Cynthia Nixon channels the personal to play a cancer patient

AP News
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Posted: Jan 31, 2015 1:01 PM

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — Cynthia Nixon's portrayal of a woman and mother dying of cancer in the Sundance drama "James White" hit extremely close to home. The actress saw her own mother die from the disease in the same year she shot the film.

"It's awful to have a parent die and to have you nurse them through their illness, but in some ways, it is also a very precious time," said Nixon. "You realize how grateful you are for each other."

Nixon agreed with the person who called it the anti-"Terms of Endearment" film.

"The film really beautifully captures the horrible slog of it. It's a really brutal and unflinching look at what a terminal illness looks like in its final stages. There aren't these poetic conversations that happen," Nixon said.

Nixon marveled at how similar her character's bohemian style was to that of her late mother's. She even wore some of her mom's jewelry in the film, a small but important detail in making the story as realistic as possible.

"Even when we're so ill and we're feeling terrible and we're wearing a nightgown that we've worn for three days, you still have on that bracelet or that ring or those earrings that make you feel like the person you used to be and not like a cancer patient. You can still maintain that one percent of the person you used to be," she said.

But "James White," from first time feature director Josh Mond, is not Gail's (Nixon) story: It's her son's.

"Girls" alum Christopher Abbott stars as the eponymous James. He's a self-destructive wreck who would rather get loaded and go to a rave or escape to a beach than deal with the realities of life.

"I think it is the portrait of a young man in freefall, who's lying to himself, who's kidding himself, who is in a total crisis and who is pretending he's not to himself and to everyone else," said Nixon, who added that she and Abbott bonded immediately on set, allowing them to tackle the raw emotions of the story.

"Cancer is what happens when you're busy making other plans," she added. "This is the story of a young man who's lost in his life and in denial. The brutal reality of his mother's illness and impending death grabs him by the throat the way nothing else could and sort of shakes him up and makes him get his priorities straight."

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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/ldbahr