Kathryn Hahn has never been typecast. She has portrayed a wide range of well-rounded characters, whether in comedy or drama. She stars in the Netflix film Private Life, written and directed by Tamara Jenkins, which follows a married couple, Rachel (Hahn) and Richard (Paul Giamatti), who are struggling with infertility.
I chatted with Kathryn about the film, her role, her private life and working alongside Paul Giamatti. ~Marriska Fernandes
This film dives deep into the struggles of infertility. What did you see in this script that made you jump on it?
First of all, just seeing the name Tamara Jenkins… and The Savages is one of my favorite films. And to dive into something with another incredible woman filmmaker was of course a no brainer. I wanted to be involved so badly. And then I read the script. I was handed a script that said Private Life by Tamara Jenkins. I had no idea what the subject matter was about. Of course, I was incredibly curious because the title is very mysterious (laughs). When I read it, I was so moved. It was so funny and heartbreaking. I knew these people so well. It was so deep and specific and clear. It’s such a profound piece of writing. I loved the script. It was clearly about a subject I hadn’t seen before. There have been movies about infertility, but nothing about this specifically. It was never a subject movie. It’s more about a marriage.
The movie is a glimpse into a couple’s private life. Tamara said she was very interested in the expression of marriage in the movie, the feeling of what it is. How did you portray that?
It’s in the writing. The writing was so deep and the marriage was so clear. She referenced Dog Day Afternoon earlier today, which makes me laugh — from that opening scene you’re kind of dropped in the middle of this marriage right off the bat. That and you never know how anything is going to land chemistry wise. First it was the writing and then, it’s hard for me to even talk about this movie without talking about Paul Giamatti and how lucky I was that I was able to work with him. I feel there is no Rachel without Richard. He is so profound in his part. We’ve just gotten incredibly lucky.
I was about to say, it was so refreshing to see you work with Paul — you have such a great chemistry.
I feel like we’ve known each other forever, felt instantly fraternal, we have the same dumb sense of humor (laughs). We just made each other laugh, it just felt instantly at home. We just fell into an easy rhythm and we both just wanted to do justice to her incredible script. He kept me calm and he just raises you up as an actor.
Which was your favorite scene to shoot?
The big fight scene on a New York sidewalk between Rachel and Richard was difficult but also a pleasure. It was very technically hard and also emotionally hard, which is a tricky combo for me, but he’s much better at it than I am. I couldn’t get it. I was getting frustrated. He looked at me very calmly and said, “Hahn, we get to do a fight scene together on a New York street. Come on, let’s have fun!” I was like, “You’re so right!” (laughs) That’s just an indication of what kind of guy he is. He’s the best. I got to do a fight scene with Paul Giamatti on a New York City sidewalk. I mean, what’s better than that!
You’ve never been typecast — you’ve done so many different roles. Do you enjoy that variety of working on different things?
Oh yeah, I do. That’s what I hunger for as an actor. It wasn’t a choice in my twenties. It was what I got. But now, the older I get, the more choices I have, the more attracted I am to different points of view. I have a very, very stable home life. I’ve got two dogs, two kids, a husband, a hamster and a rabbit (laughs). I’ve got a secure home life so the work life is where I get to tear it up. So I love being able to play all these different parts.
I was actually going to ask, what’s your private life like? I heard you relish your family life but you have labeled it boring.
That’s what it is. I have been able to really compartmentalize. We’re still able to get in a minivan and drive to Joshua Tree or Lake Arrowhead or Big Sur for the weekend and go to diners. We’re just able to live a really awesome and normal life. My kids sense it sometimes, but not really. They know I’m an actor, but they don’t. I’m not on social media and my family is from Ohio. I’m able to live a really normal life, which is awesome. I love cooking food in an Airbnb for a weekend with the kids and playing my board games. It’s my favorite.
That sounds lovely. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you, Kathryn. Thank you!
Oh, you too! Thank you so much!
Private Life plays in select theaters and on Netflix starting October 5th.