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INTERVIEW: 1 on 1 with Veronica Cartwright

Aug. 30, 2011by: JimmyO

My very first memory of Veronica Cartwright was her fantastic portrayal of Nancy in INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. Next of course came her take on Lambert in ALIEN. This was a brand new world for me, as was the crush I had developed on this tough but vulnerable actress. There was something truly special about this amazingly talented woman. Throughout the years, she continued to create some very memorable characters in the world of cinema, including her bewitching performance as Felicia Alden in the wildly entertaining feature THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK.

Recently, I had the honor of speaking to this charming (and really funny) woman. We spoke about the recent release of her latest indie feature InSight. It is a surprisingly old-fashioned and effective take on murder and suspense. The Richard Gabai directed feature includes some terrific performances from Natalie Zea and Sean Patrick Flanery. Veronica's bedridden character also adds life into the thriller. It is hard to imagine many actors that could make this work as well as she did.

Aside from her recent feature, we also talked about the ridiculousness of reality TV, the range of women’s roles and even a couple of classic moments in classic films. After all, Veronica continues to prove that great actresses are out there; hopefully Hollywood will give women like her a new lease on their career.  InSight opens this Friday in limited release.

Let’s talk about InSight.

You saw it?

I did. I did and I really liked it.

It’s good, isn’t it?

I was telling Richard that this is such a throwback to some of the old-fashioned murder mysteries that they just don’t make anymore.

I agree. And I think it is super well done considering the budget we had. The acting is terrific. Sean Patrick Flanery had played my son in “Touched by An Angel” years ago when the show was on. I played his mother, so he was fun to work with again. Or see him again. I didn’t actually work with him because I did all my stuff in one day.

You were lovely in the role by the way?

Oh thank you. Thanks! Me and my schmattas.

You also had such a great relationship with Natalie [Zea].

Isn’t she good? She’s just lovely to work with. She has a great facility because we didn’t have that much time to work on stuff. They all came up to my house and we all had a read through which was nice. At least we had something to sort of be co-conspirators about. So that was kind of fun. And Adam Baldwin - I had never met him before – was very good.

He’s terrific.

I just thought that the whole thing came off really super well. You know, I was a bit skeptical. Who knows, you do these things and you do them very quick and for not that much money. Except I had worked with Richard before and I know he is really good and very in tune with what is happening. And it was the same camera crew that we had on CALL OF THE WILD. So I had worked with all of them before and I tell you, it was amazing, some of the sets that they got and the timing in that one scene where they come up the stairs and she looks in her room then turns around and comes into my room, and I wasn’t there and she panics. That was all one shot and the timing on that I thought worked out really super well. I think it is very good and I’m happy it’s got a release…

Right… on September 2nd I believe. Now I have to say that I really liked Richard’s approach with this feature which certainly has a Hitchcock feel to it. Do you think Richard approached the film with that kind of aspiration?

I don’t know, but there were certainly elements of it. With the surprise and the whole thing with the mystery person up in the window… there were a lot of elements of Hitchcock movies in there. It was sort of a noir-esque kind of thing. I had really never talked to him about his influence, but obviously there must be. He is a great believer in seeing movies and watching movies so he is bound to pick up on things. I liked the fact that the mystery stays there. You are not quite sure you are seeing what you are seeing and Natalie’s character makes it so believable. [The plot itself] is sort of Hitchcockian. I’m sure he’d been influenced.

It was nice to see you play this nice and loving character this time around. Although I have to say you play evil really well too.

[Laughing] Which is more fun?

The tragic or the… I don’t know. I thought that she was just a really interesting character and she is really integral to the plot. I was just worried that I wouldn’t make that choking thing because of course I’ve never actually choked like that. I just wanted to make sure that it was as realistic as possible.

But parts like THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK – which she wasn’t really evil, she was actually like the fourth witch and the devil was making her act like that. She was trying to warn everybody and nobody wanted to believe her. So she couldn’t help herself. [Laughing]

You know what’s funny, I never even thought of that but you are absolutely right. That really was a complex character.

Yeah, she is totally cool. Those parts don’t come along very often. You can just sort of flip out and go there.

What was it like for you to step in the series “Eastwick”?

Well I went into an interview and I auditioned.

WHAT?

Actually I ran into somebody I knew and they said, why didn’t they just offer it to you. [Laughing] So I said, well I don’t know, and I didn’t know at the time I was the only person that they saw. But I wish they would have utilized my character more. I had sort of got so excited about being on there, then I’m stuck in that stroke for the first four episodes. I wish they could have utilized me a little bit more, I think that it would have been good to bring in the maturity. So it was a little frustrating.

Even though it seems like television is better for women recently…

Oh more than ever. But now all the competition is from people that do movies, they are coming in doing television because that’s where the good parts are.

So you either have all these intelligent roles, or you have the hottie of the month doing “Gossip Girl” or what have you. It’s too bad that their vision doesn’t expand more and include all types of people but I don’t know if that will ever happen.

I don’t know, I thought that Kyra Sedgwick did a really good job on “The Closer” because she played a full character. You were able to stick with the show long enough to be able to see different facets of herself. And there are a few shows that I think will let people into… you know, “Mad Men” is a good example, like the Elisabeth Moss character and even [Christina] Hendricks. You know more about them. Everything doesn’t have to be totally frivolous. And I have a feeling networks sometimes get so panicked that people aren’t going to stick with something. They have a tendency to stupid them up a little bit. Or dumb them up, whatever you want to call it, which is unfair because it’s been very… shows like “Desperate Housewives” have been very good at having a couple of super grounded characters and writing stuff for them. I know they all have a thing in their contract that they all have to have an arc, but that is why it works I think. They have fleshed out characters.

Yeah, they do.

It is nice being something beyond the page, but then these reality shows get so much publicity and not many people watch them, but then they try to make the weekly show like that.

Not every show can be as great as “The Kardashians”… [Laughing]

I have never seen one of those shows. I didn’t even know who those people were. I went into the hairdressers and it’s the only time I read those magazines. I’m like, ‘Who the heck are these people?’ I have no idea. I still, to this day go, ‘oh those are housewives of somewhere. Really? And they have, this is them going to so and so and them going to Washington D.C. and I think, who the hell are these people? Then you find out they are on a reality show. Oh that is sick! How the hell did that happen? And then here we are trying to trump up work for a movie… really!?! [Laughing]

I was always much more inspired by movies. In fact, I have to bring this up, but I remember first seeing you in ALIEN when I was way too young. I quickly developed a crush on you and honestly, that cast blew me away then and it still does. To me, back then I realized how powerful a great movie can be.

Well none of us were famous. We were really good actors and Ridley… well originally it was supposed to be a B-movie that they were shooting over in England because it was cheaper to shoot over there. Nobody was famous. We’d all done solid work, and I think that is why we probably all got our parts, but it wasn’t like they were putting out big bucks for big movie stars. I think what happened is that when people started watching it, they could identify with the characters because they weren’t stars doing something. It became more like the audience. I think my character was the reflection of what the audience was feeling. I mean, I was the only sensible one. I said, look, let’s f*cking get in that shuttle and let’s get out of here. Oh no, no, no, let’s hang around a little bit longer. [Laughing] I mean, good grief! You know, at first I didn’t think of her that way, but that is sort of what she ended up becoming. Again, there I am, that voice of reason.

What was it like to work with Ridley Scott on that, he later on had such trouble with BLADE RUNNER…? He was an art director, that’s what he had originally been. He had done commercials. He didn’t talk very much to anybody, we were sort of like, okay I’ve got this great ensemble of people so he didn’t feel like he… you know, I think he finally came out of his shell with THELMA & LOUISE.

He is not a very verbal person. I think I had one really good conversation with him while we were setting up the scene inside where all the oxygen tanks were. But he just… he was a workaholic and could work all day and all night long, he didn’t care. When Ian Holm’s head is knocked off and he is sitting at that table, originally there was this incredible speech that Ian said about had we bothered to try and communicate with the alien or do we just assume because it is ugly looking that it’s something to not deal with. And he was… Oh my God, it had got to me, I was standing around off-camera but I was tearing up. It was just incredible. And then Ridley goes, ‘oh stop, shit I hate these balls.’ They were these little silver cake balls that were in the grapes and milk that was supposed to be coming from his head. It had nothing to do with the performance. It had nothing to do with, oh my God, Ian’s performance. It was just what it visually looked like. That is a little hard to relate to. And apparently Ian had to go back months later and reshoot it with none of us.

He knew what he wanted. And you were the one to bring it in. In fact, there was the scene when I was supposed to hit Sigourney [Weaver] across the face. I’m angry and I come in and she’s tried to lock us out. And it is in the Director’s Cut but it was cut out of the original movie. So after when I went to hit her, she kept ducking and he came over to me and said, “Could you get her this time?” So I backhanded her. She went ballistic. I mean, we finished the scene and it really worked. And that was my direction, just keep whispering in my ear, ‘get her this time!’ He knew what he wanted obviously because I was giving the right emotion.

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