Darlene Cates Q&A - Question #2

Actress who played Mama in WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE

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Darlene Cates Q&A - Question #2

Unread postby Liz » Tue May 08, 2007 8:28 am

Q: I wondered how you felt about the way the Mama was made to be an object of ridicule, a freak within the society she lived in? When I watched this for the first time, it affected me very deeply as I too am very large and can identify totally with being stared at and laughed at and made to feel an alien. I thought you were incredibly brave to portray such a role, and it was done so well. Johnny's sensitivity as Gilbert of course made it all the more endearing in the end. I would love to know how you personally felt about the way the whole subject of Mama's size and illness was approached? Were you happy with how Bonnie was portrayed in the movie?

A: I had qualms about Momma's portrayal, but I was also allowed to provide input about the parts that bothered me. I realized early on that much of Momma's life was mirrored by many in my situation. I thought maybe (after we began shooting) it would give some insight and compassion for the situation. Peter Hedges was wonderful about compromising and was very receptive all of the time. He wanted to keep Momma's dignity. So, overall, I was pleased with Momma's character. I thought she had dignity and love.
Last edited by Liz on Sat May 12, 2007 12:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby Charlene » Tue May 08, 2007 10:04 am

You did an outstanding job...as I said yesterday, I am so glad your Momma was different from the book's Momma. We got to glimpse inside your soul...but I think your honest portrayal (especially talking to Becky) gave us a glimpse into the enigma of obesity. I don't think anyone has a master plan to be overweight, over medicated, an alcoholic, short tempered, paralized..or a host of other ills...it just happens...and it happens to good people and mean, crabby, selfish people...you are who you are. It's letting your "shimmering" self shine through that's important. And you shimmered and glowed in that role.

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Re: Darlene Cates Q&A - Question #2

Unread postby Betty Sue » Tue May 08, 2007 10:14 am

A: I thought she had dignity and love.

She did!! :bouquet:
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Re: Darlene Cates Q&A - Question #2

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue May 08, 2007 10:36 am

Betty Sue wrote:
A: I thought she had dignity and love.

She did!! :bouquet:


I think that is what we missed in Book Momma. Darlene was able to capture that side of her perfectly! :cool:
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Re: Darlene Cates Q&A - Question #2

Unread postby Linda Lee » Tue May 08, 2007 10:54 am

There was a clear difference between Momma in the book and Momma in the movie. It was Darlene's portrayal that made Momma human, she had dignity and love. In the book she seemed cold and distant, someone who had given up on life.
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Unread postby heidi1 » Tue May 08, 2007 11:27 am

:applause: I agree with you, Charlene, Darlene did shimmer and glow in that role. The look in Momma's eyes, Darlene, at the end of the scene where she meets Becky, just said it all---what a kind soul she was. I just love the sweet smile on Momma's face there---it is such a warm glow that comes "through the screen", and touches the audience too. That moment is a transformation for Momma and Gilbert, that they both become more positive about themselves and life from that point on, whatever lies in store. I feel a part of you came through in that scene, just as Johnny's kindness radiates through as Gilbert at the end. Both you and Johnny took the characters from the book, and greatly enhanced them through your acting, and made them more human and genuine. Peter Hedges must likewise be a very kind person, judging from the interviews I have heard him give, and his willingness to take input from the actors and change the screenplay accordingly. It appears that the collaboration among the actors, Peter Hedges, and the director all worked to make WEGG the "magical" movie that it is.

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Re: Darlene Cates Q&A - Question #2

Unread postby Xaxis » Tue May 08, 2007 11:54 am

Betty Sue wrote:
A: I thought she had dignity and love.

She did!! :bouquet:


I wish society was made up of more human beings who were like this.
I can imagine the discussions around the character's portrayal and which edge of the skate to lean on, must have been as interesting as it was difficult. Since there are not many roles in movies inwhich we get to see lovely large people protrayed I am so grateful that the lean went to the kinder side. I think that is important. I'm glad you helped make that happen. Thanks! :cloud9:
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Unread postby gemini » Tue May 08, 2007 3:11 pm

I am so glad that as you say, "Peter Hedges was wonderful about compromising and was very receptive all of the time. He wanted to keep Momma's dignity." I think this is very much to his credit and that point was made well in the story. She was loved by her family and an object of humiliation to the town, which the film portrayed correctly as contemptible. It also showed how the humiliation spread over to her children and made their lives harder than they should have been.

It was a lesson which needed to be seen by our society to see themselves at their worst and hopefully give them a different prospective.
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Unread postby nebraska » Tue May 08, 2007 10:24 pm

When I read the Gilbert Grape book, I was especially impressed by the way Peter Hedges took us into Gilbert's head. I am glad to hear that sensitivity continued on to other characters in the movie as well.

Discrimination based on size or appearance is a fact of life in American culture, for whatever reason. I could go on a verbal rampage about the causes, etc. but that would be pointless. Being large is linked with "being lazy, eating too much, etc" . That is an unfair generalization, and the way the town treated Bonnie was a graphic depiction of sad reality. Yes, nobody starts out planning to "be like this" but it happens. And it hurts!

I echo what many others have said here, Darlene's portrayal of Mama is one of the reasons WEGG has remained a timeless classic. Her Bonnie Grape speaks to our hearts.

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Unread postby marijke » Wed May 09, 2007 10:58 am

nebraska wrote:(...)Discrimination based on size or appearance is a fact of life in American culture, for whatever reason. I could go on a verbal rampage about the causes, etc. but that would be pointless. Being large is linked with "being lazy, eating too much, etc" . That is an unfair generalization, and the way the town treated Bonnie was a graphic depiction of sad reality. Yes, nobody starts out planning to "be like this" but it happens. And it hurts!


It's European, too, and it's getting worse recently, due to ma recent media-hype about obese children and stereotypes about fat people eating fastfood watching tv :banghead:
I am obese too, and that means: less chance for a job, a relationship, people talk about you as "that fat woman" and make fun with you. Obese people are treated as a "lower race".

I echo what many others have said here, Darlene's portrayal of Mama is one of the reasons WEGG has remained a timeless classic. Her Bonnie Grape speaks to our hearts.


I agree very much! You discover the human behind the fat, excuse me for saying it that rude, but not much people want to see that, and the movie forces you to do it: look to the human being in stead of looking at the fat.

Deep respect for Darlene!!!
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