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Leoni Online: The Articles — Premiere Magazine 1996

Their onscreen time together in David O. Russell’s ‘Flirting With Disaster’ is brief and, to the untrained eye, not very sexy. But if you sit back, way the hell back, away from Téa Leoni’s belches and stogie smoke, and listen to her idol chatter with George Sega, ‘Flirting With Disaster’ takes on a whole new meaning. Leoni: George, did you think of me while you were working on the film? Did you feel the sexual tension? Segal: Yes, yes, I did. You see, that’s your specialty this free-floating sexuality. And you have a kind of boyish, active approach to things. Leoni: Where do you get that? [Shouting over her cigar] Where do you get that! Segal: From your agility and your no-holds-barred approach to stuff. Premiere: Is this sexual tension visible in the film? Segal: Yes. Yes. My jaw drops as I listen to her, while Mar [Tyler Moore, who plays Segal’s wife] is looking at her suspiciously, as I imagine most women would. Leoni: George and I had the kind of perverse tension that everyone was aware of on the set of ‘Flirting’. It was just so apparent. I couldn’t remember my lines. George at times appeared to be lost in thought. And, of course, due to this sexual tension, when we were looking for someone to play my father on [the sitcom] ‘The Naked Truth’, I thought immediately of George Segal. Segal: Tell us about your dog. Leoni: And then there’s my sheepdog. He used to be [named] Michael Jordan because he could jump. And then he got old and fat, so I called him George Foreman. And then George Foreman won the heavyweight title and I thought, Well, this no longer works because my dog is still old and fat. So then this George met my George Foreman and they got along so well. I realised that in a way my dog is like George, really. There’s an animal magnetism to my dog. And I just thought, to show my appreciation to George Segal for all of his encouragement and sexual innuendo, I’d name my dog after him. Premiere: Had you two met before working together on this film? Leoni: We were meant to have met a long time ago, but we met on this film. I think it was a rehearsal when George walked in and I got all gooey-kneed, and I was whispering under my breath as seductively as possible, “Where’s Poppa? Where’s Poppa?” Premiere: So you had studied each other’s body of work? Segal: Each other’s body. Leoni: My body is not as grand as George’s body of work. I was very familiar with George’s work. My favourite being ‘Where’s Poppa?’ Bu the way, George, what do you think out film says about family? Segal: I think that it says the truth about family. ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ is blown out of the water by this film because David Russell is a master of dysfunction. And I guess he must come from a dysfunctional family, as do we all. It’s the elephant in the bathroom nobody actually acknowledges. And that’s why this film strikes such a chord in everyone, because it’s bout all of our families. We are pasted together. Leoni: [Belches] Segal: There’s a nice one. Is that an apostrophe or an exclamation point? Leoni: It’s the Coca-Cola and Cubans that gives me gas. But whole father did you prefer playing, Ben Stiller’s or mine? Who would you rather have as a child? Segal: Yours and yours. Leoni: Okay, stop the tape right there. [Lunges to grab the recorder] He answered the question, didn’t he?! Premiere: What did each of you think when you saw David Russell’s directorial debut, ‘Spanking the Monkey?’ Segal: Well, Mary said the best thing on that. She said, “Well, I thought it was a nice sweet story about masturbation turns out it was about incest.” That movie had a great hot moment in it. When the mother looks down at him and you see him coming up her leg and it was that sudden hot moment when they become lovers/ We;; that’s the same in this movie. David is a master of it. And it’s so casual. The whole movie, let me say, is like a throwaway. It’s like an accidental movie, everybody’s talking out of the side of their mouth. And that’s what’s so winning about it. Leoni: But I would say the biggest moment for me in ‘Spanking the Monkey’, when I knew that David Russell had (a) the best sense of humour, (b) the sickest sense of humour, and (c) was going to be a really pertinent director, was the morning after, when the mother and son are just stirring and she starts hacking. It’s something that hit me in the bone. Like, they have just had sex and his mother is hacking her guts up. Premiere: George, anything you wanted to ask Téa? Segal: Well, sometimes you don’t want to ruin the mystery. Now, smoking a cigar, she’s great. But I don’t think I really want to know what’s there at 1 A.M.

Leoni: Oh, come on, George at 1 A.M., you’re dying to know what I’m like.