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Being Catherine Keener
an emily blunt interview

 

 


Catherine Keener is an acting goddess in my eyes. Cat never delivers a half show or a mediocre film. She has a certain eye for a script that maintains her integrity and her sense of the art. I am not alone, the indie fans and I consider her a fave among a large list and a tip-top chickbabe actors. She's married to that adorable slice of mansteak Dermot Mulroney, who himself, is an underrated talent.

She chooses her work carefully and hasn't, so far, disappointed her minions. Her latest soiree on film, Lovely & Amazing, is gaining critical acclaim (as usual) and again give Catherine a strong brilliant role showcasing her abilities. Writer director Nicole Hofcener (Walking and Talking) told me she actually wrote the role of Michelle with Catherine in mind. How cool is that?

If your into small intelligent films that spy on lives and just peek behind closed doors, without explosions and special effects, her latest film Lovely & Amazing will not just mesmerize but entertain you. As a film should.

Here's a chat with the great Catherine.

EMILY: This role of Michelle was written for you because Nicole said you could handle anything!

CATHERINE: Wow! Yeah. Nicole called and said she was writing me into her next movie. Which I was so happy about. She's tremendous! I was excited about working with her again. It was a lot of fun. She writes like no one else. She puts things in a way that I think is very unusual and resonant of truth. I couldn't wait to get to it.

EMILY: How like Michelle is the real Catherine?

CATHERINE: [laughter] I have my moments definitely. Maybe. I don't know. Michelle's quite an immature person whose hay day was quite a while ago. I think its time to put those things away and she doesn't quite see that yet. She was aware enough to know she had an anger problem [laughter] and but she's not doing nothing about it! I found all the characters very honestly written. Even Emily and her character Elizabeth, Emily as well, is just a beautiful person. So sweet. Elizabeth, her character, is vain and narcissistic. And it's true but she's both things. Somebody who is trying to find her way in the world and struggling for love…. just a human being. I really love that about Nicole. How she writes characters that capture all those facets of people.

EMILY: How about Emily's Elizabeth being so concerned with her appearance as an actor?

CATHERINE: I didn't have to deal with that so much. But as a person in this business and as much as you don't like it you care about that crap, you feel like you have to…I don't know if you really know if you have to…but you feel like you do. Consider your physicality all the time.

EMILY: How do prepare for a role?

CATHERINE: It's really important to me to interact with a script. After meeting with the director if I feel 'oh this is a person I'm going to feel unguarded around and be able to try and find those things' I feel lucky. And I 've been real lucky. If you look at the parts, the really great parts, the writings always great. And the people I've been able to work with are amazing! I really find that it's something I can't do by myself and I do believe it is just such a collaborative process. So I really rely a lot on other people to help me get there.

I think that for me, the situations I've been involved with people are going towards a common goal. To do good work. Everybody, the crew will go out of their way, be quiet, make you feel comfortable, give you an encouraging pat on the back. Everybody sort of works towards that objective and it's really helpful in a performance. It's dire for me - it really is.

That's why it takes a while for me to actually do something. I don't find a lot of scripts I want to do.

EMILY: How do you find a script you want to invest in?

CATHERINE: I don't know. They are few and far between. I have gotten to be in a lot of good things, and a lot of good parts. I think once I got this taste for working on something good when I worked on Johnny Suede with Tommy [DeCilo] that was what I consider a good job. Not that the ones before were that bad…they were valuable but with that I felt like,' oh this is what it feels like to be in a good movie.' Then you get it. You want to repeat that. Continue that experience. So you keep looking for it you know what the signs are for that. In terms of the director and how you feel about him or her. The script. The part. The other actors. All those things. Then there's luck. Dumb luck.

EMILY: Now Death To Smoochy didn't do too well. What happened there?

CATHERINE: I don't know. I have so much respect for Danny [DeVito] It's not for everybody! I don't think any movie is. I watch and I love Danny so much He's such a great guy. And there's was an example of somebody who worked his ass off and had all the integrity in the world and with his approach to that movie. And sometimes it doesn't translate to people, apparently. You move on and you feel bad. The people who made it loved it and worked so hard on it. It wasn't one of those experiences were everyone was like 'oh God what a jerk or this or that,' everyone was treated so well. And like I described before, everyone was going for something and wanted to do the best work possible. Whatever. I thought it was hilarious. And I made great friends. I wish the movie had have done better for Danny. I love his movies.

EMILY: I loved Drowning Mona!

CATHERINE: Yeah another interesting one!

EMILY: How was it working with Al Pacino on upcoming Simone?

CATHERINE: Yeah right! I felt so weird. So I'd stare and think… Al…your Al Pacino right?! It was great! It was one of those am I really here moments. But you have to over come that and do some work and forget all that. [laughter] He was wonderful. He's a very gentle spirit. Really, obviously, I have so much admiration for him as an actor and Andrew Nicoll, who wrote and directed, it was so clever and great. He did Gattaca.

EMILY: Another film I loved others didn't.

CATHERINE: Yeah, me too. I was thrilled when I heard Andrew wanted to meet me. Gattaca Andrew!? I show up at this meeting and he says 'oh Al's here.' I said don't do this to me I can't take it…. [laughter] No, your still there to work. There are people who had a hand in why you even get into the business. People like Al Pacino. And I was telling someone I had another experience like that with Albert Finney. You know, one of those moments like 'Oh my god I'm standing here working with Albert Finney!' It was crazy. It's from your childhood thing. Your icons. My husband worked with Paul Newman and I only went to the set once because I could not be normal. I thought I can't do this it's painful. I'm standing there shuffling my feet not being able…I was like 'so you want a beer or something [laughter].'

EMILY: Did the Oscar nomination do anything for you? Can you say it changed your career?

CATHERINE: I cannot. I tell you because I had a good one going before that. For me anyway. It didn't make studios want to hire me. On the other hand that's okay. I didn't get bigger by any means. What's not to like! Lots of free shit [laughter]

EMILY: For a short period anyway and all the parties!

CATHERINE: Exactly! As far as career? Hmm, maybe…I really don't know. I'm not aware of it anyway. I got good jobs before that, they are all different but the same quality same size and quality and stuff like that. Maybe the studio wouldn't have signed off on Smoochy with me…But then again Danny's pretty powerful so [laughter]. The nomination was fun and funny and weird all I wanted to do was go home and get pizza with friends. Which I did.

EMILY: Your character in Lovely & Amazing dates a younger, illegal actually, man Jake Gyllenhaal how'd that feel?

CATHERINE: I had a blast with him. People have asked was it weird because he was so much younger. I guess I was so in the mindset of Michelle and the story and she is so immature it seemed sort of an appropriate guy for her [laughter]. It wasn't freakish at all to me. And so therefore if it's going to be a guy who's only seventeen why not Jake Gyllenhaal ! It was fantastic! He's adorable, fun, enthusiastic. We were laughing all the time. It was three o'clock in the morning the first night we're working and we are kissing in the back of the car, freezing it was just silly. It wasn't like one of those standard uncomfortable love scenes were you feel weird enough. We had no time, no money and no time. He's so gifted and a really nice guy. Everybody was. This movie was really a great time everyone was unbelievable.

EMILY: How was director Nicole Hofcener on the set?

CATHERINE: She's perfect! I'm sorry but she really is. She comes so prepared. She writes a script that's ready to shoot there no working it out on the set. We are ready to go. And she's ready to go. She has a very gentle but very decisive opinion on everything and you feel really free and loved. She has a real knack for saying the right thing to get you where you need to go.

EMILY: Okay got to ask Ms. Indie Giant would you do a 100 million dollar action film?

CATHERINE: I'd do it! I am ready [laughter] I'm not sure anybody else is [laughter] you know when I did [Being John] Malkovich Cameron [Crowe] and I had the whole action sequence. A lot of it didn't make it in the movie…. but we had two weeks of walking on top of buses going thirty-five miles an hour, diving off the tops of them just crazy stuff that I can't even believe that we did! It was fun. It was really fun. It would be a different experience. I would do it if it would be right! I think it would be a blast too. Hmm but I don't know people who makes those movies tend to need a lot of money and those people don't hire me so…[wink]

EMILY: Why do think they don't hire you? You're not cookie cutter actor enough?

CATHERINE: [laughter]….I don't mean to disparage. I mean the people they do hire, I like them. I just don't think I fit in enough. You know they are worried I can't bring them in the audience.

EMILY: Dermot Mulroney, your real-life husband, and Emily Mortimer have a long naked scene in Lovely & Amazing were Emily as Elizabeth asks Dermott as "the moviestar" to really look at her and tell her what's bad and what's good about her naked body. He was hesitant then honestly replied from head to toe. How'd it affect you to watch that?

CATHERINE: Honestly I love that scene. When I read it I said this is huge! Oh my god I have never seen anything like it! It was one of those scenes were you knew it was just going to be…I don't know what! Mind blowing to see. I was just happy to be a part of it. I look at it like a classic film scene. I was totally fine with it the sexually of it, that didn't bother me. More than that I was excited for him that he was part of it and I also thought Emily is such a great person. I knew she was in great hands between Nicole and Dermott. I mean it would be hard enough to do. It's an awkward scene.

EMILY: Yeah, it is most certainly not a sexy scene even with Emily standing there for five minutes naked.

CATHERINE: No no…it was so clinical and deeply nerve racking in a way… depressing. In a way kind of there was such validation in it. I mean he was saying to he your not crazy, I see it and so do other people. And they do judge you that way.

With that we went off on a tangent and talked about her cool shirt and lunch. Catherine is one of my icons so this was truly special. I can't wait to see her new film Simone, with Al…Al Pacino. And it's refreshing that even a talent like Catherine gets butterflies among the giants.

 

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