Elisabeth Moss was “a little nervous” playing famed author Shirley Jackson in new movie Shirley because she had never played a real person before.
In Josephine Decker’s drama, The Handmaid’s Tale actress stars as The Haunting of Hill House author Jackson, alongside Michael Stuhlbarg as her professor husband Stanley Edgar Hyman. The fictional story follows a young couple, Fred and Rose (Logan Lerman and Odessa Young) who move into the famous author’s home and become fodder for her next novel.
In an interview with Collider, Elisabeth admitted she had some concerns about the role because it was her first time playing someone well known.
“It’s the first time that I’ve played a significant historical figure… that everybody knows. I think that was the challenge for me. It was a little frightening. I was a little nervous about that,” she confessed. “I’m not really that interested in doing research and stuff, and I had to do all of this research, all of a sudden, and approach it in a completely different way… That was the thing that was new for me, and definitely a challenge.”
The 37-year-old spent hours conducting research by listening to recordings of Shirley and reading letters between the author and her husband, but after a while she decided to let it all go and focus on the fictionalised version depicted in the script.
“The research into who Shirley was laid the groundwork. That was the bedrock of it. And then, at one point, I remember saying to Michael, right before we started, ‘Now, I think we have to let it go,’” she recalled. “And so, we both decided that we were going to do our own Shirley and Stanley, and this was gonna be our own version of them. You have to forgive yourself a little bit. It’s the only way that you can actually proceed without fear.”
Shirley is available on Hulu in the U.S. now.
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