Tribute's Bonnie Laufer talks to Maggie Gyllenhaal about her sexy new controversial comedy Secretary.

B.L. I don't even know where to start with this one! How do you prepare yourself both emotionally and physically to play a submissive secretary who lets her boss take "more" than advantage of her!
M.G. Steve Shainberg, the director, gave me a bunch of books on S&M and people who cut themselves and I kind of read them and sort of tried to be diligent about it but they were getting to me. I mean I was thinking, "OK. These people like to dress up like horses and have sex. OK, whatever!" What really did get me inside it, in terms of the cutting stuff, was what I realized that everybody is, of course in a much more subtle degree, is masochistic in some ways. What I mean by that is not that people would deliberately burn themselves with a kettle; I can't imagine doing that, but how about like smoking for example, which until six weeks ago, I did. Where you know that you are sucking in stuff that is terrible for you and yet it seems attractive and it's something that you desire. I think that is so sad. Or dating someone who is not right for you, or staying up all night before you have to do something important. I think people do it because it's a way of feeling alive.

B.L. So what about the S&M scenes? That was some pretty heavy-duty stuff.
M.G. In terms of that, to be honest with you, what really got me into that and understanding it was Steve gave me this S&M porno to watch where this girl had all these horrible things happening to her (I won't go into details). But it was really hard to watch and unlike anything I have seen before. But what it showed me was that she was overwhelmed and there was no way to deny that she was actually really feeling something. I think that kind of got me inside it.

B.L. But what is interesting is that no matter how "weird" her sex life is, the character that you play still has to carry out a sense of normalcy about her life.
M.G. Because it is normal in a way.

B.L. How do you as an actor trust the filmmaker and the movie that you are making to present it properly?
M.G. I went through the script really carefully with Steve to make sure that it wasn't going to say something that was an anti-feminist or that I didn't believe in. Literally, every moment that we worked on the film I was so nervous and so careful. By the time we finished doing that, which took weeks, I trusted him and believed him that he wanted to make a movie that was saying something interesting. I think that everyone has dark, painful complicated things going on inside of them and I think that it is much more honest to acknowledge that than to pretend like everything is so wonderful and happy all the time.