Amanda Peet tackles a Boston accent to play a wife and mother who sticks by her husband despite his drug addiction and criminal activities in the dramatic film What Doesn't Kill You. Writer/director/actor Brian Goodman based the film on his own troubled past, initially writing his story down while taking part in Alcoholics Anonymous. Over time, what started as just a step to recovery became the screenplay for What Doesn't Kill You.
Peet felt a responsibility for bringing the real Stacy's story to the screen in a realistic manner, but what really worried her was sounding like she grew up in Boston. "I was really, really scared. Really, really scared," admitted Peet at the film's Los Angeles press junket. "I was really scared as in being really embarrassed. But I swear to god, part of it is not having like really long speeches. Like if I had to do an Aaron Sorkin show with a Boston accent, it would be a disaster! I would just go up to Brian's friends or his sons and be like, 'How do you say confiscate?' Or, 'How do you say…' And then he'd say it and I'd repeat it, and then he'd repeat it and I'd walk back to the set saying [it]. 'Okay, roll, roll, roll! Roll camera!'"
Other than figuring out how to handle the accent, Peet didn't overanalyze the role. "I didn't really. I don't mind to sound glib, but I tried not to over think it too much," said Peet. "I love Mark [Ruffalo, who plays Brian]. I've known him for 10 years. He's a beautiful actor and a beautiful person, and he's beautiful, and so it's not really that hard. And you know once I chose my outfits and once we were in South Boston and Brian's friends were all around telling me how to say the lines and things, it just felt right."
Both Peet and Ruffalo felt comfortable enough on the set and with each other to do a little ad-libbing when the opportunity presented itself. "We tried sticking to the script, we tried adlibbing sometimes. We tried everything. I find that to be really fun," said Peet. "It's weird because I really love both. I love Aaron Sorkin. I love when you can't change a 'the.' I love when you can't change 'they are' to 'they're'. I think that's exciting. It's an exciting challenge. And obviously when the writing is spectacular that's really fun and challenging to make that natural, even though it's so strict. But Mark is a great improv'er. He's really free and surprising. I think both of us like that style a lot too, so it was kind of like, 'Go for it.' There was like a fight scene where I think I really fell or he really hit my head against the wall. You know, things like that happen when it's chaotic like that. I'm like, 'Bring it on,' - as long as I don't die."
Peet didn't meet the real Stacy until Stacy visited the set when filming was underway. "We used to look at each other and start laughing, ' recalled Peet. "I just would look and be like, 'How is her hair?' We had started shooting a little bit before I first met her and so I was really scared about my outfits, but she's definitely, I think she's sexier than I was in the movie. But I liked her spirit. She has a lot of chutzpah and she would have to in order to handle Brian."
Not many women would put up with what Stacy did during her marriage to Brian, and Peet has an opinion as to why Stacy stuck by Brian through very hard times. "I tried not to think about it too much, but we felt like they just had a lot of chemistry, and we tried not to analyze it too much. Like the whole thing with Al-Anon and needing to be with someone who is a project, and you're always trying to get them well. That whole long suffering life thing, we tried to make it a little sexier than that. I think often those kind of tumultuous relationships are really sexy, too, so that's what of what it makes it so magnetic," said Peet.
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What Doesn't Kill You hits theaters on December 12, 2008 and is rated R for language, drug use, some violence and brief sexuality.