A FEW OF US entertainment writers had just left a Toronto International Film Festival screening of "Hyde Park on Hudson," and we were arguing about the film.
How much of the relationship between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Margaret "Daisy" Suckley was true?
Was it fair to take liberties with the parts that weren't?
My feeling was that there are countless books that traffic in historical fiction. Why was it so taboo for a movie to play around with a historical event?
The next day, I got to run my theories by the film's co-star, Laura Linney, who plays Daisy. Linney is one of the smartest contemporary actresses, so I expected her to have already given the question a fair amount of thought.
"It doesn't claim to be a historically accurate film, but it is a fiction based on true events," Linney said over a quick cup of coffee. "If people are expecting reality to dates, they will find things to pick on. If they accept the conceit of a writer who's brought this cast of characters together for this one weekend, and go with it, then they'll be fine.
"I think people would probably be surprised about what did happen and what didn't happen," Linney added. "Much of it is very true, and then what happens between two people in private is all interpretation."
Linney said Daisy was a fascinating character to play, because no one knew much about her - until after her death.
"Daisy Suckley lived to be 100 years old in Rhinebeck [N.Y.] in a magnificent home called Wilderstein, which is now a museum open to the public," Linney said. "When she died, at the age of 100, they found under her bed a suitcase of her diaries and the letters both to and from FDR. Everyone knew that she was his fifth cousin. Everyone knew that she spent time with the president, that she ran his presidential library, that she had given him Fala [FDR's dog], but no one took her seriously as a true intimate of his. And these letters really proved the opposite, that for FDR she was a vault of information and a space of safety.
"However platonic or nonplatonic this relationship was, which is up for interpretation, there's no doubt that it was a deeply intimate, emotional relationship."
In the beautifully photographed, pastoral film, one of the interesting aspects is the way FDR was able to get away (from family, police and media) for alone time and the respectful way the press corps treated his physical problems.
Asked when she thought the country went from one that respected someone's private life to one that didn't, Linney said, "When someone started to make money off it."
"Now," she said, "everything is so intrusive, and at the same everyone so wants to advertise their every move. There's something so galvanizing and yet disquieting about Twitter and Facebook. There's a geyser of information coming at you. It doesn't make room for intimacy, for a true connection to be made. And you would think that that's what it's trying to do - to bring people together. It can certainly cause an uprising in a country - and that's an amazing thing - but as far as one-on-one relationships are concerned, it makes it a little more difficult to be truly intimate with someone. . . .
"We're in the midst of this change that's far greater than everybody realizes. I don't know what the end result will be. I'm sure many things for the better and many things we'll lose, as happens with every revolutionary thing."