Actress Alison Elliott strove to make film character more than a mere victim

Ingrid Allstrom

Senior Staff Writer

For Alison Elliott, The Wings of the Dove was more work than just acting, and her homework showed up in her performance.

Elliott plays Millie Theale, a dying American heiress in Wings, and the role proved to be a challenging one.

"I wanted Millie to be more than an unfelt victim," said Elliott. "(Wings) is about that moral conflict that arises when you have feelings for someone, and yet you need something from them that you can't really ask permission for."

Elliott tried to make Millie more than just a victim, while still keeping her character within turn-of-the-century appropriateness. She researched her character's sickness and tried to use that to bring realism to her character.

"Her sickness wasn't really indicated a lot in the film, but I needed to know what was a good day and what was a bad day in terms of her ailment," said Elliott.

She also attempted to uncover the possible implications that Millie's illness would have had at the time.

"I studied some period medical journals to find out the attitudes and knowledge of her time," said Elliott.

While Elliott did some reading, she found that she could not finish Henry James' novel on which the film is based.

"James makes so many psychological observations that can be so helpful on the one hand, but I didn't want to get so mired in a certain psychological map that I forgot how to be available to what was actually happening in a scene," said Elliott.

"I enjoyed the book, but I had to put it down so that I wouldn't resent it."

For Elliott, the theme at the center of Wings is the pain caused by trying to interfere with emotional issues.

"When you try to manipulate love, or you don't just trust it. It can backfire," she said.

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