Long before the cameras got rolling, Brenda Blethyn had no idea the filmmakers of “Introducing the Dwights” specifically had her in mind for the lead role.
“I thought I didn’t get the job, and then I had met the director and I wondered if she liked me,” Blethyn said in an interview in San Francisco.
“No,” director Cherie Nowlan shoots back. “I was auditioning for you. I was totally in awe and I must have sounded like a moron.”
Call it the comedy of errors behind the comedy of errors that is “Introducing the Dwights,” which opens today. The coming-of-age comedy is about growing up, trying to reclaim heydays and all the messy gray areas found in relationships of all kinds.
The film finds Blethyn morphing into a gregarious yet frazzled British divorcée trying to resuscitate her once-prosperous career as a comic and singer. She says she was immediately drawn to the role because of the writing, but also appreciated how screenwriter Keith Thomspon delicately handled the unique relationship lead character Jean had with her two sons, one about to leave the nest (Khan Chittenden), the other a developmentally disabled yet charming rascal (Richard Wilson).
“I just loved the story line of the older son’s journey of discovery; of him finding romance and love for the very first time,” Blethyn says. “And all those new emotions he is finding as well as all the emotions everyone is feeling. I thought it was very tenderly written and so fresh.”
Nowlan notes the script’s ability to illuminate all sides of relationships — “the pain of it and the comedy of it and what it says about family.”
The film marks a unique turn for Blethyn, who received Oscar nominations for her roles in “Little Voice” and “Secrets and Lies.” She had to brush up on her singing and learn stand-up. She even came up with her own jokes.
“I was just trying to work out the character and having all these new emotions,” she says, “and then to get to do the stand-up was a challenge, of course, and then the singing — Jesus!”
Asked which was more difficult to master, the comedy or the singing, Blethyn laughs. “Six of one, half a dozen of the other, really. But there was a framework there for it and Cheri and I met with a British comic and she did some jokes for us as well.
“You are on your own up there,” she adds. “I mean, I knew that in film, you could do it again and re-shoot, but there were scenes when my brain went hysterical because I am on a stage infront of an audience and you have to perform it properly and you can’t stop.”
Blethyn’s next project has her starring opposite John Hurt and Gillian Anderson in “No One Gets Off In This Town,” due next year.
She says that while the film business has its challenges, she often uses a grand piece of advice she was given early on in her career: “Don’t try to be interesting.”