How do you manage to convey so much realism in your characters? Where does all that raw emotion come from? Ebony Frier, CLEVELAND
The truth is, I don't know. I find that when I'm doing my best work or when I'm most excited by my work, there's a kind of forgetfulness that happens, and the source of where something is coming from is unknown, even to me. So it has this element of magic, and that's what makes me want to do it again and again.
Have you ever related to any of the characters you've portrayed? How so? Shaden Muhyieddeen, ANAHEIM, CALIF.
Every single one. Sometimes it's more difficult, like when you're playing somebody who kills her children [like in Shutter Island]. But, yes, always. It's the place where I start. Because you're human, you have an innate relatedness to everyone. Also, I find it important to ask, How am I not like this person? What gaps in my own understanding of the way people work do I need to fill in to be able to play this person?
Were there any films or books that helped you prepare for your role in Blue Valentine? John Bajada, MALTA, MONT.
When I first met Derek [Cianfrance], the director, I bought him two presents. One was a CD [and the other] a copy of my favorite book of poems by Galway Kinnell. There's a line in one of his poems, "Being forever in the pre-trembling of a house that falls." It's about the atmosphere that you live in when you're a child of divorce. The poem is called "Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight." Go find it. All my prep work is in there.
I really enjoyed your film Dick. Will you do more comedy? Bob Zeid, OAK ISLAND, N.C.
I would love to. Got any for me?
You seem to favor independent movies. Do you ever see yourself doing blockbusters? Emily Hansen, SANDS POINT, N.Y.
Never say never, because then you have to eat your words. But I don't think so. I like working on movies where it feels like a family. One thing that I find very hard about acting is all the transience. Sometimes I feel like I live my life in a circle of hellos and goodbyes, and that's not really my nature.
Which actors would you most like to work with? Li Bingyang, HARBIN, CHINA
I would love to work with Tilda Swinton. Kate Winslet. Sometimes when you let a dream escape your lips, it's scary.
What's your biggest guilty pleasure? Brenda Garcia, JAKARTA
Long showers. Really long showers. I get out when the water turns cold.
Did being covered by tabloids make it harder to do your job? Gcobani Qambela, GRAHAMSTOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
Yes. It made me not want to do my job as an actress. It's just not a nice way to live, feeling under scrutiny and like you're being followed and like somebody's waiting to catch a private moment. But I'm trying to find the balance so that I can continue to work.
If you weren't acting, what would you be doing? Tessa Bayrante, MADRID
I would be a full-time mom. There's nothing else I know how to do. There's nothing else that I could earn money from, that anybody would pay me to do or want to see me do or ask me to do for them. There are things that I would like to be better at, but there would be no other way for me to earn a living. In my dream version of me, I would be maybe a writer, maybe a circus performer, maybe a seamstress.
What has been your most important role, and how has the experience changed you? Sandra Bento, TORONTO
Mother. Somebody once told me that being a parent is like dying and being reborn, which sounds drastic, but I understood what she meant. It's the thing that's most important to me. If I don't get that right, then nothing else really matters. I feel reborn as a human being in every way. There's not a part of my life that it hasn't touched.