January 16, 2012
Oscar honorees Naomi Watts and Judi Dench play the most important and influential women in the life of towering American historical figure J. Edgar Hoover, in Warner Bros.' controversial drama, “J. Edgar.” They portray Hoover's trusted secretary, Helen Gandy; and his stern mother, Annie Hoover.
A lifelong ally whom Hoover knew would never betray him was his secretary at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Helen Gandy. “Helen kind of ran the agency,” director Clint Eastwood contends. “If you ask the old-timers, whenever you wanted to know something, you went to see her. She had much more information than anyone else.”
“Helen’s commitment to Edgar never faltered,” says Watts. “I think she was initially impressed by him and found him clever and charismatic, but she was only interested in a career. She worked closely with him longer than anyone, through incredible changes in the world, and she remained steady and poised till then end.”
For the Australian actress, playing a deeply patriotic American in a film about one of the country’s most controversial figures was enlightening. “I knew nothing about my character, and very little more about Hoover, when I took the role. Not being a part of America’s history, and then not having lived through those times, made this a great learning experience for me.”
“Naomi did such a fantastic job,” producer Robert Lorenz states. “The role was an understated but important one in the film, and she really made the most out of every scene and elevated the character, which was fitting for the role that Helen Gandy played in Hoover’s life.”
One woman who was not content to stay in the background of her son’s life was Annie Hoover. A domineering force, she wielded great influence over him and served as his measure of a moral high ground. Hoover lived with her and turned to her for guidance at every stage of his life, until her death when he was 43.
The venerable Judi Dench brought her to life in such a way that “you were able to love her and fear her at the same time, and she never even raised her voice,” says producer Brian Grazer.
“She was really the kind of mother you don’t want around,” Dench comments. “She was very opinionated, and unbelievably possessive of Edgar, though she had three other children. I think she wanted not only the best for him, but beyond that, as if his accomplishments were a reflection on her. She reminded me a bit of Lady MacBeth. I think she wanted to be associated with the greatest man in the land. Edgar didn’t stand a chance, really.”
Despite both their long careers, this was the first opportunity Eastwood and Dench had to work together. The actress was thrilled to get the call. “He’s a legend,” she smiles, “so when he rang me up, my voice went up several octaves. I thought, ‘I’ve waited 75 years for this.’”
That sentiment went both ways. “Judi’s a terrific lady, I’ve always been such a great admirer of hers,” Eastwood affirms. “She was my only choice for this role, so I’m certainly glad she didn’t turn me down.”
Opening across the Philippines on Jan. 25, “J. Edgar” is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
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