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Weekly Alibi Hope and Glory

By Devin D. O'Leary

SEPTEMBER 8, 1998:  In the court of indie film queens, Parker Posey reigns supreme. But following close on her heels are an entire retinue of talented usurpers to the crown. New Yorker Hope Davis is one of the forerunners. Starting out in high-profile Hollywood films like Flatliners and Kiss of Death, Davis moved quickly into the realm of independent films. For her role in The Myth of Fingerprints, critics singled hers out as one of the best performances in a cast that included Julianne Moore, Roy Scheider and Blythe Danner. Davis co-starred with Stanley Tucci in The Daytrippers (executive produced by indie luminary Steven Soderbergh), and this fall she can be seen in Tucci's directorial debut The Impostors. If there's any doubt as to Davis' acting chops, she recently trod the boards with Kevin Kline on Broadway in Chekhov's Ivanov.

Weekly Alibi had the pleasure of chatting with the young actress on the eve of release for her new Miramax romantic comedy Next Stop, Wonderland.

You're known primarily as a New York actress, but you've done several Hollywood productions--how does East Coast filmmaking differ from West Coast?

Certainly the indie scene is happening more in New York than it is in L.A.--although there are definitely a lot of independent filmmakers coming out of L.A. at this point, too. People always say, "Oh, you have to live in L.A. if you want to be an actress." ... But there's actually a very strong East Coast community at this point with Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott and Greg Mattola and all these people.

Do you find a difference in attitude?

The West Coast directors that I've worked with have been on the bigger studio things--like Lawrence Kasden (on the upcoming Mumford). He's very well established, and he knows exactly what he wants to do. He's not the type of director that's doing filmmaking by committee, which is what most (Holly-wood) directors are forced into. And in New York, most of the directors have kind of an auteur ideal. They want to have control of their project, and they usually find a way to maintain that. So there is a strong sense of integrity that I find in the directors that are coming out of New York. It's just a different scene. It's lower key. The differences, there's so many. And yet I hate to generalize-- like "all Hollywood's garbage"--because it's not really true.

There's a lot of talk in Next Stop, Wonderland about "destiny" and "fate." Do you feel those forces are at work in your career?

Jeez. It's so hard to know. I have to say for me--because things have kind of opened up for me now and I'm not a kid, I'm 31, I think I've been around a little while--it seems like things have happened the way they've happened for a reason. Things have led to one another in a wonderful fashion. But I don't like to say, "Oh, this was destined to happen," because I definitely know so many talented actors--especially in New York--who should be destined for something, and it seems so hard (for them) to get jobs. I think there's a great element of luck and, most of all, perseverance that have to do with it. I mean, it's such a crapshoot, the whole thing.

When you look at a script, is that a kind of gamble--could be good for your career, could be bad?

The thing I've tried to stick to is not worrying like, "Oh, let me make this logistical move and that might get me there." I've tried to work on things that interested me--film scripts that I liked and directors that I liked. I've tried to avoid things that I would find humiliating, (even if) they were secretly guiltily fun kind of pleasures--you know, like horror scripts, things like that. When I read a script, I look mostly at the director, because everything hinges on that. I've worked with tons of first-time directors. People usually say, "Oh, you're taking a big chance!" But I love them, because they're really excited to make a film. ... It's something they wait for and work for for years.

In addition to the Brazilian music in Wonderland, there's a Brazilian word used to describe your character--"saudade." (Which roughly translates as "melancholy.") Was that something you used in creating the character of the lovelorn Erin Castleton?

Yeah. The director, that was basically the main theme of his music. ... I think the music somewhat inspired the story for him, this Brazilian music. And this idea of ("saudade")--kind of happy and content and also somewhat melancholy at the same time is just something that really interested him. It's a quality that he talked a lot about. It just made sense to me. I kind of understood what that was.

Were those complicated emotions what drew you to the role?

That's what I liked about (Erin) is that she's really complex. She's kind of cynical and snappish with people and a little bit chilly, but it's because she's really vulnerable and hurt. She's been abandoned, and her father died and all this stuff. ... It was fun to do. It wasn't difficult to do. When I shot the film, I had just gone through a huge, huge, huge break-up with my husband. So it was not a difficult state of emotion to call up.

Too bad ... but convenient.

Horribly so, yeah. That's just how I felt at the time. I really understood where she was at.

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