Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)

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Amy Adams as: Delysia Lafosse
Directed by: Bharat Nalluri
Written by: David Magee, Simon Beaufoy, Winifred Watson (novel)
Selected Cast: Frances McDormand, Lee Pace, Ciarán Hinds, Shirley Henderson
Release Date: March 7, 2008 (US)
Genre: Comedy / Romance
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Every woman will have her day.

In 1939 London, Miss Guinevere Pettigrew is a middle-aged governess who finds herself once again unfairly dismissed from her job. Without so much as severance pay, Miss Pettigrew realizes that she must – for the first time in two decades – seize the day. This she does, by intercepting an employment assignment outside of her comfort level – as “social secretary.” Arriving at a penthouse apartment for the interview, Miss Pettigrew is catapulted into the glamorous world and dizzying social whirl of an American actress and singer, Delysia Lafosse.

Within minutes, Miss Pettigrew finds herself swept into a heady high-society milieu – and, within hours, living it up. Taking the “social secretary” designation to heart, she tries to help her new friend Delysia navigate a love life and career, both of which are complicated by the three men in Delysia’s orbit; devoted pianist Michael, intimidating nightclub owner Nick, and impressionable junior impresario Phil. Miss Pettigrew herself is blushingly drawn to the gallant Joe, a successful designer who is tenuously engaged to haughty fashion maven Edythe – the one person who senses that the new “social secretary” may be out of her element, and schemes to undermine her.

Over the next 24 hours, Guinevere and Delysia will empower each other to discover their romantic destinies.

Miss Pettigrew Online

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Amy’s Role

With a pitch in the voice, a wiggle in the hips, Amy transforms into Delysia Lafosse, one of the leads opposite Academy Award Winning actress Frances McDormand. Delysia is an infectiously energetic actress/singer with a complicated love life. The beautiful young woman has three boyfriends: Nick (Mark Strong), the man who owns the flat where she lives; Phil (Tom Payne), the producer of a West End production in which she wants the lead role; and Michael (Lee Pace), a penniless piano player. For the role of Delysia Lafosse, Amy was inspired by the great screen sirens of Classic Hollywood like Marilyn Monroe.


• “I did Ms. Pedigrew Lives for a Day with Frances McDormand where I play a 1930s cabaret singer, very ambitious girl who Frances McDormand’s character sort of, we meet each other and have this fantastic day together.”

• “I grew up loving old films, so I had this romanticized feeling of Hollywood. I thought it would be so glamorous to be an actress in that time. I wanted Delysia to be somebody who was acting like an actress, you know? She’s acting like somebody in a movie, because every day for her is a chance to shine, a chance to be noticed. There’s a real desperation behind her, driven by the bad times: the Depression in America, and the reality of the world going to war.”

• “I would like to see Miss Pettigrew on Broadway! There’s that one musical number in it now, and I think there’s room for more.”

• “I don’t think Miss Pettigrew is a chick flick; that it’s unfair, just because two females are driving the plot and it’s from a female perspective, that it’s considered a chick flick.”

• “The boys are himbos, is what we’ve decided.”

• “I’m such a practical person. Well, for the most part. Maybe she [Miss Pettigrew] could clean my closet, because I’m messy. I sort of nitpick and worry about little things. You get a bed set at Bed, Bath & Beyond and wake up in the middle of the night going “I should have gotten the patterned one.” For like an hour, debating patterned sheets. If somebody could just make me stop doing that, I think I could accomplish a lot more in my life.”

• “We did not have a ton of rehearsal time. So it was such a relief at the table read and in the time we did have to rehearse to find out that we were really on the same page. It was almost too easy. What was important for Frances and I was to create a relationship between these two women, and understand how they would be friends and what they have in common. They are really similar as far as their struggle for survival.”

• “In Miss Pettigrew it’s ultimately the love of a woman that sees her through. That’s the most important relationship in her life thus far–the kindness and patience of that woman she meets for a day. I think because each of these characters is so needy, they’re picking up from the people around them. When you’re needy, that leaves you very open and vulnerable! So yeah, I do believe in the power of love.”

• “It was very technical, but I don’t know why it didn’t seem hard. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve worked onstage, but it didn’t seem difficult. Also the director created such a permissive environment—there was no wrong idea, so you got to try a lot of different things. Everything moved very quickly. It’s such a blur, really.”

• “I think the physicality, as far as being a dancer. That’s how I always approach roles. I first figure out how do they feel, it’s all very tactile and thematic. What does it feel like to be this person? Also being a huge fan of old movies, and having watched a lot, you really did act that way. It’s coming from stage. The older films are much more closely related to stage and those performances. It was something I really wanted to accomplish, that style of acting. It was very intentional. Frances, once I saw what she was doing with Guinevere, it opened up all sorts of roads for me, and a lot of permission to go there. She was being so physical, and you understood that this was such a physical movie. You want people to get caught up in the whirlwind of this day. It’s Delysia’s world, which is just moment to moment to moment. I was very tired!”

• “The director created such a permissive environment, so there was no wrong idea. So you got to try a lot of different things and then everyone said, “Okay, this feels really good, this works,” and everything moved very quickly. It was such a blur really, ’cause it is so fast.”

• “I watched a ton of films in preparation and was influenced by several actresses of that time. I tried to not do a direct imitation of anyone in particular, but they were always on my mind.”

• “I absolutely loved the character. I loved the opportunity she presented to have fun and take risks as an actress and knowing that I would be doing that with Frances McDormand was the cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake.”

• “I watched a ton of old films. There were three actresses in particular that I watched, but people can draw their own conclusions as [to who they were] when they watch the film.”

• “We had a choreographer who worked with the dance numbers, but as far as the blocking, that was very much… Frances has really great instincts about that and the director had great instincts about that. Just to speak on the director again, I was so impressed at how he was able to tell a film from a female point of view. You would not necessarily think that that was directed by a man. I was so impressed with his understanding of the female point of view of this film, but he completely understood it. He was on board, and also we would spend time on the blocking before we would shoot the scene, so we would always do it in a very traditional way. We would walk in, and we’d spend sometimes an hour blocking the scene before we shot it, because we’re working in that apartment, just the scope of it.”

• “I would love to do like a whole series of movies… ‘Delysia and Guinevere!’ (laughter) I love it! Let’s do it!”

• “It was something I thought about a lot and I watched the movies… I really felt that she was the kind of person who would’ve watched movies and act like that in her own life so, I tried to channel them.”

On her character Delysia
“Giselle is the exact opposite. She’s much more authentic. She’s not putting a thing on. Delysia is putting it all on. You see glimpses of who she truly is, and that’s what Guinevere sees in her — that glimpse of the girl she was before she made all those decisions that have led her to where she is.”

On her character Delysia
“I don’t think I necessarily changed anything from the script. I think the script provided such a great character… She’s a little bit manipulative… she’s self-centered and she has a lot of faults, how can you, at the same time, give her a soul?… That was really attractive to me, to get to sort of play a person who has several different veneers that she puts on, I mean she is an actress so that was fun.”

On her character Delysia
“She’s just struggling to get by. She’s struggling to keep all the balls in the air, because if one falls, they all fall. She’s definitely an opportunist, and she definitely is manipulative. But her intentions are based purely on her survival instinct.”

On her character Delysia
“I enjoy it, and I’ve played depressed characters, and there’s a benefit to that, but I have to tell you, this is much more infectious in your life. You go home with energy, you go home with more spirit. I get something from my characters as well, even though I’m putting a lot in. She gave me a different perspective on myself.”

On her character Delysia
“I don’t even know that she wants to be a star. What she wants is security, she wants stability. That I definitely can relate to, that feeling of wanting some sort of certainty, and some control over your destiny.”

On Delysia’s ambition
“I can understand her reasons for wanting it and I don’t even know if she wants to be a star. I really had to consider that. What she wants is security. She wants stability, and that I definitely can relate to, that feeling of wanting some sort of certainty and some sort of control over your own destiny.”

Does Adams see anything of herself in Delysia, who juggles men and social engagements with equal aplomb?
“She’s a survivor. She’s a bootstrap girl. She’s living a life that isn’t organic to her, and I can honestly say that I feel that way at times. In a way, everybody does, but I never thought I’d be where I am today, so I really related to her in the struggle to survive.”

On her character Delysia
“I won’t give it all away, but there were three movies in particular that I watched in preparation because I wanted to make her an amalgam. I thought they were all girls that Delysia would have watched and tried to emulate in terms of their glamour–although Marilyn, of course, would have been a little later. I imagined Delysia grew up during the Depression and fled to England to get away from it, so that creates a certain desperation and a certain “I’11 run over whoever I need to in order to eat.” She probably doesn’t even want to be a star. She’s a little self-centered but it’s for the right purpose! And that was a quality I thought a lot of the women had in the movies I used to watch. Even with the women that oversexualized themselves, it never felt accidental. Back then, women in their twenties acted like they were in their forties–look at Greta Garbo: She was doing what she was doing when she was 22, and she comes across as such a self-possessed woman. It was just a completely different era of femininity.”

On the book
“I asked if I should read it and I was told not to read it beforehand… I have read part of it since and it is quite a bit different.”

On Lee Pace
“Lee Pace is just so amazing. He’s so charming… There’s such a masculinity to him, and a real throwback feel. He’s so tall and substantial…”

On Lee Pace
“He’s very charming, didn’t you find, ladies? I think it’s that old Hollywood thing he has. He’s so tall and solid. He’s really good, a very good actor. I immediately felt that relationship between Michael and Delysia. That he was the person who made her knees weak, who made her feel the most whole and the most genuine.”

On Lee Pace
“I feel squirelly talking about it. Here’s why- I have come across as boy crazy because I’m like ‘Oh, my gosh, he’s so cuute.’ That’s how I’ve been, so I’m kind of trying to be more professional… because I sound like, you know, that actress who, like, really overly enjoys all of her male contact… There is this story with Lee where the director asked him to leave the set because I was staring at him. ‘Cause I am a little boy crazy… Lee had come in on a day where he wasn’t working and he was across the room and he just looked so dashing. He looked like an old movie star lounging there in his cowboy boots, like Steve McQueen across the room and I was, like, “Oh, wow.” And the director was like, “What are you doing?” I was, like ‘I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening. I was looking at Lee. I mean look at him over there leaning.’ And the director walked over and said ‘you’re distracting Amy with your presence so you need to leave.’ –I was mortified, mortified.”

On Frances McDormand
“She’s amazing. You can learn so much. I go in there going “I know that you know more than I do, and I want to learn from you.” What she has is a sense of professionalism. They’re on time, they’re the first person on set. There’s no ego involved. They’re there for the work, they’re 100% there. When I’m working with someone, I always want to be the first person on set, I don’t want to keep anyone waiting. But I could never beat Frances to the set! I am leaving right when they ask me, I grab my diamonds and run, and I’m like “How is it that you continue to beat me to set?” And she looked at me and says “I never leave.” Then of course, I couldn’t leave set! She doesn’t leave, I can’t leave. She just creates this wonderful environment, she’s funny and free and open. The talent is unquestionable, I could go on and on about that, but the things that I take away are the professionalism and the joy of the craft.”

On Frances McDormand
“She’s so perceptive and has such an understanding of comedy and comic timing, mostly what we talked about was the connection of these two characters and how and why they became friends — the truth of it all instead of the details of the performance. We were always on board with the other’s take on things.”

On Frances McDormand
“She’s amazing! You really can learn so much, and I’ve been thankful that I have the kind of personality that’s not too proud, so I go in there going, “I know that you know more than I do, and I want to learn from you.” What else that she had—and a lot of people have in the position that she’s in and I think it’s really good to know this—is that the sense of professionalism… they’re on time, they’re the first person on set, but there’s no ego involved, and they’re there for the work. They’re 100% there. When I’m working with someone, I always want to be the first person on set, I don’t want to keep anyone waiting. I have a lot of respect for them and I think they deserve for me to be respectful. But I could never beat Frances to the set! “I’m leaving right when they ask me, so how is it that you continue to beat me to set?” And she just looked at me and said, “I never leave.” (laughter) A revelation! “You never leave.” And so of course, I could never leave the set! “She doesn’t leave, I can’t leave.” (laughter) She just creates this wonderful environment, and she’s funny and free and open. The talent is unquestionable. I mean, I can go on and on about that, but the things that I take aware are the professionalism and the joy of the craft still, and that’s what I hope is that genuine joy. She’s just a genuine person.”

On Frances McDormand
“I’d met Frances during the Oscars. We were nominated in the same category, and I’d said to my boyfriend that I absolutely have to work with her someday.”

On Frances McDormand
“I pride myself on being someone who never keeps production waiting. I come from small theaters where you had to be on time. But every time I showed up on set, she’d already be there. So I asked her how it is that she continuously beat me to the set. She looks at me and says, ‘I never leave.’ She’s involved in the production, and she knows everybody’s name. She comes with her A-game every day.”

On Frances McDormand
“I have always loved her work and so to get to act opposite her and do comedy opposite her and to realize that we have a similar approach to certain kinds of comedy; it was really, really fun. Her work ethic and her professionalism is just unbelievable…”

On Nick Nolte’s character
“He’s kind of brutal, and I think she sort of likes that. What I love about her is that her whole world is a stage, and every day is a performance. With him it’s that violent, passionate relationship. He just overpowers her, and she can play the damsel in distress and manipulate him with her feminine wiles and her ways. As much as it hurts her, I do think she really enjoys some part of playing all the roles with all of those men. I think there’s deeper reasons for that, and that’s explained a little bit in the film. You see glimpses of what’s really happening, and why she’s doing what she’s doing.”

On the costumes
“They transport you into this time and place and world and with Delysia, her costumes are everything. Every outfit —and she has a lot in one day —is a new character, so they were very important for me.”

• “No, I didn’t get to keep the costumes. You know I have to be honest; I see the costumes as my character’s wardrobe so I would feel so weird, you know, but I would have kept the jewels.”

Character Quotes

No quotes available at this time.

Trivia & Facts

• Filmed in London, England.

• Amy and Lee Pace sing one song on the soundtrack, called “If I Didn’t Care.”


“And by actors I mean, specifically, actresses. McAdams and Adams are dewy, vibrant stars whose popularity lies in the feminist independence they generously grant to the fictional women they play. How we love the trappings of other periods — provided we can tinker with the period attitudes to suit our current fashions! Both these slight, wistful movies — evanescent diversions with a combined weight of less than a magnum of champagne — play at matters of financial, professional, marital, and erotic dilemma with all the seriousness of an after-dinner game of charades. Mostly, they each put on a pretty show.”

Adams, of course, is a peach. Her sparkle requires only minor character adjustment and twinkle recharging from her recent triumph as the old-fashioned modern heroine in Enchanted.

Then again, Miss Pettigrew, and Married Life, for that matter, aren’t about the real pleasures and perils of not-too-distant past eras; they’re about pleasurable, flattering role choices for popular actresses and their admirers — and about nifty, fun-to-wear vintage costumes, too. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: C+; Married Life: B” – Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

“Amy Adams must enjoy fairy tales – this is the second one in which she has appeared during the last six months. Although Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day differs substantially in many key areas from Enchanted, both movies are anchored by Adams, whose beauty, charisma, and infectious energy make them compulsively watchable” – James Berardinelli, Reel.net

“Of course, it helps to have Amy Adams in the lead. If Oscars were given out for hyperactive perkiness alone, she’d have a mantle full of gold.” – Bill Gibron, Reel

“For Adams not to be blown off the screen by her co-star attests to the young actress’ abundant talent. She has a flair for sophisticated humor and, as she proved in Enchanted, can sing, too. Her rendition of “If I Didn’t Care” is both sweet and sultry.” – Ruthe Stein, San Fransico Chronicle