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Leoni Online: The Articles — filmfestivals.com 2002

Leoni Online Articles

filmfestivals.com 2002

Téa Leoni: Redefined Téa Leoni is one of those rare actresses that Hollywood hasn’t been able to categorize. She was very funny in her TV series “The Naked Truth” then segued to gal-in-jeopardy roles in sci-fi thrillers Deep Impact and Jurassic Park III. She stars opposite Woody Allen in Hollywood Ending and will later appear opposite Al Pacino in People I Know. When she spoke with the press recently, she was eight months pregnant with she and husband David Duchovny’s second child and admits that being a mom launched her into a new world of worries upon which she can draw as an actress. She’s also a native New Yorker who would love to move back to the Big Apple soon. Q: Are you a happy expectant mom? Téa: It’s less fascinating which, in turn, I think has made it easier. But, as you get into the eighth month, it’s ‘oh, I remember this. This is that part where it really doesn’t feel so good.’ Where you’re just tired and ready to go. This is a September (conceived) baby. We don’t know the sex yet. ‘ Q: Did you expect to get this part in Hollywood Ending? Debra Messing says she wasn’t sure what was going on and you messed with her head a little bit. Téa: I’ve heard that is was somewhat of a coup that I had this script but I’m beginning to think that it was a mistake and I never mentioned it because I’m not stupid. Debra’s easy to have some fun with because she came in after I did. I’d been around so I’d gotten sort of cocky and confident and she showed up terrified as everybody does on their first day. So, telling her that her character had a foot fetish seemed like a good idea at the time. I corrected that before she actually went on. I did have a little bit of fun with her. Q: Have you ever experienced frustration with Hollywood? Téa: Oh, sure. I can’t think of a time that I haven’t. It’s a great clash coming at it from my point of view which is shouldn’t this just be the best? And ‘can we make it better’? ‘Can we have some more time and money’? All that against the business that it is. It’s the nature of it and it’s okay. It actually works out and both sides end up helping one another. Q: Have you run into some people like the movie studio characters in the movie? Téa: Yeah. Like the George Hamilton one is the one that I really get a kick out of because it does seem to me that on every set I’ve ever been on there’s one guy and you kind of wonder ‘who are you’? ‘What do you do’? Forget his title because that can float around and is interchangeable. But, it’s that guy, I think he’s metaphorically walking around with the golf club all the time and George played that so beautifully, so quietly, just perfect in every scene. At one point there’s that scene, the first meeting with Val and Hal and Al at the Plaza and George is sort of scurrying around in the background behind the couch with a glass of orange juice and he looks like he’s selling the stuff. If you were to guess, it’s who let the Tropicana guy in? Why is he here? I thought it was genius but I know that guy. He’s been on every set. Q: You are so good in this. Was it fun to get into the character? Téa: Thanks. I had a very cautious approach to this. As I read the script and read me, I wondered what in the world I was gonna do. I usually have that thought before every role. The first thought is ‘why am I here. Oh, God’. And then it’s ‘I don’t know how to rehearse’ which proved to be absolutely irrelevant in this case so that was a relief. I thought, this is the straight guy and I think I’m not interesting enough to be the straight guy. You’ve gotta give me a banana peel or something over here. I don’t know what to do. And then things sort of spin out from there. It always starts in hell for me and you see how far up to neutral you can get. This was an interesting part. I didn’t come into it wanting to hang out with an executive and see who they are to be able to make a better parody. I really wanted to play this woman in love. That was made very easy by Woody and by Treat (Williams). I found, inside of their characters something extremely lovable in both of them. I didn’t want to play less to the one in order to prove more for the other. Q: We asked Woody about your comment that he’s a great kisser. Téa: He must know it. I was told by Elizabeth Shue. When I agreed to do this film (pause) I’m getting kicked so hard right now, it’s making me laugh and it’s embarrassing. I’m putting my hands on my belly. Where was I? Okay, I called Alan Alda and I called Lisa Shue and Alan told me no there wouldn’t be rehearsal and no there wouldn’t be hand holding and there won’t be bolstering comments to make you feel like you’re doing the right thing but don’t worry about it because if you’re not he’ll reshoot it and you’re going to have a great time. And from Lisa I got ‘he’s a great kisser. Do you get to kiss him’? And I said, ‘well yes. It’s scripted at least twice I think’. And she said ‘Oh, throw in another’. So that’s what spawned all of this. It’s sort of a sisterhood we have going now. Woody is actually very sexy. He just is. I’m not surprised by that. I have sort of a thing for really, really bright men who are funny. Got one even. Q: A lot of Hollywood actors are busy reinventing themselves lately. Téa: Yes, next I’m going to do my no make-up movie. I think what I’ve got going for me, some have complained that I haven’t found my niche. I love that my career is free of a niche because I’m having so much fun. I’m exploring. I think if I stop exploring and get into a niche then that ought to get pretty dull pretty quick. Q: You’ve done it all, even played with dinosaurs. Téa: I had a really great time on that too. I don’t know that you reinvent yourself. I go into every role pretty much the same way as far as it doesn’t matter if it’s the summer blockbuster action film and that’s where we were headed before we shot our first day, or whether it’s a comedy like Flirting with Disaster. Some of the more difficult morbid experiences I’ve had playing characters have come from the most unlikely places. Jurassic Park was a very difficult role for me. It was my new nightmare. I could absolutely get what this mother was going through. I’m not in charge of the dinosaurs. I’m not in charge of whether this is funny. I’m in charge of my truth which is playing a mother who, simply, has lost her child. And that I wanted to play. I’d just discovered that nightmare. I thought maybe it would be therapeutic. I don’t know. That was a very intense role. There is a new nightmare that happens when you have a child. You are responsible for this life. It’s up to you to insure its survival. That begets a whole new room of terror in your life. Long after they sleep through the night, you don’t. I’m not a neurotic mother fussing all the time. But, no one had prepared me for that. Q: What’s coming out for you? Téa: There’s People I Know with Al Pacino. That was shot before this film. It was great. I spent the whole Spring in New York last year. If I only shoot in New York, I’ll be happy. That was a very dark and working with Al Pacino was miraculous and stunning. I just can’t imagine he’d be a guy to share his recipes and he very much is. That is a dark picture. My character there is tough too. It’s a slice of publicist Bobby Zaron, his life and demise and hinting at a different idea about the powers that be and who they are. I’m a messed up actress who gets caught in there. Q: Why do you like working in New York? Téa: It’s alive. It’s a set. It’s a character. It’s healthful. Los Angeles is not. Maybe it’s all the rick-rack of freeways. It’s impossible for me to find personality in Los Angeles. I’m not ever sure where it is. There are so many different neighborhoods and cliques in there. But New York, you wake up and you’re on set. I love that. I loved that I could, on my way to work, do my work. I think David and I will surely return to New York. We were thinking more about it right before Sept. 11th. With a baby, I was terrified because it was our backyard too. I can’t raise, especially not a girl out there in that place (L.A.). It’s not right. Right now we’re having fun and the weather’s good enough. But what is fed to the soul in Los Angeles, you can’t survive on. It’s just not enough. I haven’t found it. I’m a New Yorker and I just intend on coming home. Q: Any thoughts on the “X-files”? Téa: That’s why David isn’t here in town with me. He’s finishing up the final two episodes. I’m glad for him that he got to return and do this. It’s very appropriate that he be in the last episodes and I think it’s good for all of them. I hope they are setting up for a film. I do feel that any show at season 8 or 9 is petering (out). I don’t know what the “X-Files” has but I still feel there’s a great place for a renaissance for it in film. Both David and Gillian stand really well on the big screen. I’d like to see it so I hope that’s what they are up to.

Interview by Lynn Barker

Article courtesy of filmfestivals.com.

There is no greater cause than making the world fit for children. I feel very strongly about carrying on the family tradition by working with UNICEF to help improve the lives and well-being of children everywhere.