I served as the unit publicist on TRANSAMERICA, for which Felicity Huffman was honored with an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, but I was actually on the set for only the first portion of the shoot in New York City (the bulk of the action takes place on the road in the American Southwest). In any case, the first time I encountered Felicity as "Bree" I knew I was seeing an actor taking a huge risk that would either be rewarded with acclaim or dismissed as a stunt.
I had invited a reporter from the New York Observer to watch the now-famous scene in which Bree meets with the psychiatrist who can green-light her operation. As we waited outside the location, which turned out to be a small, tight, hot little room inside a West Village brownstone, the reporter and I happened to catch Felicity-as-Bree getting walked in from holding by two PA's, but I got the sense that something was wrong. Frankly, Felicity looked like hell and she was taking these little steps as if she were in pain. Her entire being - dressed in the worst possible pink suit and a ridiculous matching hat that covered a shock of really unattractive hair - seemed surrounded by an aura of pinched unhappiness, and I thought to myself 'Oh shit, the star of the movie is upset - not a good day to have press on.'
As it turned out the reporter - a young straight guy named Jake Brooks - wasn't all that interested in spending hours on end in that hot little room, and may not have been all that interested in the premise of the film itself, so he graciously split after observing a couple of takes, and together we left the company to continue its work undisturbed.
When the producers showed me a rough cut of TRANSAMERICA, I realized that the glimpse of Felicity I had seen that day on set was not at all what it had seemed: Felicity wasn't in a really bad place, the character was. As much as anyone can read a script and 'get' it, I've found again and again that nothing should be evaluated until it's been shot and put together.
Inexplicably rejected by Sundance, TRANSAMERICA would find its audience at the TriBeCa Film Festival, where I was very happy to be part of the team that put it on the market there. We were able to leverage the popularity of Felicity's day job on "Desperate Housewives" into a perfect storm of publicity that made the film, and Felicity's performance, impossible for distributors to ignore. The Weinstein Company acquired the domestic rights and did a terrific job on a campaign that brought her a well-deserved Best Actress nomination.