Patricia Clarkson got a good taste of Canadian weather while filming October Gale during a Georgian Bay spring.

“The ice just wouldn’t melt,” Clarkson says over the phone from her New York City apartment, “but [director Ruba Nadda] said, OK, we just have to start shooting, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that by the time we actually have to get into the water, the ice is melted. About two weeks into shooting, it did! We were like buh-bye, ice!”

The cast and crew’s real-life struggle with the elements added a fitting atmosphere to October Gale‘s behind-the-scenes production. The film, which co-stars Scott Speedman and Tim Roth, focuses on widow Helen Matthews (Clarkson), who travels to her family cottage for the first time since the death of her husband, who was lost on the water during a powerful October storm.

“Having to genuinely fight the elements every day I think gave the film a vibrancy, another layer of truth,” Clarkson says. “We were really battling unexpected elements. But we had these beautiful storms, and our breath, when it should have been warmer, and the muck and the mud and we just had to use it, everything that land and air threw at us.”

“But it isn’t at the core a film about grief,” Clarkson continues. “It’s, where do you go after catastrophic loss, and who becomes your family?”

In October Gale, Clarkson’s character turns to a stranger, played by Speedman, as an unlikely source of strength, comfort and safety. In real life, Clarkson relished the opportunity to act opposite the Canadian star — the film’s bottom half is, largely, a dialogue between the two. “He’s very emotionally available,” she says. “He has all the goods right at his fingertips — a beautiful person, internally and externally.”

October Gale is the third collaboration between Clarkson and the Canadian-born director Nadda: she also starred in the 2010 film Cairo Time. The 55-year-old actor says their partnership is no coincidence: “She’s a younger woman, but I’m Ruba 10 years later,” she laughs.

“Sometimes in this business, it’s fate, it’s kismet, and you meet someone and you realize, oh, I want to work with this person the rest of my life,” Clarkson says of Nadda. “I’m just lucky. Ruba’s now more family. But we really can put all of that aside and work. We work in similar ways, We have the same goals, the same dreams.”

One of those goals, Clarkson says, is producing visual media in which women are given strong, central roles. She echoes the all-too-common refrain that, as a woman of a certain age, good roles can become fewer and further between. “We so often have to play these secondary characters,” she says, “and sometimes they’re delicious and fabulous. But sometimes we want the weight of an entire project on our shoulders. If we fail, so be it. I want the opportunity to give from A to Z, a leading part. It’s a stretch. Every muscle in your body has been used when you’re done.”

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October Gale star Patricia Clarkson found a kindred spirit in Canadian director Ruba Nadda

| | Last Updated: Mar 26 3:30 PM ET
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Patricia Clarkson and writer/director Ruba Nadda at the October Gale premiere during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.
hilip Cheung/Getty ImagesPatricia Clarkson and writer/director Ruba Nadda at the October Gale premiere during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.

Patricia Clarkson got a good taste of Canadian weather while filming October Gale during a Georgian Bay spring.

“The ice just wouldn’t melt,” Clarkson says over the phone from her New York City apartment, “but [director Ruba Nadda] said, OK, we just have to start shooting, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that by the time we actually have to get into the water, the ice is melted. About two weeks into shooting, it did! We were like buh-bye, ice!”

The cast and crew’s real-life struggle with the elements added a fitting atmosphere to October Gale‘s behind-the-scenes production. The film, which co-stars Scott Speedman and Tim Roth, focuses on widow Helen Matthews (Clarkson), who travels to her family cottage for the first time since the death of her husband, who was lost on the water during a powerful October storm.

“Having to genuinely fight the elements every day I think gave the film a vibrancy, another layer of truth,” Clarkson says. “We were really battling unexpected elements. But we had these beautiful storms, and our breath, when it should have been warmer, and the muck and the mud and we just had to use it, everything that land and air threw at us.”

“But it isn’t at the core a film about grief,” Clarkson continues. “It’s, where do you go after catastrophic loss, and who becomes your family?”

In October Gale, Clarkson’s character turns to a stranger, played by Speedman, as an unlikely source of strength, comfort and safety. In real life, Clarkson relished the opportunity to act opposite the Canadian star — the film’s bottom half is, largely, a dialogue between the two. “He’s very emotionally available,” she says. “He has all the goods right at his fingertips — a beautiful person, internally and externally.”

October Gale is the third collaboration between Clarkson and the Canadian-born director Nadda: she also starred in the 2010 film Cairo Time. The 55-year-old actor says their partnership is no coincidence: “She’s a younger woman, but I’m Ruba 10 years later,” she laughs.

“Sometimes in this business, it’s fate, it’s kismet, and you meet someone and you realize, oh, I want to work with this person the rest of my life,” Clarkson says of Nadda. “I’m just lucky. Ruba’s now more family. But we really can put all of that aside and work. We work in similar ways, We have the same goals, the same dreams.”

One of those goals, Clarkson says, is producing visual media in which women are given strong, central roles. She echoes the all-too-common refrain that, as a woman of a certain age, good roles can become fewer and further between. “We so often have to play these secondary characters,” she says, “and sometimes they’re delicious and fabulous. But sometimes we want the weight of an entire project on our shoulders. If we fail, so be it. I want the opportunity to give from A to Z, a leading part. It’s a stretch. Every muscle in your body has been used when you’re done.”

On the topic of age, though, Clarkson admits that having a half-lifetime of experience behind her can help add weight to meatier roles like the one she plays in October Gale. “At my age, you’ve suffered tremendous loss,” Clarkson says. “I’ve never suffered this exact loss — the loss of a beautiful marriage, a good marriage. But I know what that is, to the best of my ability.”

Nadda and Clarkson will next team up on the HBO miniseries Elisabeth, which Clarkson cites as another stellar role for the 42-year-old. “But we do have roles for women my age in TV, in plentiful fashion,” she says. “I don’t want us to forget that there’s another big medium.”

“I was just in Toronto with two leading parts,” she continues, referencing both October Gale, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014, and Learning to Drive, which also screened there. “I do think that there are women out there, and men, who are still interested in the stories of middle-aged women.”

October Gale opens March 27.