Rosemarie DeWitt has worked with a lot of great directors over the course of her career, from Jonathan Demme to Lynn Shelton to Damien Chazelle. That’s why LAMag listened closely when we asked her which filmmakers and storytellers she’d love to work with one day, if given the opportunity.
The name of the game for a character actress like DeWitt is opportunity. When she’s given the one, she never fails to deliver, which may be why Toni Collette recruited her to co-star as Cousin Beatrice in the wacky indie comedy, The Estate. shortly after they worked together on HBO Max’s acclaimed limited series The Staircase.
Hailing from writer-director Dean Craig, The Estate follows greedy family members fighting for the grand inheritance of their terminally ill aunt (Kathleen Turner). Anna Faris, David Duchovny, and DeWitt’s husband, Ron Livingston, co-star in the movie, which is now playing in select theaters.
DeWitt spoke to LAMag about the film, as well as her favorite spots in the city.
LAMag: How did the project make its way to you? What drew you to the role of Cousin Beatrice? Have you worked with Dean before?
DeWitt: You know, it wasn’t Dean, it was Toni Collette. She was the one to call and be like, “I just have to put my feelers out. Is there any chance you could come to New Orleans and do this movie?” Because when you have kids… [so I was like,] “Well, let me read it! Is it good, is it funny? What do we get to do together?” And it was. It was all those things and it was funny on the page. Dean is British and he has that British sensibility, and you can be a little bit more wrong-headed, I think, in a British comedy. So that snuck in there. And then they assembled a really good cast, just people I want to work with, so it was kind of an easy “yes.”
You’re working with such a great cast here, had you worked with anyone before besides Toni?
Just Toni, and Ron, obviously. And they’re all such different actors and performers, and Keyla (Monterroso) is just, like, bringing the weirdest, funniest stuff into the movie. But it was such a weird thing where, if I had watched everybody and what they do, I wouldn’t have necessarily thought that it would be so easy, but it was really easy to make this movie. They’re just so good. Everybody’s just super talented. David, I just love that character. It’s so funny, and the way he built it is so earnest and so funny. Besides Toni and Ron, everybody was new to me and it was a joy.
If you received a sizable family inheritance, what’s the first thing you would do with the money?
Well, I have a family, so I would give it to my kids, but those are the parts I don’t really relate to. Like, it’s really interesting, the things that people are driven to, and particularly Beatrice—the relationship she would give up in order to appear this way in the world, and have this money and this stuff. But it was really fun to pretend to be like that. It’s really fun to be bad. It’s because as people we don’t let ourselves be that bad. We don’t want to hurt people, we don’t want to be… shitty. So I guess Beatrice would give none of it to anybody, she’d spend it all on herself.
Well, with the pretending in mind, if your family was angling for a piece of your own fortune, would you put them through the paces and make them fight for it?
No, I probably wouldn’t put them through the paces, but I would also be so bummed that they sucked so bad. One time, I heard my daughter—and I think she was seven at the time—and Ron is allergic to cats, and she looked at him and said, “Dad, when you die, I think we’ll get a cat.” And I said, “We don’t want dad to die! Where’s your empathy?” I think I would just be so upset that people wanted my money. Although, Kathleen had a great take [on it] where she was so suspicious. But she was such a softie for any kind of attention. She was so needy.
I know you’re coming off of the HBO Max limited series The Staircase, so, which family is more dysfunctional? The one in that show or the one here in The Estate?
The Staircase. As awful as we are in The Estate, that’s the reason people keep telling the story in The Staircase because we can’t understand it. There’s a lot of humanity in there, but it’s baffling because it’s unknowable. You can’t know the answer. The thing about The Estate is that these people are who they say they are. So if you get hurt by them, it’s your own fault—they told you exactly who they were.
I know you’re a New Yorker at heart, but I understand that you’re based in Los Angeles these days. So what are some of your favorite things to do in L.A.?
I have so many. The pandemic changed them. As a family, we fell so in love with L.A. Historic Park. Next to Chinatown, there’s just this epic green thing where we bring bikes and picnics and soccer balls. I love Los Feliz, and in general, I just love going East. East and Downtown is my jam. I know everybody says which beach is their favorite, and which hike, and it’s not that I’m such an urban girl, but I just love where new artists are making things, and I love how quickly things evolve.
Highland Park was it, and now it’s going even further. And some of that’s not good, right? Some of it’s gentrification, and you want it to stay L.A., and you want it to have pockets of rich culture and differentiation. But lately, I just love walking around downtown and finding a whole new pocket. I was downtown yesterday and I went into [a store] to get something, and the only milk they had was oat milk, it was the only option. And I was like, “Am I in a hotel?” I don’t even know what things are anymore, because they make their own rules. They only have, like, one kind of drink, and then brownies, and that’s the whole thing. And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a business! Brownies and lattes with oat milk.’
Do you have a favorite pizza joint or a go-to spot for Mexican food?
I do like a gluten-free pizza from Tomato Pie in Silver Lake. I don’t know, I’m old, I don’t go out that much. You know those Mexican pops that they dip in things? In Hollywood, right in the mix of the most touristy spot, is a great spot where you can get the most delicious paletas. It’s worth it.
This interview is being conducted just before Halloween, so is there a go-to movie that you and Ron watch together, or with your kids?
I don’t know, we’re in between it right now because my 9-year-old is looking for scary, and literally, the fight in my house between my 9 and my 6-year-old was whether Hocus Pocus 2 is too scary! And I’m like, “Hocus Pocus 2 is not scary,” so we’re in the G-rated Halloween department over here. There’s no Freddy Krueger in our house yet. My 9-year-old is going to be Beyonce from “Formation” and my little one is Jasmine from Aladdin. Last year, Ron went as a giant baby. He had a giant baby head and wore a diaper, and that was amazing.
Are there any filmmakers you’re anxious to work with these days?
There are a lot of filmmakers I’m really thrilled by but the thing that never goes out of my brain, and the people I’m thinking about all the time, are Michaela Coel [I May Destroy You] and Phoebe Waller-Bridge [Fleabag]. The people who are making their own material are the people and the women I can’t stop thinking about. There are a lot of filmmakers who are so prolific and the truth is that I’m probably not going to work with those people because they make things that are about themselves, but I can’t stop thinking about Michaela Coel. I think about her, like, every day. It’s so weird. I’m obsessed with her.
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