In January of 1985, shortly after I had completed Secret Admirer, my agent at ICM told me about a very good feature being made at Columbia called Jagged Edge. Joe Eszterhas wrote the script. Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges were set to star with Richard Marquand as director. There was a very small role in it that she felt I should consider. When she told me that it was only a three page scene, I was upset, as I had just completed Secret Admirer in one of the lead roles. Here is where an agent who has a good managerial mind is very beneficial for an actor. Her point of view was that Jagged Edge was excellent in the writing, in the cast and in the director. The character, Virginia Howell, has a moment on film in which she impacts all of the other key characters in a very dramatic way, mainly Jeff Bridges and Glenn Close. Therefore, she was not an inconsequential character.
I read the scene and only after meeting Richard Marquand did I agree. He, as well, pointed out that the scene had importance to the movement of the story. It was the respect he extended toward me, and his intelligence, that convinced me that it was not a bad career move. There was only one other person who needed to approve my being hired. This man was the president of the studio, from whom I would soon be divorced. How ironic it was. He had not wanted me to work while we were married. Now he enthusiastically approved my employment in this film. He was, in fact, the first to call me after the scene was viewed in “dailies”, and tell me how outstanding my performance was.
As it was but one scene in which I would appear, I was hired for only three days. I remember my first morning in the make up trailer with Glenn Close, whom I knew, and Jeff Bridges and Peter Coyote. Glenn and I had been in New York working in 1982. She was in Tom Stoppard’s play The Real Thing with Jeremy Irons and I was in The Beckett Plays. When you work on Broadway, or off – Broadway, there is a bond of friendship amongst actors that is a democratic acceptance that we are all artists. In Los Angeles, and the film industry, there is more focus on status, or a “pecking order” of importance in your “stardom”. Even though Glenn was the female star of Jagged Edge, we greeted each other warmly and chatted about mutual friends. Jeff Bridges was equally warm and welcoming.
My scene took place in the courtroom. I was a witness on the witness stand. Jeff Bridges’ character was on trial. It was a very big scene with many extras. Glenn had a lot of dialogue, as did Peter Coyote. Jeff had to sit and react. Because they were the stars, their scenes would be shot first. This had great value for me at that moment. I would have time to absorb and further prepare the inner dynamics between my character and everyone else. By 7 pm of the third day, they were finally ready for my scene. I was tired, as I had had to sit on the witness stand for the other actor’s performances now for three long days. Richard asked me how I felt. Did I want to “go for it” and do the scene that night, or start fresh the next morning. He asked Glenn and Jeff and Peter if they would stay for me. They all said “absolutely yes,” they would stay.
Richard encouraged me to do the scene that night. He was right. I was internally very edgy as I had had to wait so long and no longer felt fresh. My moment to perform had arrived. I felt insecure that I now might not be able to “come up” with what I needed. My insecurity and the situation made me very angry. Richard intuited my emotional state without outwardly speaking of it. He wanted to “use” it. He later told me the situation was perfect, as he felt I was so naturally nice, and the character was such a cold bitch, he wanted me to be organically closer to the nature of the character. He also said later, that he trusted me as a professional. He knew I would use my internal state and “channel” it into Virginia Howell. He was so right. Anger was not a very familiar state for me, and given that I was “in it” it was indeed perfect timing to use it to express the character. It also allowed me to throw away my considerations of Glenn or Jeff or Peter’s opinion of my performance. I simply did it. If I had chosen the next morning, I would have been back in my happier state facing more of a challenge to make it real. An actor uses absolutely everything he or she can to reach emotionally honest moments. These moments need to be magically expressed on “action!”
Jagged Edge was an outstanding thriller and very successful. It assisted me career-wise to open up the Industry’s view of me as a dramatic actress. When you have a long career, it is important, in my opinion, to keep shattering others’ creative perception of you, so you can be hired in a wider range of roles.
Jagged Edge on IMDB