Elaine did speak Lakota. Her husband was Sioux, and they would have been able to converse. I think that's a really important part of their bond and their connection.
How does it feel to depict a person who actually existed?
When you are playing a historical character, obviously there is a great responsibility to get it right. But, it's not just playing a character that really existed, but also depicting this particular period of history in this country. It's incredibly important to get it right and to do justice to the people whose lives we are trying to tell the story of - and to do that in a dignified, respectful and accurate manner, which I think, hopefully, we are doing.
Could you tell us a little bit about who Elaine was?
Elaine was a published poetess as a child. She continued to publish works of fiction and journalistic materials throughout her life. And, she was a teacher and had the position of being supervisor of the schools on the Sioux reservation during her early twenties. So, she traveled from the different agencies to sort of oversee things, and she ends up married to Dr. Charles Eastman, who is played by Adam Beach.
You've had to learn the Lakota language - how difficult was that?
I don't think any of us had to really learn the language as a whole, so much as learn phonetically the sentences, paragraphs and proverbs that I have to say. I feel somewhat foolish because I don't really know exactly what I am saying. But, it's been really interesting. And, I think it's great including it in the film because Elaine did speak Lakota. Her husband was Sioux, and they would have been able to converse. I think that's a really important part of their bond and their connection. She is not just another person from the other culture who doesn't understand and doesn't want to understand.
She doesn't really talk so much about her private life. So, that was interesting, to try to essentially look up gossip on someone who lived 100 years ago.
What sources did you draw on to better understand Elaine?
I have read the book, 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.' I read Elaine's memoir, "Sister to the Sioux." I found lots of various scholars that have written extensively about her. It's hard to actually get her poetry, as most of them are out of print, but I have been able to find lots of her poetry online. Interestingly enough, even though the film focuses primarily on her marriage to Dr. Eastman, that's one of the more minor things she talks about in her book. She doesn't really talk so much about her private life. So, that was interesting, to try to essentially look up gossip on someone who lived 100 years ago to find out other people's takes on her situation and her marriage. I mean, when you are playing someone that really existed and have all this material available to you, I just think you'd be crazy not to take advantage of it.
How's the experience shooting in Calgary?
It's freezing cold. But then, I am sure it's freezing cold for our characters living on reservations in the Dakotas in 1890. So, I guess that's just part of getting into character. Like the corsets. And that brings us to corsets and petticoats and bustles and all the other great stuff that Victorian women wear that means you can't breathe or eat. But, I think it does a lot of your work for you, as far as feeling like you are really inhabiting the person, when you are wearing something that's compressing your insides. Just the way you move, the way you talk and the way you breathe and sit. All that sort of stuff is affected - in a good way. It's kind of like a little "cheat" to get into character in the morning. Once the corset's on, I certainly am Elaine.