5 mins read

Leoni Online: The Articles — Orange County Register

‘Family Man’ right film for family woman

Barry Koltnow – Orange County Register

A few more fast-food burgers during her pregnancy and Tea Leoni could have eaten herself right out of a movie career. As if she really cared. She gained 60 pounds while pregnant with her daughter Madelaine, who is now 19 months old, and loved every nauseating moment of it. “It was like being on the QE2 in rough seas for six months,” she said, propping her long tired legs on a coffee table in her Los Angeles hotel suite. “The only time I didn’t feel seasick was when I had a burger in my mouth. Once the burger was gone, the seasick feelings returned. “But then the fries helped.” Although still two or three dress sizes larger than she was before her pregnancy, Leoni said she is happy with her “new curves” and has no intention of pushing herself to shed the pounds. Of course, once you see her in the new comedy-drama-fantasy “The Family Man” with Nicolas Cage, you’ll wonder where she’s hiding that extra weight on that 5-foot-8 frame. “I’ve returned to more normal eating now,” she said, “but I’m in no rush to get the weight off. I’m much happier with my body now. So what if my bikini has a different amount of fabric. If I’m not rail-thin enough for Hollywood, I’m sure they’ll let me know, and I’ll be glad to leave.” Leoni, married to “X-Files” heartthrob David Duchovny, has never been shy about thumbing her nose at Hollywood stardom. A media favorite for years, she has consistently shrugged her shoulders in a “Who cares?” manner when critics wondered openly if she ever was going to fulfill her potential. “It was a conscious decision,” she explained, “I am not addicted to, attracted to or neurotically pursuing stardom. I never have been, and I don’t think I ever will. I never wanted to work that hard. I never wanted that kind of power, and that’s what stardom is all about. I wanted to have balance in my life, and that’s what I had, even before the baby. “With the baby, I have even more balance in my life, but in a very unexpected way.” Unexpected, because Leoni, 34, said she wasn’t sure she was going to return to acting after she got pregnant. It took her two years to make up her mind. “The baby came after ‘Deep Impact,’ and I was ready for a break,” she said. “But then I was gone from this life so long, I wasn’t sure I could ever get back in. I wasn’t sure they would let me back in. I wasn’t sure I wanted back in. “But then the most interesting thing happened. Motherhood showed me how important my work is. When I left to have this baby, I didn’t know how much I valued work. Motherhood taught me that I have an itch, and I needed to respect that itch. “I realized that I had to go back to work for her. Any intense relationship is about giving and taking from each other and, if you are not careful, you could empty yourself and have nothing left to give. “I had a responsibility to my baby to fill myself up again, and I could only do that through work. I understood for the first time that work provided the fuel that fills me up, and I wanted to get back to work so that I could take it back to my child.” Once she made the decision to return to work, Leoni needed to find the right film. And it was definitely going to be a movie, not television. Her TV days — she starred on NBC’s “The Naked Truth” and the Fox series “Flying Blind” before appearing in such films as “Bad Boys” and “Flirting with Disaster” — did not evoke the fondest memories. “Because of time constraints, TV is always caressing mediocrity,” she said. Fortunately for her, the people behind “The Family Man” had an idea as to which movie she should use for her return to show business. Reminiscent of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Peggy Sue Got Married,” the new film stars Cage as a single, high-powered Wall Street executive who wakes up one morning in an alternative existence, working for his father-in-law in a dull job and living in the suburbs with his college sweetheart (Leoni) and their two children. According to producer Marc Abraham, almost every major actress in Hollywood asked to be considered for the role that Leoni eventually won. In all, 50 actresses (including at least two Oscar winners) read for the part. Four went to the next step and acted in a scene with Cage, and three were asked to make a screen test.

“There were a lot of women who could have done the part, but we really believed that Tea was perfect for the role,” Abraham said. “The problem was that she couldn’t decide whether she wanted to act again. Finally, she agreed to the screen test. She was the last actress we looked at, and there was no doubt she was the right one. When she and Nic acted together, you believed they were a couple.”