Linda Cardellini finally gets a starring role in ‘The Curse of La Llorona’

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Linda Cardellini

In her more than two-decade acting career, Linda Cardellini has earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for her guest stint on the prestige drama “Mad Men,” co-starred in Oscar-winning films like “Green Book” and “Brokeback Mountain” earned cult TV status on the classic series “Freaks and Geeks” and played a supporting role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

But the underrated performer didn’t get the chance to play a leading role in a studio movie until the new horror movie “The Curse of La Llorona.”

“I’ve had great supporting roles, but it was really fun to have a great role at the center of the story, where I was a part of the story’s beginning, middle and end. So, that came to me as a studio film in the horror genre before it came along in any other genre. So, that was nice, and I thought, ‘Well, I had never done anything like this; it seems really fun, and I get to shoot it where I get to stay close to my family,'” Cardellini told The Hollywood Reporter.

Not that we needed any more confirmation, but the idea that a performer as talented as Linda Cardellini can work on screen for 23 years before she gets a chance to star in a studio film is proof that Hollywood is criminally lacking in the opportunities it creates for women.

A supernatural thriller aimed at Latino audiences, “The Curse of La Llorona” also is standalone entry in “The Conjuring” horror universe. Set in 1970s Los Angeles — with Tony Amendola in a cameo as his priest character from “Annabelle” — Cardellini stars as Anna Garcia, a widowed social worker raising two children, Chris (Roman Christou) and Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen).

When one of her cases, a single mom named Patricia (Patricia Velasquez), stops returning calls, Anna goes to investigate. She finds the terrified Patricia holed up in her apartment, with her two boys locked in a closet. The hysterical woman claims she locked them up for protection and begs Anna not to take them out.

When one of her cases, a single mom named Patricia (Patricia Velasquez), stops returning calls, Anna goes to investigate. She finds the terrified Patricia holed up in her apartment, with her two boys locked in a closet. The hysterical woman claims she locked them up for protection and begs Anna not to take them out.

When Patricia’s sons turn up drowned within hours, their troubled mother is the prime suspect. But Anna and her children begin to hear a woman’s ghostly sobs and see a malevolent presence in their house. Anna realizes her family, like Patricia’s, has become targeted by “La Llorona,” aka “The Weeping Woman,” the evil ghost of a 17th-century Mexican mother who drowned her children to get back at her unfaithful husband and has been cursed to wander the world looking for other youngsters to take their place.

“The one thing I can definitely relate to is the mama bear instinct that happens to kick in during the film. Also, working with kids — now that I have my own child — is different to me, too. Now I understand a lot better how children work. So my instinct to protect them happens very easily, and probably even the way I handle, hold and talk to them is different because I know it from real life and how I speak with my daughter,” Cardellini told The Hollywood Reporter. “The idea that something could happen to your child is the most terrifying thing in the world, and this movie plays on all of that. That was easy to relate to, especially because I’m a mother.”

Cardellini delivered her daughter, Lilah-Rose, by emergency C-section in February 2012, following a difficult pregnancy fraught with complications, according to People. She told The Hollywood Reporter she likes to both channel her own experiences and to trust the script, your performance and the circumstances of the scene to portray the proper emotion.

“I love to keep it open enough to where I haven’t made all of my decisions before I get to set. I like to be able to be open enough to really work with the other actor, to take in what they’re doing, to listen to what they bring and have that affect me as well (and us) in the scene,” she said. “I’m really lucky these past few years, and throughout my career, I’ve been able to work with incredible actors. Not to listen and not to be present when I’m in the scene with them would be stupid. It’s so much fun to be there and to work with incredible people.”

Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” reached to the top of domestic box office charts last week, conjuring $26.5 million when it opened in 3,372 North American theaters, according to Variety. “La Llorona” is the latest horror movie to surpass expectations, further affirming the genre (and “The Conjuring” franchise) as one of the most reliable draws at the box office these days.

Still, even with “La Llorona” and other new releases “Breakthrough” and “Penguins,” it was the worst Easter weekend showing in almost 15 years, with a combined $112 million in ticket sales, the lowest haul since 2005. But the decline in sales is most likely due to the rest of Hollywood declining to open any big movies ahead of Disney/Marvel’s expected record-smasher “Avengers: Endgame,” which opens in theaters Friday.

After playing Laura Barton, the wife of retired Avenger Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and the mother of his children, in “Age of Ultron,” Cardellini told The Hollywood Reporter “I am not allowed to confirm nor deny” whether or not she will appear in “Endgame,” although she did say she was looking forward to attending the premiere.

Cardellini portrays Mae Capone, alongside Tom Hardy’s Al Capone, in Josh Trank’s anticipated biopic “Fonzo,” due in theaters later this year, and co-stars opposite Christina Applegate and Edward Asner in the new Netflix series “Dead to Me,” set to premiere May 3.

-BAM

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