“I can’t do Los Angeles. I’ve always been the anti-Barbie. I don’t want to be in a place where almost every woman walks around with puffy lips, little noses and breasts large enough to nourish a small country. As a kid I wanted attention, so I started praying for glasses because everyone had ace vision in my family. Then one day my eyes started going bad and never stopped.”

“Proportions. Gigantic proportions. I was speaking about L.A., and my comfort level in L.A. The conversation started that I’m so focused on the physical when I’m in L.A. You cannot [not] be. My concentration is skewed when I spend any length of time here. I feel like my focus changes and I become so much more concerned with appearances and spend so much more money here on fashion… which I love. It’s important, but not as important as it gets as when I’m here. I like myself better when I don’t focus on these things.”

“It’s terrifying to be the lead. There’s a moment of excitement, and then pure terror.”

“I’ve been trying to get movies made for my entire career and since I got nominated for an Oscar I can get any movie made.’ I thought, that’s a great way of putting it. It’s a lot of who notices you. As far as what people are telling me now, it’s all about zero expectation. There’s nothing more for me to say about it. I’m just grateful.”

“Doubt is the middle position between knowledge and ignorance. It encompasses cynicism but also genuine questioning.”

“Iíve always believed that if you are precise in your thoughts, itís not the lines you say that are important ñ itís what exists between the lines.”

When that call from Sundance comes in, itís sheer happiness. If youíre a gardener, if youíve ever planted anything. Itís like that little bud emerges. Thatís what Sundance means to me. Itís that sun illuminating on the little bud and everyoneís dancing in celebration.”

“As an actor, youíre sort of the court-appointed lawyer of the character. And thatís what used to draw me to scripts ó something in a woman that I wanted to defend, something that I recognized or wanted to understand, something that turned my head. Now that Iím a mother, I think itís more the message of a film, or the questions that they pose about life ó thatís the magnifying glass through which I look at them now. But at first it was all about the character.”

“Every year around awards season there’s talk of how many great roles there are for women. But there’s really this dearth of roles out there for women.”

“It never occurred to me to be an actress. But then, in my late teens, I was benched in soccer, and my best friend convinced me to try out for the school play. I had had my heart broken, and the play was a melodrama called The Vampire, and it was a great emotional outlet.”

“I’ve always been lucky in that none of the TV shows were popular. I’ve never gone beyond 13 episodes. I did TV because independent films pay very little and I needed to live. But I’ve never wanted to be locked into a series, even when the part was interesting. I became an actor to play all sorts of different roles in films. I left my agents because they were focusing on television.”

“I think I want to quit acting after every movie. Each time I have to decide whether or not I want to go back to the struggle of seducing people into believing that I am an entirely different individual. It’s especially challenging when Hollywood would like me to be the same bland character over and over again.”

“I really don’t feel a need to be famous, but I do feel a need to make a difference, to shed light on human emotion through acting. It sounds strange, but I don’t recognize myself in the women in most films. And I should be up there somewhere. We all should.”

“There are some times when I think acting can be a noble profession.”

“I have the best husband a wife could possibly have. He’s the best father my children could have. He’s able to focus on his writing and producing. We just take the kids with us and we ship them back and forth but we are there as a family.”

“Yeah, I have it in my contract ó there’s got to be at least one hot male.”

“I think it occurred to me in my senior year in high school when I was benched in soccer. I didn’t want to sit there, so I auditioned for the school play and got the lead. I’m not an attention seeker; I wasn’t looking for fame and fortune. I wasn’t sure while I was there. I found I was really comfortable taking on a different personality. It saved me from myself, in a way.”

“As a child, I think, I used to dream in Ukrainian, but no longer.”

“That’s my favorite part. That’s what I look for in scripts ó not so much what people say but what they perceive.”

“You can tell a lot about a person from the state of their herb garden, and mine is not in good shape. I just want a weed whacker in my hand. I need to spend time in my own shoes.”

“It is terrifying to put yourself out on the line and do what everybody else spends their entire life trying to hide, to portray all the inconsistencies and mysteries and negatives of life. There’s always an element of fear in the roles I choose. But I use it as fuel.”

“It’s very important to me to connect with nature. In my downtime I obsess over earthworms and moss and goats. That’s my way of becoming centered again after each role.”

“I don’t feel like I’m exposing myself. It’s not my body, it’s the character’s body I’m exposing. If it feels gratuitous, I won’t do it. I’ve put my foot down before.”

“I think I want to quit acting after every movie. Each time I have to decide whether or not I want to go back to the struggle of seducing people into believing that I am an entirely different individual. It’s especially challenging when Hollywood would like me to be the same bland character over and over again.”

“I don’t have to make decisions there like, Should I wear Kenzo or Prada? I mow the lawn on my tractor all day. It’s much cheaper than therapy.”

“And unfortunately ñ well, not unfortunately ñ the truth of it is that you have to balance the kind of career that I have, which is small, independent films that nobody sees, like Higher Ground, which are real projects of the heart, with things that will keep your digits up. Safe House is that kind of an opportunity for me. It’s not so much for credit, it’s also for stability. You earn very little money on independent films and I’m the provider for my home, so I do have to think of taking one for the accountant time and again and that means studio pictures.”

“How do I survey the ol’ 40s approaching arid landscape of work opportunity? Hmmm. I can’t get my knickers in a twist about my age and ageing in an industry that caters to the ids of 14-year-olds.”

“I’m from the school of, if you want more, you have to require more from yourself. I’m just going to advance confidently in the direction of my dreams. Fó ëem. As I age, I want to see stories about women my own age; inspirational, illuminating stories. I’ll develop them, I’ll produce them, I’ll direct them, I’ll finance them, I’ll distribute them if I have to.”

“There are women who make things better, there are women who change things, there are women who make things happen, who make a difference. I want to be one of those women. If I turn 40 and overnight become frustrated with the scarcity of roles, I’ll vent through my pen and write myself some roles.”

“It depends on the subject matter. No, I won’t harm someone else to get my own experience but I am demanding. I demand a lot from myself. Am I ambitious? I used to be afraid of that word but now I think ambition is a good thing. My ambition is to be inspired perpetually and I don’t think it’s too much to ask. I won’t take anyone down for it, but I will go white-knuckle for it.”

“I’m not in this for the achievement. I’m in it for the illumination. That’s how I choose my roles, that’s how I attract roles — it’s a very spiritual process for me. And it’s the only way I can continue, and stay interested. The acting… it’s really a vocation.”

“I just can’t feel lukewarm about a character. I either despise her, admire her, or don’t understand her and want to understand her.”

“You’ve got fundamentalism, and you’ve got relativism. I wanted to push both ways and try to come at it from a middle ground.” [on her film, Higher Ground (2011)]

“My dad is someone who feels the breath of God on his face. He’s tapping into something that I have yet to tap into — and yearn to.”

“Doubt is the middle position between knowledge and ignorance. It encompasses cynicism but also genuine questioning.”

“It should have been a lot harder. I’d say, “It’s about a woman enmeshed in this very particular spiritual community who’s trying to conceptualize and define God for herself”. And you use the word “God” and people quake with fear. That’s when I started to realize what a touchy, bizarre, sensitive, combative subject matter it is.” [on any difficulties she encountered in casting Higher Ground (2011)]

“Jason Reitman sketches these characters and shines a real stark spotlight on them that illuminates all their foibles, all of their deficiencies, quirks, eccentricities and yet you still manage to root for them because they’re so human and complex. And I saw that in Alex.
My culture is very rich in the art; singing and dance were so much a part of my childhood. I was in a traveling professional dance troupe called Syzokryli, and I was very serious about the piano. So I was always performing.” [on Up in the Air (2009)]

“My big formative experience was Debra Granik. That was school for me. It was the first time anyone had given me the responsibility of a protagonist, and to work so closely with her ethics and her tenets about her filmmaking, and her honesty. I was persuaded through the Debra Granik school.” [on directing]

“I keep finding the most compelling characters in independent films. A lot of the roles in the other kinds of films were peripheral princesses or just boring, boring women — female characters that were utterly ordinary and devoid of any personality or spirituality. Is that a reflection of what we’ve become as women? That’s something that we sometimes don’t think about. You see all these stupid, materialist, horny, nympho characters that people put up there in movies, and you have to think: Is that what feminine dignity has come to?”

“I don’t regret it. I’m a jack-of-that-trade. There’s not enough time, genuinely, not enough time in the day. So you choose your weapons. And the piano…I will not have time for the next decade until my children are grown! It’s not about me anymore. It’s not about myself. It’s about them and the very little time I have left for me.” [on giving up music and dancing]

“I’m not an attention seeker; I wasn’t looking for fame and fortune. I wasn’t sure while I was at college. But I found I was really comfortable taking on a different personality. It saved me from myself, in a way.”

“I’ve gravitated towards independent cinema because you have to work harder in studio scripts to flesh out characters, particularly female ones. They are not as sharply edged, they tend to be quite watery. They are not renderings of women as I know them.”

“My parents are very sensible and grounded, they take it with a pinch of salt. You know, I’m one of seven and they want success for all their children. They’re proud but they’re even more proud now that I’ve given them grandchildren.”

“I’m really serious about boxing these days. Boxing is a great way for me to get out of my head and get out of my heart and just like sweat it out, honestly. I’m very serious about it. If I didn’t have the insurance, I would honestly start sparring and start competing in boxing, because I’m that serious and love it. It’s a huge passion of mine.”

“I went to Ukrainian Girl Scouts, which is called Plast, and Ukrainian Catholic school. I did Ukrainian folk dancing. My piano teacher was Ukrainian. I used to think and dream in Ukrainian. My exposure to the English language mostly came from preschool, Saturday morning cartoons and television — The Little Rascals (1982), Little House on the Prairie (1974), Gilligan’s Island (1964).”

“Sometimes I attract roles that are necessary either for personal growth or enlightenment.
Normally, I rely heavily on my director to massage me out of my actor comfort zones.”

“The more people know about you, the more face-time you get in the media, the harder your job becomes to create a character in whom people suspend disbelief.”

“Whether you’re making a million dollar film or a $100 million film there is never enough money, there’s never enough time.”

“I think the worst thing that can happen to a good actor is fame.”

“I had to like her. I had to have compassion with her. She wanted out of this maze of this cruel life she’d experienced. It’s a really terrifying notion, this idea of confronting darkness in your child. There was so much to me that was lovable about her. There was much sass and humor. There’s a whole lot of goofball that balanced the darkness.” [on her character Norma in Bates Motel (2013)]

“I wouldn’t have done The Departed (2006) had it not been for Down to the Bone (2004). I wouldn’t have done Up in the Air (2009). Down to the Bone has always been the reference film for why directors hire me.”

“It is such an honor to be recognized by the academy and in the company of such brilliant women. I’m grateful to Carlton, Kerry and Anthony for gifting me with the opportunity to play such a complex woman and for breathing new life into the iconic Norma Bates.” [on her first Emmy Award nomination]

“This feels great. It’s a nice affirmation saying job well done. It’s nice to have the respect of your peers and industry and critics and everyone rooting for you. I’ve been going at this a long time. I feel like I’ve always had the critics encouraging me.” [on her first Academy Award nomination]

“A franchise, for me, is the chance to explore deeper characterization and, potentially, a slightly bigger paycheck, which is very alluring.”

“I look at characters the way my 4-year-old son Fynn looks at Legos: He doesn’t want the Duplo Legos, for 2-year-olds — they’re janky. He wants that 2,503-piece collector’s item Imperial Shuttle that features the rotating double laser-wing cannons. And for me it’s the same thing: Norma Bates is the Imperial Shuttle.”