging or kind of recording your inner voice, you know, so that you can think how did I think when I was 21. But partly with the book is about is how, in a way, the book is kind of constructed on an architecture of twin betrayals, that’s the architecture of the book. And in a way, a woman of 50 is looking back at her young 20 self and seeing a woman who betrayed somebody and actually caused them something terrible to happen through a betrayal, a betrayal of love. And then that same, you know, that same woman is then the same thing happens to her. She is betrayed. So it’s like looking... But she’s looking like across the void at her younger self who has a completely different way of thinking morally, certainly, but also just her attitude toward the world. And yet, there’s an essence, a sort of essence of Pippa that I think is consistent and I do think that we have some essence. I do think there’s an essence, whatever that is, whether that’s a fundamental character trait, I don’t know, you know, if you could say that, you know, if you want to call it a soul or a, you know, some sort of essential self that remains, you know, static or not static but remains, I think, in a person.
Question: Can anyone get an objective view of their own memory?
Rebecca Miller: No. I don’t think so. I absolutely don’t think you can be objective with memory. I think memory is a creative act in a way and very unreliable and… I mean, I think that, you know, memory is very influenced by our unconscious as is, you know, daily waking life, you know. I think that we are dreaming in, you know, part of our mind is kind of playing another movie behind, you know, our eyes as we’re watching. So that’s what makes it so complicated just to walk around because, you know, you have all these different realities shifting through yourself all the time. And you’re trying to believe that you’re just walking down the hall, you know, and get [to town]. [Laughs] Maybe that’s just me.
Question: How do you define what an artist is?
Rebecca Miller: It’s an interesting question. ‘Cause last night I went to see “The Seagull” which is play that’s all about, I think, art as a disease. I mean, being an artist is being, having a disease. And that’s why there’s a doctor on set ‘cause they really need one. And, you know, and it’s about how it’s infectious and it ruins people. And it’s really interesting ‘cause I felt this for a long time that it’s like a virus that people get and then they never recover.
Question: Do you consider yourself an artist?
Rebecca Miller: Sadly, I really do. I mean, that was all I was ever good for was making things that apart for myself and, you know, again, it’s one of the reasons I, you know, love Pippa so much is that she doesn’t have that compulsion. She is… She doesn’t have the compulsion to make something outside of herself. She is what she… She is completely… She is her own art in a sense but she doesn’t need to make art and that I envy her that, and in a way, and I think that’s one of the most interesting things about her to me.
Recorded on: 10/16/2008
Rebecca Miller talks about how we define ourselves, how she came to be an artist and how her own identity has shifted over time.
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