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Leoni Online: The Articles — Premiere Magazine 2002

leonipremiere1tn-7204399 leonipremiere2tn-7582585 leonipremiere3tn-5515598 The Truth Is, Téa Leoni Is Out There A candid conversation with the brainy beauty who calls Woody Allen “one of the sexiest men I’ve ever worked with.” By Brantly Bardin She was born rich (father: Park Avenue lawyer; grandmother: silent movie star-founder of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF), smart (high school: Manhattan’s Brearley School; college: Sarah Lawrence), lucky (having never acted before, she was picked by Aaron Spelling from thousands of other girls at an open audition to star in his never-produced TV series Angels ’88), and yes, really, really good-looking (cheekbones: perfect; legs: l-o-n-g). But Téa Leoni is also as droll and versatile an actress as “Diane Keaton, Judy Davis, Mia Farrow, and Goldie Hawn, raves Woody Allen, her director and leading man in this month’s sunny romantic comedy Hollywood Ending. “I hire these incredibly gifted people, give them very little direction except when they really, really need it, which is almost never, and then they go out and make me look like I know what I’m doing. And Téa fits right into that — she’s incapable of a fake moment” Bingo. In ten years, she has sailed from Lucylike sitcom diva (Flying Blind, The Naked Truth) to being the possessor of one of the most casually cool and diverse filmographies in town (Flirting With Disaster, The Family Man, Jurassic Park III, and the upcoming Al Pacino vehicle People I Know). The hallmarks of any Leoni performance are inevitably those of steely intelligence, salty spontaneity, and, above all, no bullshit honesty (all delivered, of course, with That Voice, the throaty rumble that’s been best described as “somewhere between a bray and a sneer”). Happily, as it turns out, these are all precisely the traits that Leoni, 36, brings to the table today at Malibu’s Allegria restaurant, not far from the home she shares with husband David Duchovny of The X-Files fame and their three-year-old daughter, Madelaine West. She’s makeup-free, very pregnant with her second child (due next month), and –surprisingly, for someone Liz Smith once described as “a self-styled antisocial recluse,” and who is still rarely seen on the Hollywood celebrity circuit–about as chatty as they come. We’ve just been discussing how weird it is to read the vitriolic flak she continues to received on X-Files fans sites from rabid cultists incensed over her audacity at having abducted their own Agent Mulder when the baby-to-be gives her a kick….

The X-Filers must be hitting you with the old “Is that an alien child you’re carrying?” question about now, huh?

Well, yes, but on such a lovely, concerned note. It’s more like, “We think it is….so let’s off the bitch!” (laughs) Did I mention that we have 24-hour security?

Your own career has always been so low-key, it must have been odd experiencing that freaky level of attention with David. After all, there’s yet to be “A Téa Leoni Film”–

And I don’t really foresee that there will be. It goes back to that thing of “any movie that wants me as its star is a movie I don’t want to star in.”

How terribly Woody Allen of you.

(laughs) I think the biggest battle in my career is…Well, people have said, “She must not be that good ’cause she’s never done that star vehicle,” and I’m sorry for that opinion, because I think, “Well, no, that’s really not altogether true.” And I will confess that I’ve been offered a star vehicle or two–which is not to say, “Hey, I could be a big star if I wanted to”–but I like my little career. I do. I don’t have a complaint. I mean, I’ve never taken a role “in order to” anything–The Family Man was the closest, and I took that with a conscious “The is in order to get back,” because in Hollywood, running off to have a baby can be synonymous with running off to go bury yourself alive. So I had to show that I had not, in fact, died. And the irony is that I started to really enjoy my career right when I’d planned on leaving it–right after West was born.

You were really going to retire?

I think so–it had not been fun. Which was my own doing, because my method of working had made me miserable. But then I happened onto The Family Man with a new point of view: I was in no mood for tragedy because I had this seven-month-old miracle with me all the time and I wasn’t so result-oriented. And I think I did some of the best work I’ve ever done, and then I went on to Jurassic Park III and (hits table) had the time of my life!

Which, I must say, is my favorite Jurassic because there’s no dumb science, just 90 minutes of “Run from the dinosaur!”

Right. And I can’t say I didn’t enter into it without a certain amount of “I want to be cool for the 12-year-olds,” ’cause lots of my friends have kids that age. (proud smile) Now I’m, like, Chico Dina, the dinosaur chick! But you still have to approach something like this in the same way you do something serious. I mean, you can find an actor who’s gonna walk through it, but none of us did. We were like, “Let’s flex and be terrified, terrified!” (laughs) I remember one day we were running (from yet-to-be-inserted dinosaurs), and I’m looking at Bill (Macy), thinking, “What the fuck is he doing? Look at him! He’s taking tails, he’s taking claws, he’s taking bites!” And I was so mesmerized at the ridiculousness of it all that I had this great wipeout. When you watch the playback, it’s like, “Here’s five actor’s on acid, is what this is.”

You know, you were recently nominated by the Hastings Bad Cinema Society for a Worst Actress Award for that and–

(laughs) I didn’t know that. But if I’m nominated, I want to win!

Even up against Mariah Carey?

Oh, no, I’m starting to get scared if I win. Hmmm, Worst Actress…I didn’t think I was that bad (in Jurassic Park III). I can think of a handful of other things that could get me that nomination.


It’s a toss-up, but I’d probably go first to Bad Boys.

Okay, so what’s scarier? Being directed by Michael (Bad Boys, Pearl Harbor) Bay or being knocked over by an imaginary dinosaur?

Definitely working with Michael.

Didn’t he make you cry when, after you’d been accidentally pistol-whipped to the ground, his first words were, “Holy shit! Can she finish the film?!”

(laughs) That’s really in the past, but, yeah, it’s a moment I’ll never forget. Though I wasn’t really surprised, because I never came to this party terribly naive. And I don’t know who I have to thank for that.

Guess you showed him by having The Goddess, Vanessa Redgrave, play your mother in Deep Impact.

Yep–reason for doing film, number one. But you do have to rehearse with her for your own sake, because you’ll be so awestruck by the choices she’ll so effortlessly make during a scene that you’ll get caught with your jaw on the table. Sometimes I just stared–it’s what you want to do when she’s onstage.

Yeah, I saw her in Tennessee William’s Orpheus Descending and–

Oh my God, that’s so funny, because I’m going to do that play one day. I’ve had too many people–even Al Pacino–say, “Have you read that? You’ve gotta do it.”

Interesting. Speaking of Pacino, what’s happened to People I Know?

I don’t know. I mean, there’s a sort of drug-induced vision that Al’s character has of the World Trade towers on their side, and I don’t think that’s what’s holding it up, but it’s indicative of a darkness that’s in the film. I’m guessing that Miramax is thinking, “We need to wait awhile on this one.”

Until then, we’ll make do with you as Woody Allen’s newest leading lady.

Which was a fucking dream, one of the most spectacular experiences of my career! (sighs) If I only ever worked with Woody Allen again, I’d go happy.

Do you have a grand revelation about him?

That he is a genius–and I don’t mean that with any flattery, necessarily, because having seen it, it must suck to be a genius, it must be painful and difficult and lonely. Because what’s the point of conversation? You’ve already had (someone else’s) point of view without their presence. So when people told me, “He doesn’t talk much, don’t be offended,” I’d say that’s probably because, from his point of view, what’s the point?

Yeah, but your costar Treat Williams told me he’s never seen Woody talk as much to anyone as he did to you.

This may seem to be some sort of self-flattery, but, yeah, I thought he was a great Chatty Cathy.

Wow, never saw that in print before. But I must tell you that after I saw Hollywood Ending, I overheard a woman say, “Oh, that Woody Allen–he keeps getting older and the girls keep getting younger.” Comment, please.

(laughs) I guess it would be questionable, because he does it with just no aplomb, but let me just tell you that, well…he’s one of the sexiest men I’ve ever worked with.


It’s his mind. (laughs) God, I know that sounds, like, classic. But you look into those eyes–and they are very all-encompassing, those eyes–and, well, he’s not the epitome of the Adonis presence, but–and I hate sounding like I’m from California when I say this–but he’s in touch with his body. He has a very sexy presence. And he’s a very soft, gentle kisser. (grins) There is such confidence in those lips.

My…So could you imagine actually going to bed with Woody Allen?

Yes! I could imagine right now at this table going to bed with Woody Allen–and it’s not just because I’m pregnant and a little bit more randy than normal. (laughs)

Well, watch out, Woody. Speaking of the new bundle of joy, can we expect your presence back onscreen once it’s delivered?

You know, given that I’m having such a good time now, I’d be sad if I didn’t get invited back. But I’ve also gained a certain amount of confidence in my work, so that now I think (smiles) “Well, they might not ask me back–but I’ll crash that party again.”