So often in the crime drama, female characters are relegated to these smaller, secondary roles. But your character here is much more than that. Can you talk about building a figure that is actually much greater than the usual moll or femme fatale?
A lot of credit goes to J.C. [Chandor], the writer. When he first sent me the script, the thing I said to him was, “You know what? I just have this idea for her, for what you wrote. Of course, I’m sure you’ve never thought about this. To me, she feels like Dick Cheney. I’d love to explore that more with her.” I love the idea that, in this film, you underestimate her. It’s fun playing a character that is underestimated. You see her putting makeup on, you think, “Okay, this is the ‘wife’ of this crime thriller.” But then you realize, “Oh, no, she’s a lot more than that.”
One of the interesting things about that misconception is that it plays a lot into the gender politics between her and Oscar Isaac’s character. What do you think that element of the film reflects about 1981, or about today?
Well, in 1981, it was absolutely a man’s world in New York City. You feel some change coming to the world, because you have the granddaughter [Annie Funke] starting to take control of the other heating oil business. But for sure when Anna — in 1970, maybe? — when her father gave the company to her husband… in 1970 in New York City, it wouldn’t have been very common for a woman to run that business. Thank God we’ve gone forward! Of course I don’t think we’ve gone far enough, and we have some ways to go, but J.C. shows the sexism in it. She’s a woman, she’s very smart, and she realizes she needs to use what tools she has when she can. And that even means when she’s going to the bankers’ dinner, she’s going to wear a very revealing dress, because that is her tool in a man’s world. I think he’s a very smart writer, J.C. His brain is crazy!
In developing your character, were there any specific influences from crime fiction, or elsewhere? Of course there’s the staple: Lady Macbeth.
It’s interesting. A lot of people mention Lady Macbeth because she’s the go-to when you think of a strong female character with a husband. But the problem with that is that Lady Macbeth goes crazy. Anna doesn’t. Anna is very comfortable doing what she’s doing. And she has no qualms about it! She has no regrets. She actually feels that’s the way things need to be done. So that is the difference. I can say yes to Lady Macbeth in that she is a woman who is inspiring her husband to be larger and bigger than he even thinks is possible. He’s her king. But she never regrets what she does.
What’s interesting is that in a movie filled with physically large, gun-wielding men, your character is the most intimidating character in the film. I don’t know if you consider yourself an intimidating person—
Oh, I hope not! [Laughs]