Joan Rivers Scene In 'Joy' Brings The Late QVC Host Back To The Screen
A recent Rolling Stone feature explained the latest hologram trend: using computer technology to reanimate dead celebrities, from Tupac Shakur to Whitney Houston, whose hologram is slated to go on tour next year. Films have lately taken to computer-replicating stars who died mid-shoot (Paul Walker for Furious 7, for example), while video games construct more life-like icons by 3D-scanning real people (Paul McCartney for Destiny, for example). Yet, while it could be valuable to allow these artists lives beyond death, there's been less coverage of the possible downside to the technology. There's something lacking — and kind of sad — in replacing an idiosyncratic, living, breathing human with a technological replica, which is why it's heartening that the method wasn't implemented for two anticipated film roles this year, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Mockingjay, Part 2, and Joan Rivers in Joy , in which she's played by daughter Melissa Rivers.
If you're making a movie about successful sales pitches in the 1950s, chances are the late Joan Rivers will be on your radar. The actress-comedian-talk show host was also one of QVC's most visible personalities, and in David O. Russell's latest film Joy, she makes a cameo appearance when Jennifer Lawrence's titular character Joy goes on the show to sell her Miracle Mop. Rivers, who died after a surgical procedure last year, is played by her daughter Melissa. The younger Rivers appears a carbon copy of her mother, from hair and makeup right down to vocal inflections, and all in a 10-second cameo appearance in the clip that's been released so far.
But Rivers told Entertainment Tonight that she focused on channeling a faithful impression of her mother, rather than attempting to simply copy her. "I worked hard on her speech pattern, but not so much the accent because I didn’t want it to be an imitation or a caricature," she said. The effort pays off: Juxtaposed images of Rivers and her mother in the '50s reveal uncanny similarities, including spot-on costuming choices and makeup in Joy and appropriately blunt exchanges between characters. She spots Lawrence's character Joy preparing to go on camera while sporting a plain white button-down shirt and black pants and, after wishing her luck, turns to Bradley Cooper's character and says, "She should be in a skirt. She's got nice, long legs; show her legs."Rivers told the Daily Beast that the scene was improvised — "What would your mom say?" she said the filmmakers asked her. "Then say it." The result evidences her mother's trademark candor and acerbic wit — Joan Rivers once told New York Magazine , "I will only praise someone who can’t take anything away from me."
The brief teaser alludes to a bigger part — though the sum of Rivers' on-screen appearances amounts to just minutes of the total film, they're reportedly some of the most memorable moments in the movie. It came about at the behest of director Russell, who reached out to Rivers to gauge her interest in the film, according to the Daily Beast. His call came shortly after her mother had died, which Rivers said made her initially reluctant to take on the part. "I just didn't know if it was the right thing, or what I wanted," Rivers said in the same Daily Beast story.
Yet once she committed, Rivers explained that she was all-in. "I was so focused on making sure the jewelry was correct and the clothing was right that it was hard to look at," she said, according to the Daily Beast. "I stopped looking in the mirror."
It turns out that the cast's connections to Joan Rivers run deep. Jennifer Lawrence is also one of Joan's biggest fans, according to Cinema Blend — she quoted her favorite Joan-isms to Rivers to put her at ease, recalling a few favorite jokes. Director David O. Russell recalled seeing Joan at the Mamaroneck Country Club, where he worked as a teenager and where Rivers' grandparents were members. As for Bradley Cooper, well, Rivers explained that her mother had a "wild crush" on the actor, according to the Daily Beast
"It never hit me that I took this crazy emotional risk," Melissa Rivers told Entertainment Tonight in the same interview. Or, at least, "until I got home and went, ‘What did I just do?’" From all early appearances, there's no one better-suited to carry on the Joan Rivers legacy than her daughter.
Images: Twentieth Century Fox; Merie Weismiller Wallace/Twentieth Century Fox