Last night’s August: Osage County cast discussion included an interesting comment from playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts about Meryl Streep‘s Violet Weston character, an abrasive, drug-addled matriarch who is based on his real-life maternal grandmother. Since the 2007 stage debut of Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Violet has been routinely referred to as one of the most caustic and abrasive female characters ever depicted, but Letts said last night that she’s actually a toned-down version of the Real McCoy. When he first showed August: Osage County to his novelist mom Billie Letts, she told Letts that “you’ve been very kind to my mother.”
Note: The embed code for the video of last night’s event, supplied by the Weinstein Co., had an automatic-launch trigger so I took it down. There’s nothing more infuriating than video clips which automatically launch.
“Lessons in insanity were not just fictional for Mr. Letts,” a 7.20.08 N.Y. Times profile informed. “His maternal grandmother spiraled into drug addiction after her husband’s suicide; she would pass out in the streets, and, when committed, she would smuggle pills into the hospital by hiding them in her vagina.
“’Mom once had me go out to the psych ward to set up my Super 8 camera to film’ his drug-ravaged grandmother, recalled Mr. Letts, who used a vulgar expression in place of drug-ravaged. ‘The film is this’ — and the same expression again — ‘old lady in bed talking nonsense. It’s got to be the most depressing three minutes ever shot.’
“His grandmother is the model for the matriarch of August, Violet Weston, who verbally and emotionally abuses her three daughters — often riotously — as they gather at their Oklahoma home after the disappearance of their father. (Even the pill-sneaking story gets a line in the play.) Mr. Letts said no other characters in August were based on relatives, though all of them, he said, had pieces of him and his memories.
“’One day, when my mother wasn’t around, my dad finally said to my grandmother, ‘Please, please kill yourself with these pills. You’re destroying my wife’s life.'”
Besides Letts, last night’s q & a session, which was viewed online as well as following a screening at Burbank’s TV Academy, included moderator John Horn, director John Wells, Streep, Margo Martindale, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis and Dermot Mulroney.