Kent Jones honours Misty Upham

Co-screenwriter of Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian shares his memories.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Kent Jones on Misty Upham with Benicio Del Toro in Arnaud Desplechin's Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian: "So what I remember of Misty is that she spoke and moved quietly, as if she were holding something in balance, something fragile."
Kent Jones on Misty Upham with Benicio Del Toro in Arnaud Desplechin's Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian: "So what I remember of Misty is that she spoke and moved quietly, as if she were holding something in balance, something fragile."

Kent Jones, who co-wrote the screenplay for Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, calls to mind director Arnaud Desplechin's enthusiastic reaction when Misty Upham was cast opposite Benicio Del Toro as Jimmy P's love interest Jane. Kent shares with us how Misty Upham felt about the way John Wells' August: Osage County was promoted and his reaction to her role as Johnna in the film, as well as Michelle Thrush's (Gayle Picard) and Misty's Jimmy P Cannes experiences.

Misty Upham at Cannes: "I will never forget riding to the premiere of Jimmy in Cannes with Misty and Michelle Thrush, both of them dressed to the nines and deeply proud of the movie and of their heritage."
Misty Upham at Cannes: "I will never forget riding to the premiere of Jimmy in Cannes with Misty and Michelle Thrush, both of them dressed to the nines and deeply proud of the movie and of their heritage." Photo: permission of Kent Jones

“Who will play Jane?” I remember asking Arnaud this question when he was casting Jimmy P, and his happiness when he told me that it would be Misty Upham. Jane was the mother of Jimmy’s child, the great love of his life whose loss he couldn’t prevent. In Arnaud’s film, and in life, Jimmy said to Georges Devereux, “I’ve always been a man who lets a woman die.”

“Her body was discovered at the bottom of the 150-foot ravine” … “Misty was afraid of the Auburn PD” … “independent search parties found the actress's body” … “We investigated from the day the family called us on Oct. 5 - this is a tragic and unfortunate end” … “It is tragic that Misty slipped and fell to her death trying to avoid the police” … “The family claimed Misty Upham bolted from home when police stopped by earlier this month” … “the real tragedy is this could have been prevented on a lot of levels” … “She simply did not see the drop off.”

When someone dies at such a young age, we look in retrospect. So what I remember of Misty is that she spoke and moved quietly, as if she were holding something in balance, something fragile. As Arnaud wrote, she knew perfectly well how to allow her pain to be filmed, and my memory of her is in alignment with her presence onscreen. Misty’s part in August: Osage County is relatively small, but she becomes its still, solid and potentially volatile center from the first second of her first appearance. And when the volatility is calmly and quickly unleashed in the name of rectitude, the moment is capped with her dry, curt reading of the line, “He was messing with Jean so I tuned him up.”

Misty was not very happy with the promotion of that film - she felt that it sidelined her character in particular and the Native population in general. On the other hand, I will never forget riding to the premiere of Jimmy in Cannes with Misty and Michelle Thrush, both of them dressed to the nines and deeply proud of the movie and of their heritage. Michelle was confident and flamboyant. Misty was quiet, concentrated, still. I had no idea that she was in so much pain. But as Arnaud wrote, she transformed that pain into art on a few precious occasions. For that we must rejoice.

Jimmy P: Psychotherapy Of A Plains Indian director Arnaud Desplechin saluted the memory of his star Misty Upham on October 17.

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