Rosemarie DeWitt has had a hell of a year. The actress, who put in unforgettable performances in everything from Jonathan Demme’s “Rachel Getting Married” (she was Rachel!) and the first season of “Mad Men,” really seems to be breaking out in a big way. She starred in the tiny-budgeted festival favorite “Your Sister’s Sister,” as well as the big-budget Ben Stiller comedy “The Watch.” This week she appears alongside Matt Damon and John Krasinksi in Gus Van Sant’s small town drama “Promised Land.” Playing an elementary school teacher trapped in between the romantic advances of Damon (who plays a natural gas operative) and Krasinski (as an environmental advocate), DeWitt brings all the warmth, intelligence and homespun charm that she exhibited in her earlier roles.
We talked to DeWitt about what it was like working with Damon and Krasinski (who were also co-writers on the movie), her return to Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom,” why the great directors don’t really direct and what her favorite movies of 2012 were.
How did you get involved with this? Did [John Krasinski’s wife and her “Your Sister’s Sister” co-star] Emily Blunt help at all?
Everyone keeps asking me that! No. Emily is a mogul. She’s like Harvey Weinstein. I don’t know. Hopefully she put in a good word. I put myself on tape, actually, and then went in and did a chemistry read with Matt. And there you go.
What was it like having the two writers in the movie?
It was a tremendous resource because sometimes you just miss something. At the same time you get a little nervous if you go on a little riff or change it up, that they’ll be like “No no no no no, say my words!” But they’re not like that.
What drew you to this part?
It was all of it. It was obviously Gus Van Sant, it was the role, but more than all of that was that I wanted to be a part of a story like this. The story was about something — it was about these big questions. I felt like it was important to be a cog in that wheel. And I liked my character. I related to her.
You’ve had a really great year. You’ve been oscillating between big budget stuff and smaller things. If you could plot the rest of your career is that how you would do it?
If I could plot the rest of my career I would only do indie movies and have them pay me big budget salaries. I like the pace of the indies. I like being challenged in that way — quickly. I like having the time to prep. And I feel like it’s hard to keep up the energy on a big studio movie because there are so many obligations and you don’t shoot that much. Although it’s nice to have those resources.
Like “The Watch”?
Yeah, I was thinking of “The Watch.” Where you walk on set and they’ve literally constructed an entire Costco. You’re like, “This is pretty cool.”
It must have been fun to hang out with that cast.
Yeah it was fun because the four of them are such different actors and comedians. It was fun to see how they work. They have such different styles.
And you probably could have fit the entire budget of “Your Sister’s Sister” into what it cost to build that Costco.
You could have fit the budget of “Your Sister’s Sister” into lunch for the crew one day.
Do you still watch “Mad Men?”
I do. But don’t say anything because I haven’t watched this most recent season.
Would you go back to episodic television?
Yeah I’m doing it now — I’m working on “The Newsroom.”
Are you a regular next season?
I’m in it a lot. I don’t know what I’m allowed to say. It’s national security over there.
What were your favorite movies this year?
I loved “The Master.” I know every actor says that. I loved it because I was thinking about it afterwards. I liked it a week later — I was still asking myself what master do I serve? And Joaquin Phoenix and the whole ensemble was so amazing. I liked “Lincoln.” I liked Sally Field. I was very much excited by the documentaries I saw this year, “Searching for Sugar Man” and “West of Memphis.” I loved “Argo.” I loved “Rust and Bone.” Oddly I loved a lot of the bigger movies this year.
Did you like “Looper?”
I did like “Looper!” I thought Emily [Blunt] was badass!
John has directed a movie, Damon was supposed to direct this movie. Is that something you want to do?
I don’t know… I think my husband would say I am a frustrated director but that might be something around the house. I’m a little bit more interested in writing. I liked being involved in “Your Sister’s Sister,” because it became a question of how do we crack it and where should it go? But when I look at directing, you have to manage the whole thing. I’d rather keep working with great directors.
What was it like working with Gus Van Sant?
It was great. He’s so low key and he just lets his actors do their thing. He says so little. He gave me two notes during the whole thing. One was that the chair I sat in made noise and the other was, “Okay we’ve seen it that way, do one weirder.” But those are fun notes. The great directors don’t direct.