DIVINE SECRETS OF
THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD
About The Characters
Ellen Burstyn was attracted to the role of Vivi because, in her estimation,
"she has survived all of the difficult, painful and tragic things that
happened to her and she understands life a little better because of it."
Plus, Burstyn found it satisfying that the women in both the book and script
are presented as "complex, intelligent and funny. These are whole women,
not stereotypes. Often in literature and films, women aren't recognized as
multi-faceted individuals. This story represents women as I know them and see
them in life. Callie has transformed this book into a screenplay without
Burstyn sees Vivi as "vivacious, neurotic, selfish, funny, deep and
loving. She had youthful dreams that were never realized and a complicated
relationship with her daughter."
Khouri fully supports Burstyn's interpretation of Vivi, saying "She
brings her own focus to the role and yet is open to other ideas as well and
there was never a moment when I hesitated about discussing anything with her.
Her performance makes you feel that there is no limit to what she can
A bonus for Burstyn was her onscreen reunion with James Garner, who plays
Vivi's husband, Shep. "It's very sweet for me to be playing opposite
Jim," she says. "Forty-one years ago in summer stock we worked
together in John Loves Mary. We met as young talents and now we have an
opportunity to come together again as actors with history. When I look at him
now, it's as though I can see all the years of his life and I'm sure he can
Ashley Judd read Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood when the book
was first published and immediately saw Vivi as a film role she would enjoy
playing. As she describes it, "I could easily imagine being Vivi, I so
identified with the character."
When offered the role, Judd did not hesitate to accept. "It was a great
opportunity for me," she says, "to portray a character whose
development follows a realistic arc.
"She's definitely a survivor," Judd continues. "Vivi is a
force of nature -- full of life, energy and potential. Due to a series of
tragedies she experiences as a young girl, some of that passion gets drained out
of her. She's able to survive because of her friends - the Ya-Yas."
To understand the various facets of Vivi's personality, Judd kept a diary
during production and referred to the book to organize into categories the
things that Vivi said or were said about her.
Khouri believes that Judd completely captures the character. "Vivi
definitely has passion," says Khouri, "and that can work negatively as
well as positively. In those moments when Vivi is kicking up her heels, Ashley
is radiant and you really feel that she's having fun. It's pure joy. Then in
the darker moments, Ashley leaves no doubt about the abject desperation Vivi
feels. It's a beautifully nuanced performance."
"My character introduces the story," says Sandra Bullock of Sidda
"Sidda becomes the catalyst who brings all the past and present situations
together. She's the daughter of the craziest Ya-Ya, Vivi."
Because of her misunderstanding of certain harrowing family events, for which
she blames her mother, Sidda is on the verge of making a huge mistake by
rejecting a marriage proposal from her longtime live-in boyfriend Connor McGill.
"She's afraid that if she gets married she will do to her own children
what she remembers her mother doing to her," Bullock explains. "This
is when the Ya-Yas step in to help. They take the bull by the horns, meaning
that they drug Sidda and hold her against her will, forcing her to hear them
out. They introduce her to her mama's secret scrapbook, Divine Secrets of
the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
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