Family’s military background gives Sam the edge for war film

Samantha Morton in The Messenger
Samantha Morton in The Messenger

PLAYING a war widow in The Messenger did not require any research, says Samantha Morton. “I grew up in a military family and my brother served in both Middle East wars and is now a security guard and all that so for me it was completely familiar territory. “Also my stepfather was in Northern Ireland when I was growing up as a kid. When you’re around family and friends who have lost people you can’t really put your finger on it, you just have to think this is what I do, I am an actor. I’m not a charity worker or a doctor but this is my way of giving back to and this is the best I can do to try and share with people and show how it feels.”

The Messenger focuses on two US military men, played by Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson, who have the unenviable task of notifying the next of kin of servicemen who have been killed in action.

One of them is Olivia, played by Morton, a young wife living on a military base with her little boy.

One of the things about the character that the actress identified was the fact that she felt she had long ago lost the husband she married with the psychological effects of the war.

“She faced bringing up her child as a single mum and I had been a single mother and I felt I could identify with her. It was one of the few roles I have played in a long time where we have had so much in common.”

Morton became a mother for the second time just before shooting The Messenger and took her baby of a few months, Edie, with her to the location.

That didn’t make it easy to balance the roles of acting and motherhood. “It was incredibly difficult to perform with a small child in a trailer because, you know, it’s emotional stuff and you protect your children in all the ways you can,” she says. “I have been acting since I was a very young kid and so I am able to get out of character very quickly but I had to make sure on the walk back to the trailer I could get it off and be happy.”

She was prepared to put herself out to be in The Messenger because she admired director Oren Moverman, with whom she had worked 10 years previously, and his film.

“The appeal to me was the universal aspects of grief and war and my personal opinions that there is so much money spent on war, we know all about that but the tragedies at home are sometimes so profound. I also like the idea that it is not just about the men, I have to say this, to me it did seem a very sensitive film in regards to the aspect of the woman left at home.”