Patricia Clarkson read Katha Pollitt‘s personal essay “Learning to Drive” in the New Yorker back in 2002, and it resonated with her, leading her to set about getting a movie based on it made.

Patricia Clarkson On ‘Learning To Drive’

In the Learning to Drive feature, Katha, a feminist writer, becomes Wendy, a high-powered book critic. Like Katha, Wendy appears to have it all – the dream career, a handsome partner, a stylish Manhattan apartment – until infidelity sends them on a mission for independence, which starts with getting a driver’s license.

“What I loved about the character of Wendy is it was a woman who, not – she wasn’t finding herself – she has a great life. […] My generation of women we, we can have it all, and this is a woman who does,” Clarkson told uInterview in an exclusive interview.”I found it fascinating that a woman who’s lived this incredible, powerful life, and an intellectual life, is suddenly thrust… Her husband walks out on her and she’s suddenly thrust into an emotional life. And on top of that, she learns a new skill.”

‘Learning To Drive’ Cast On Relationships

Learning to Drive centers around Wendy’s relationship with her driving instructor, a Sikh man named Darwan, played by Sir Ben Kingsley. It’s within this relationship, in the midst of personal crisis, that Wendy finds an antidote to the despair.

“I just loved how those worlds kind of tapped each other, gently, and I found it subtle and funny, very funny, and real, and adult,” Wendy said about the relationship between Wendy and Darwan.

Patricia Clarkson & Ben Kingsley Talk ‘Learning To Drive’

As for the man behind the character, Kingley, Clarkson was equally effusive. “He didn’t disappoint,” she said. “We had such a beautiful journey, we took from this film and we were very sad when it was over.”

“I remember the very first day I sat in the make-up trailer with Sir Ben, and I looked over at him and he had become Darwan. He had his beautiful turban on, and his beard, and I looked over in the mirror and I burst into tears,” Clarkson added. “I thought, ‘We’re here! I’m actually here, we’re here, we’re on the set. This film that I’ve wanted to make for so long is happening.'”

Learning to Drive is currently in theaters.

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Q: What about this story resonated with you? -

Well, I love…Katha Pollitt wrote this beautiful essay that I read in the New Yorker magazine many, many years ago, and it did, it resonated with me nine years ago, or 10 years ago, when I first read it. And... I just, what I loved about the character of Wendy is it was a woman who, not – she wasn't finding herself – she has a great life. My generation of women were luckier; mothers made great sacrifices and had to choose, but my generation of women we, we can have it all, and this is a woman who does. She's a major book critic in New York City, she has a beautiful husband, Jake Weber – who wouldn't wanna be married to Jake Weber? – and a beautiful daughter, and she just forgot to look up, and it’s… I found it fascinating that a woman who's lived this incredible, powerful life, and an intellectual life, is suddenly thrust… Her husband walks out on her and she's suddenly thrust into an emotional life. And on top of that, she learns a new skill. She's a hardcore New Yorker; she learns to drive – in her fifties – which is, what is it, how is it, you know. It was a fascinating character, and also, you know, she gets to meet this remarkable, patient, kind, beautiful Sikh, played by, you know, the incomparable Sir Ben Kingsley. And I just loved how those worlds kind of tapped each other, gently, and I found it subtle and funny, very funny, and real, and adult.

Q: What was it like working with Ben Kingsley on this film? -

I remember the day, you know, I… It took me many years to try to get this film made – alongside my great producer Dana Friedman – and it was a very long journey, and I remember the very first day I sat in the make-up trailer with Sir Ben, and I looked over at him and he had become Darwan. He had his beautiful turban on, and his beard, and I looked over in the mirror and I burst into tears. I thought, ‘We're here! I'm actually here, we're here, we're on the set. This film that I've wanted to make for so long is happening.’ And I'm sitting in the make-up trailer with Sir Ben Kingsley, and I'll never forget that day as long as I live. It was a beautiful moment in my career, and he didn't disappoint, you know. We had such a beautiful journey, we took from this film and we were very sad when it was over.

Q: What did this movie teach you? -

It taught me a lot [laughs]. First of all, I needed Darwan in my life. But I, you know, I have a very good life and I sometimes forget to appreciate it. I forget to take in what is around me, and I forget… You know, learning to drive you have to be present; you have to look, you have to listen, you have to see the world that's right in front of you. Those are the lessons that I hold most dear, and the lessons that I learned from shooting this film. It was art and life merging at times; my character and my own life merging with Wendy in in surprising ways.