Sweet Home interviews
When I went to see the advanced press screening of SWEET HOME ALABAMA last week, one thing came to mindÖ.this would be a great place to meet girls, if one was singleÖwhich I am not. The theater was absolutely teeming with chicks, young and oldÖand when I say old I mean early 30s! Once the movie started I realized quickly that the girls there werenít interested in picking up on swarthy dudes like yours truly, they were there to see Reese (she plays the role of New York fashion designer Melanie Carmichael in the film). Not sure why sheís such a hit with the young female population, but they love her, man. The place was packed, and they all clapped afterwards (On a side note, I never understand why people clap after the movieís over, anyway. Do they expect the cast to come waltzing out and take a bow? Theyíre pretty much just clapping at the screen. ďThanks, you big screen you. You really pleased me tonight.Ē) Anyhoo, I digress.
The movie itself wasnít bad. I had understandably low expectations going in. Being the testosterone filled, football-loving meathead that I am, I figured the chances of me liking this film were slim to none. But it wasnít all that bad. Had its moments. And Reese, although they took her out of her best element in this film (I think sheís at her best when itís a pure comedy, silliness to the nth degree), she pulls off the romantic side with great charm. So, after being pleasantly surprised by the film, I was hyped up to meet the castÖand I didÖlast weekend at the Park Hyatt hotel in Century City. After a lionís share of giant Cinnabon-style roles, I sat my fat arse down and chatted with the accomplished cast of the film, including Patrick Dempsey, Candice Bergen, and Reese Witherspoon, herself.
First through the door was, in fact, Reese. For all her recent success, and rapid ascent to the top of the ďA-ListĒ heap, she was not surrounded by publicists and hangers-ons. She came in with a couple assistants, was cordial (not that I would expect anything less), and gave her full attention to me and my press comrades. The first thing I noticed when she arrived was her face. Itís very small. ďAlmond-shapedĒ, as my girlfriend so poignantly stated. Very true. And you always hear that actors have huge heads (I guess to make the cinematographerís life easier), but that was certainly not the case for her. Small features, but cute. Reeseís resume is astoundingÖTHE MAN IN THE MOON, LEGALLY BLONDE, PLEASANTVILLE, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, and my favorite, ELECTION. But thereís more to her than just fame and acting. Hereís more from one of Hollywoodís hottestÖ
Do you find that being an A-list actor means added perks, etc? Do people treat you differently?
I canít tell you if they treat you differently, because Iím only on one side of it. But definitely, there are a lot of great things about it. You meet a lot of interesting people. You get to travel. You learn about other peopleís lives and other cultures. So thereís ups and thereís downs. Itís pretty nice. I always try to focus on the positive aspects of it.
Are you trying to do more small films still, like ELECTION?
Yeah. Iím doing a film with Mira Nair after LEGALLY BLONDE 2: RED, WHITE AND BLONDE called VANITY FAIR.
Thereís a big proposal scene in this movie. Whatís important for a good proposal?
The best proposals are the most personal ones. You donít have to spend a lot of money. My proposal was very personal.
Youíre from Tennessee originally. Have you lost your accent since coming to LA?
I had to work really hard to lose. And it comes out a lot when Iím angry, or with my mother, or even angry at my mother.
Did you have to work hard for the dialect in the movie?
Yeah. It was helpful to be there in Georgia, we filmed in Georgia, and to be with people speaking a similar dialect.
Your husband Ryan Phillipe has said heíd like to direct. Have you guys talked about doing a project together, as director-actor?
Yeah. I donít know. Thatís the thing about this business. I donít even know what the next 6 months of my life are going to be. So I canít really say what the proximity of that happening is. But I think heíd be a really good director.
How concerned are you about the box office?
I get a little concerned. Thereís always a lot of studio people calling me asking me to promote the films and stuff. So itís important. I feel that I need to honor my commitment to each film. But it doesnít make or break my day. I have a lot of other stuff going. Itís wonderful when everything is good and positive. But everything in this business is fleeting. You canít put too many eggs in one basket, whether itís people rooting for you or against you. Invariably youíre going to go south. So I try not to rely too much on other people's opinions for my self-worth, or box office receipts or whatever. Thatís not a big measure for me.
Thatís what your character Melanie does in the film, though, right?
Yeah. She kind of looks for acceptance, and constantly tries to put on a persona thatís not her. And until she finds her own identity, itís hard for her to find true love.
Did you have any input into crafting the character?
Yeah, we talked about it a lot beforehand. My main thing was that it not represent southern people basically as the way I grew up viewing southern people, as ignorant and inbred. I wanted to celebrate the eccentricities of southern people because there certainly is a lot of humor there, but also express the values and morals that they identify with.
Are you planning of having another baby?
I donít plan a lot of stuff. I just sort of roll with the punches. I would certainly love to have more children, though.
When youíre driving down the street and see yourself on billboards, what do you think? Does it become too much sometimes?
You know, the billboard for this movie doesnít even look me, to me. Itís kind of an outside experience to me. That looks more like the character than me. Iím really able to remove myself. I donít look at magazines and go, ďHey, thereís a picture of me and that looks good.Ē It just doesnít look like me, to me. But whatís made it easier is that I didnít just have this meteoric rise to fame. Iíve slowly gotten used to seeing myself in public. So itís not as shocking as it could be. When my daughter sees pictures she says ďHey, that kind of looks like you!ĒÖBut I donít read anything. I donít watch entertainment shows. I donít read fashion magazines or anything, partly because Iím totally chicken to see what theyíre saying about me. But overall Iím not terribly concerned with what people think of me because I feel I have a pretty good perspective of who I am and what Iím about. Itís scary because you go into these interviews and somebody gets a few hours to completely assess your personality and itís like, how can you encapsulate someoneís entire personality in a few hours? So Iím not interested in reading about other people because I donít feel it can be really indicative of who they really are.
Reese, there have been rumors that you are apparently very much attracted to JoBlo from the JoBlo.com website? What's the deal behind that? Can you expand?
Oh my God, I can't believe you know that!! My husband likes to tease me about that all the time, but the truth is that I do have this strange obsession with JoBlo. It must be something about his logo...I'm not sure. Of course, I would never leave Ryan for him or anything, but just once...just once I wish I could meet him and kiss him on the lips. Wow, that would be awesome! Anyway, he's too busy, I suppose...he's got that whole "website thing" happening. Oh my God...you made me blush!!
(OK, OK...that last question is fake. But JoBlo threatened me with bodily harm if I didn't embellish. He's obsessed with Reese. Obsessed I tell you!)
Next in was Patrick Dempsey. He plays Melanie Carmichaelís wealthy and aristocratic nice-guy fiancťe Andrew in the film. Of course, the first film that comes to mind when you think of Patrick Dempsey is CANíT BUY ME LOVE. Sure, he was in a few other 80s classics, but thatís his claim-to-fame, and heís the first to admit it. He also recently appeared in SCREAM 3, and received critical acclaim for his work on the tv series ONCE & AGAIN and WILL & GRACE. He was a great guy who seemed to be very appreciative of his success in the 80s, but also hungry to showcase his talents more today. He talked about how raising a family affects your career, and gave me some insight into the shooting of this film and, yes, CANíT BUY ME LOVE. More from PatrickÖ
Did you do a lot of press junkets and interviews when you first started your career? Have times changed at all regarding dealing with press?
I actually like it now. I never felt comfortable before. I was always trying to be too serious back then with the media. I think itís hard. When youíre younger, and you get a lot of success early on, you donít really have a sense of yourself. You listen to people who say how they think you should beÖBut the older you get, the less you worry about that.
How old were you in films like CANíT BUY ME LOVE?
18, 19, 20 years old. Early 20s. CANíT BUY ME LOVE changed everything, and all of a sudden became this hit movie. Itís been great. People love that movie. When we did it, nobody took it seriously. Nobody thought it was going to be anything at all. It has a huge following. Everywhere I go, people mention it and want me to do that African Anteater ritual dance. Itís hilarious. Itís funny, but Paula Abdul was the choreographer of that dance. Seriously. This was before her album came out. But she did that.
Recently youíve been doing a lot more diverse stuff too. Why is that?
Television has given me opportunities that film studios havenít. Itís been a great place to go and take risks. ONCE & AGAIN was a great experience. And WILL & GRACE. The people who saw that said ďHey, youíre an older man now!Ē They just havenít seen all the other stuff Iíve been doing on the side. So that was good.
How frustrating is it to do work, like some indie films, that nobody sees?
Itís extremely frustrating. You just get burned enough times that you learn to deal with it. Iíve auditioned for years and never got anything, and this was after the success of CANíT BUY ME LOVE. 10 years of auditioning and nothing. That was really difficult. A real ego burner, but thatís good. I needed it. I donít need it any more, though. I had to pay my dues after the fact, which is the opposite of what usually happens.
Do you think that if this movie is a success, itíll give you a boost, as one of the leading men?
I hope so. People still view me as being the teen guy. And all those movies run nonstop on cable. But I think through the combination of films and television, people are allowing me to grow up, and bridge the gap from child star to adult.
It seems that a lot of child stars get back into the biz through tv spots. Why is that?
Itís helped me. For years Iíve been doing a lot of tv movies and series. Film studios view it as a huge financial risk. They either want a complete unknown, or somebody whoís proven themselves. Thatís just the nature of the business. You canít change this town, you can only change your attitude towards it. You have to be grateful to be the 1% or 2% of actors that are working full-time.
Last in was Candice Bergen, who really needs no introduction. She starred for 10 years on the hugely successful and critically-acclaimed tv show MURPHY BROWN, and has done time on the big screen in CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, MISS CONGENIALITY, GETTING STRAIGHT, and STARTING OVER. When she walked in, my first thought was man, she looks great for however old she is (a mystery). In the movie she plays Kate, the mayor of New York City and Reeseís mother-in-law to-be. In the interview she talked about being an aging actress in Hollywood, MURPHY BROWN, and family life. Hereís more from CandiceÖ
Whatís your take on Reese and her newfound fame?
Sheís great. She just does flawless work. Sheís very intelligent, and chooses her projects meticulously. All of the films sheís been in have been just perfect choices for her. Sheís quite exceptional.
Did you have any advice for her, as far as making it in Hollywood?
Are you kidding? I didnít have any advice for her. I should be asking her for advice. I just sort of rumbled along for such a long time. Reese doesnít need any advice. She knows exactly what sheís doing.
What about being and mom and a wife in Hollywood? Did you talk with her about that?
You know, everybody does it according to their values and priorities. Being from a very solid family, she has a terrific set of values. But sheís also a very dedicated actress, as well as a very dedicated mom. Iím sure sheíll figure out how to do both as she goes along. I did it my way, and everybody else does it their way.
What types of roles are you being offered nowadays? Are they predominantly strong women, like Murphy was?
Yes. Of course Murphy was a very strong woman, with a very strong presence, but I just finished a part in a film in Toronto, starring Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks. Itís a comedy where I play Michaelís ex-wife. And sheís bitter and lost in that. So it was really fun. But I look for comedies, and roles that are in comedies, even if the roles themselves arenít comedic, because thatís what I love to do. And thatís what I feel most comfortable doing. And I donít like to be away from home too much, so if itís something where I have to be away from home too much, I wonít do it.
So having a family and kids limits your choices?
Sure. But I would like to work more. I just canít be away too long. Life is a series of choicesÖI liked doing the tv series, but it was really a lot of work. And at the time I had a small child. But it was a lot of fun. It was a great experience. Now I donít work as much, but view it as a challenge to find work that accommodates my family and work that I find gratifying.
When you did that show, you were the biggest news on tv. What was that like?
That whole MURPHY BROWN-Dan Quayle thing was so surreal. It just went on and on and on. And everyday Iíd pick up the paper and the story would be in the business section, or the front section. It didnít matter what section it was in, there was always a cartoon or an editorial. So I just tried to keep really quiet. It was incredibly weird.
Patrick was saying you and he didnít rehearse a lot before shooting this film. Why not?
I love to rehearse. In 10 years of MURPHY BROWN, weíd rehearse all week, and then shoot it. So, for me, I really miss having that time to practiceÖIn movies you donít do it that much. No time. Unless someone insists, maybe a director insists, itís just too expensive. But for me, itís really helpful.
What was it like working with him as your son?
Wonderful. Great. I think because of how Patrick is, since heís so charming and such a comfortable actor, so easy and relaxed, he seemed to know exactly what his relationship was with me. And I loved that his character wasnít a clichť, or the weak Patrician son who gets dumped at the altar. Heís so appealing. Heís his own person and has his own opinions. He loves and respects his mother, but has his own life.
This movie is, obviously, a romantic comedy. I heard that the director, Andy Tennant, said he believes, deep down inside, that men are actually more romantic than women. Is that true?
Well, in my experience they are not. But, you know, Andy certainly is. My husband is very romantic. I think things nowadays have gotten a little raw. Thereís something gracious about romance, and relationships now have gotten so raw. There is no romance. The obsession with sexuality nowadays is tough. Thereís less emphasis on intimacy and romance and friendship.
Well, again I had a great time. And from the talent to the studio reps, everyone was peachy.
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