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IN SECRET

Jessica Lange as Madame Raquin
Perhaps the most challenging role of IN SECRET to cast was that of Madame Raquin, Therese's austere, devoted and increasingly suspicious Aunt. Madame experiences her own reversals of fortune after Therese marries her only son, the fragile Camille, whom she has ceaselessly protected all his life. In time, Madame turns from the person calling all the shots in the family, to the one who must rely on an increasingly unhinged Therese to care for her. Stratton was looking for someone who could bring a humanity to the complicated role - and says the production was enormously lucky to attract one of today's finest and most meticulous actresses, two-time Academy Award winner Jessica Lange.

"Madame can be played as a very arch character, a shrewish, overbearing mother," he notes, "but Jessica and I agreed we wanted to do something with far more complexity - and she brought that complexity to the table in a big way."

Lange cites Emile Zola as one of her all-time favorite authors, and she was drawn in by Stratton's script. "As soon as I heard that there was the possibility of doing it, I got very excited because I thought it would be wonderful to take on this important piece of literature and make a contemporary film. I was thrilled to be able to do it," she reflects. "What really appealed to me about this character is the huge emotional journey she goes on."

That journey takes Madame from the French countryside to Paris and into states of grief, paralysis and suspicion. Lange was especially intrigued by the challenge of embodying Madame's sudden descent into a post-stroke reality. "It was interesting to find Madame's vibrancy in the beginning, so that by the end, when she's completely emptied out of movement, language and love, you see a real shift," says Lange. "After the stroke was difficult because all of the things you normally rely on as an actor - voice, movement, gesture - were stripped away. She is going through huge emotions - loss, discovery, retribution - and you have to find ways to do that without language or movement."

Madame watches mutely as the truth of what Therese and Laurent have done eats away at their erotic bond and leaves them at each other's throats. Lange is no stranger to this kind of treacherous passion, having herself embodied the role of a murderous adulteress in the noir classic The Postman Always Rings Twice, based on the novel by James M. Cain... which in turn was influenced by "Therese Raquin."

Throughout, Lange took much of her inspiration directly from Zola's words. "I went back again and again to the novel," she says. "I referenced it almost every day on the set and it always informed what I was going to do."

The authenticity of Lange's performance had a strong impact on Olsen. "Working with her was so awesome," Olsen says. "Her stamina is insane. She can keep going and going and she does everything full out. She takes ownership of every word she says and every gesture she makes."

Pete Shilaimon recalls that Lange had a galvanizing effect on the whole production. "We all just completely fell for the way she portrayed her character. An on-the-nose Madame would have been ruthless and mean spirited. Jessica played it a different way. Yes, she brings a little bit of that into the character, but she also brings the endearing, sympathetic qualities of a mother. I was just mesmerized by her every take."

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