March 30, 2023

The struggle of modern life can be challenging for an artist who suffers from writer’s block. In She Came to Me, Peter Dinklage portrays the brilliant opera composer Steven, who can’t solve the impasse of writing a new work until he meets Katrina (Marisa Tomei), who manages to help Steven… thanks to some fennel tea. She Came to Me was selected to open this year’s Berlin Film Festival, featuring director Rebecca Miller’s return after 2017’s Arthur Miller: Writer. ComingSoon spoke with Dinklage and Tomei about the process of inspiration for their respective characters, being someone else’s muse, and more.

“The delightful comedy about love in all its forms weaves together the tales of a charming cast of characters living in the romantic, bustling metropolis of New York City. Composer Steven Lauddem (Dinklage) is creatively blocked and unable to finish the score for his big comeback opera. At the behest of his wife Patricia (Hathaway), formerly his therapist, he sets out in search of inspiration. What he discovers is much more than he bargained for, or imagined,” reads the synopsis.

The She Came to Me cast includes Joanna Kulig, Brian d’Arcy James, and Anne Hathaway.

Tudor Leonte: Marisa, your character is a tugboat captain. How cool was it to portray a tugboat captain?

Marisa Tomei: It was cool to portray a tugboat captain, but was even cooler to portray a muse.

Your character really wants to love and to be loved. She’s striving to the point that it almost becomes an obsession for her. How does her encounter with Peter’s Steven change her and how she approaches life?

Tomei: I think she approaches life… Well, it almost breaks her at some point. She’s almost ready to give up on her philosophy of life, but it doesn’t. She’s been true to herself. I think she is herself. She came into this world as she has a connection to other realms. She’s herself, she’s naturally herself.

And Peter, your character, Steven, is the protagonist. He’s a brilliant opera composer, to be honest, but he has a lot on his plate. He deals with anxiety attacks and has that nervous tic. Where did you take inspiration for this role?

Peter Dinklage: The city I live in, which is the same city that Steven lives in., Brooklyn, New York. I mean, we live in a time right now where there’s a lot coming at you no matter who you are. We want more because we’re on the devices and that’s even more coming at you. It’s how you process that. He’s not doing so well at that. We all have days where we don’t. He needs to take up some meditation and move to the countryside. I know a lot of musicians who have actually done that, a lot of composers. They’ve got moved into the country. It’s an interesting question that Rebecca brings up about inspiration and blockage of such inspiration and what inspires us.

I always think of writers like Hemingway and Beckett, they fought in wars. They wrote about it ’cause they actually fought and were in the French Resistance and they drew upon their lives. A lot of writers today, what are they drawing upon? I know a lot of filmmakers who… their references are films and they draw upon films because they’re filmmakers and writers are drawing upon other writers. That’s inspiration. Yeah. I feel like some people need something in their own life to really get at the heart of true inspiration. I think that’s what Steven’s looking for…

Tomei: Craving.

Dinklage: Yeah. To be original. Something to happen, a hurricane to hit him. He finds it in hurricane Katrina.

Marisa, following up on the first question, as you mentioned, you are Steven’s muse. You are actually the one who helps him overcome this moment in his life. Even though he went to therapy, actually the encounter with Katrina was the one that solved his writer’s block. Do you think that true love — since between Katrina and Steven there is true love and passion — is the answer when life challenges us?

Tomei: Well, you can’t just conjure true love. I think the film is talking about taking risks and being surprised and going out of your comfort zone, or not doing something that’s expected of you or falling in love with the person that matches your class level or your status level, or someone who’s just gonna take care of you or, whatever you think that you’re supposed to be doing. It’s an obligation versus freedom and taking the leap, there’s magic in the leap. Then maybe you get the love by taking the leap. Also by drinking fennel tea. I mean, that fennel tea is very interesting because she plants all these things in very deeply. You’re making it fennel tea because that’s the Dionysian… the symbol was the fennel. She’s got all these levels in there already for the muse to kind of unfold.

And Peter, don’t you think that Steven is perhaps too harsh on himself? Again, he’s a brilliant artist. He did a wonderful job as a stepfather to Patricia’s son. Don’t you think that he should be more indulgent with himself?

Dinklage: Not particularly. He wouldn’t be as… I don’t know, I think there’s something to be said about being hard on yourself to better yourself. If we’re so self-satisfied or where is there left to go? Yes, I know what you mean, self-love and all of that, but I think in a protagonist such as this character, your heart wouldn’t go out to him as much if he was okay. He wouldn’t be as humorous. I think that’s sort of heavy weight of the world upon the character for some reason, if the tone is right, it’s inherently funny. That’s my job to sort of explore that. Insecurity is everywhere in all these characters and in life.

There’s a funny scene later in the film when I go and find her and I see her with another man at the bar and the guy who we got to play this part sort of disappeared in the cut. He was insanely handsome, long blonde hair, very nice and charming. It’s sort of that almost this disappointment that I come in and I see Katrina with this beautiful specimen of a man and it’s that disappointment because it’s, ‘Oh, you are? That is what the honey you’re attracted to everybody else.” It’s his own insecurity that has nothing to do with anything else that’s going on. I think it’s a lot of projection that we do. Assumptions that we make.

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