Marisa Tomei Skipped Cannes to Do ABC’s ‘All In the Family’ Live, and Found a Fresh Challenge

IndieWire | 6/17/2019 | Staff
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Marisa Tomei was planning to go to the Cannes Film Festival to promote her role opposite Isabelle Huppert in “Frankie” when Norman Lear called her cell phone. The 96-year-old “All in the Family” creator was planning a one-of-a-kind live broadcast of his treasured ABC sitcom, alongside its spinoff, “The Jeffersons,” on May 22. He wanted Tomei to portray bigoted family man Archie Bunker’s wife, Edith, a role originally played by Jean Stapleton for a decade.

“I couldn’t wrap my head around it at all,” Tomei said over lunch in Manhattan’s West Village a month after the broadcast. “I just thought none of this should be done in any format again. It was so perfect. Why are we even talking about this?”

Result - Curveballs - Tomei - Career - Edith

Eventually, she relented, and the result is one of the most fascinating curveballs in the Tomei’s nearly 40-year career. As Edith, the actress buried herself under a frumpy wig and outsized glasses, adopted a high-pitch wail, and transformed into the ditzy housewife who supports every demand of Woody Harrelson’s Archie.

At the same time, she injected the character with subtle pathos and charm, the simmering attributes of a woman committed to playing the unifying matriarch at all costs. In under half an hour, Tomei commands the screen, dropping in and out of the picture with staccato rhythms in her most energized turn since her Oscar-winning breakout in 1992’s “My Cousin Vinny.” It’s a welcome and unexpected reminder that Tomei’s talents, so often relegated to supporting roles, can outshine the more prominent ones around her.

Decade - Oscar - Nomination - Mickey - Rourke

A decade ago, she scored her third Oscar nomination for acting opposite Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler.” Since then, she has mined substantial material out of supporting parts in everything from “Empire” to the new spate of “Spider-Man” movies, where she plays Aunt May. But the sprawling platform of...
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