Kelly Lynch, Still Waiting For Her Hitchcock

With Matt Dillon in Drugstore
Cowboy.

In a big, sun-kissed house in Vancouver,
B.C. which is the location set for Mr. Magoo, (scheduled for a
Christmas release by Disney) Kelly Lynch’s stunt double is having
trouble taming her flimsy dress. Take after take, a kick that ought
to toss an assailant from a couch onto the floor causes the garment
to billow up, exposing, well, everything. The crew titters while
wardrobe hunts for some decent cheek glue, and Kelly Lynch, in
matching gauzy dress and long, blond, curled wig, stands behind
the monitor, grinning that lead guitarist grin of hers. "Imagine,
before lunch I said, `I could do that kick no problem,’"she
says, proud that Stanley Tong (Jackie Chan’s director) chose her
for the rawbone athlete as well as the beauty.

Cigarette in hand, she calls her role as the villain
of the piece a toss-up between ‘a no-brainer’ and ‘the hardest
physical role I’ve ever had.’ A minute later, in front of the camera,
she wraps one hand around co-star Matt Keeslar’s throat. In his
Hong Kong English, Tong says, "Keerie, don’t be too gentle
with him." Everyone breaks up.

Kelly? Too gentle? Between takes she’s back behind
the cameras to kid around (`I really think of myself as one of
the workers, I punch the clock, you know?’), talk about Alec and
Billy Baldwin (‘Oh, I just love the whole damn family’), and laugh
with milk-snorting pleasure at a story about obsessive compulsive
disorder she’s reading now in David Sedaris’s Naked. A native of
Minnesota, she breaks into a Minnesota impression straight out
of Fargo, which was her favorite film last year. "Oh, geez,
I hafta bearf," she says, doing the Coen brothers’ Marge,
bending over as if to puke.

Lynch as Roberta Bean in The Beans of Egypt.

Too gentle? The junkie from Drugstore Cowboy?
The woman who rejected the Sharon Stone role in Basic Instinct because
it was "too goofy"?

Lynch, over lunch, is a relaxed combo platter like
this, by turns demure and strong, laughing, teed-off and composed:
part regal Elite model (the tape measure snaps up to 5’10" or
so), part don’t-give-a-damn, leggy rocker (think Aerosmith’s Joe
Perry sans the skank.) Digging into her plate of bratwurst, kielbasa
and salad, she talked about being an actress in her late 30s (she
turns 37 this year), the elusive breakthrough role, psycho directors,
and Alfred Hitchcock. She also happens to love the movies, so we
slid into our conversation by talking about what she was seeing
these days.

Kelly Lynch (KL): I saw Chasing Amy the other
day. Really smart movie my husband [Mitch Glazer] is a really good
screenwriter, and I could tell he was feeling the heat of talent
around him.

Lyall Bush (LB): What was it you liked about
it so much?

With Alec Baldwin in Heaven’s Prisoners.

KL: I liked that [Smith] had different voices
for the characters. Usually a writer has a particular point of
view in a film, and you find that all the characters come in and
out of this one tone and rhythm. All [Smith’s] characters had their
own weird way of looking at the world and explaining things and
he’s done a very complicated thing as far as the differences between
how men and women look at things. And here’s this woman, playing
a "woman with a past."

LB: This is the bi-sexual woman?

KL: Yeah. She explained why it’s okay to be
who she is and why she has the right. And how dare you. And I felt
I learned something.

LB: Well you played a lesbian in Three of
Hearts. What did you think of Joey Lauren Adams, who plays Amy?

KL: Oh, great job. They were able to do things
that we were all fighting to do and couldn’t do in our film. It’s
not like I thought we had to have sex, but I wanted it to be more
believable. But what I was proud of was that you finally saw a
character who who was gay and not dying of AIDS, and not killing
a man with an ice pick. You saw her at work, with her friends,
as a normal person living in New York.

LB: Did you have jitters about doing that
part? Repercussions about your career, etcetera?

KL: I’ve never had that. Whether playing a
drug addict or whatever, I’ve never thought, "Oh, God, what
does this mean? Will I only get cast as a junkie now? My whole
career is based on taking a left turn after each film and doing
the opposite of what I’ve just done. And I’ve been married, I have
a daughter. And I don’t care.

LB: Don’t care in what way?

KL: I don’t care what people’s myths are about
me. The worst thing would be for them to find out who I really
am, because that’s where I hide.

LB: You say you don’t care, that you take
left turns from part to part. But I have a feeling that maybe there’s
a Kelly Lynch constituency out there that feels disappointed, that
after Drugstore Cowboy, which was something of a breakthrough role
for you, you ended up making films like Curly Sue, films that were
commercial or blah or flat. Whether they started that way or not.
Do you feel a responsibility to theman independent fan base, which
is where you started out?

KL: Well, I always go back there. It’s where
the more interesting scripts are. I just did two films. I did Homegrown,
with Billy Bob Thornton, and a movie called Cold Around the Heart
for Oliver Stone. That’s where I got my start and where I’ll continue
to work, but I can’t tell you the number of films between Drugstore
Cowboy and Curly Sue that I auditioned for and wanted that didn’t
choose me. I have really good taste. But actors at a certain point
take the best of what’s available to them. Rather than sit around,
I’ll work. And sometimes I do films so my daughter can see me work.
My daughter Shane is 11 and she’s still innocentI haven’t shown
her the dark film roles yet.

LB: Haven’t shown her Drugstore Cowboy?

KL: No. I mean, she has an unaffected heart
and soul. I make no apologies about what I do, and that film says
[drugs are] fun. But you have to be very careful of what you do
and when you do it and how much and why. I make no apologies about
what I do. I make a good living and I’ve never looked at myself
as being an artiste. I look at myself as someone who comes to work,
punches the clock and does my craft.

LB: Is there a part of you that’s driven?
Did you, for example, push for the Nicole Kidman role in To Die
For, having worked with Gus Van Zant?

KL: Oh, yeah, I really wanted to do it. Who
they wanted was Meg Ryan, and she turned it down. It was really
the biggest movie star available. The fact that I got Drugstore
Cowboy at all was a fluke. It was before movie stars were aware
of the independent film market.

LB: It was pre-Miramax.

KL: Exactly. I read the script and went berserk
and then went after it. It was me, Cathy Moriarty and Amanda Plummer
who wanted that part. I hadn’t done a thing, but I thought, `Where’s
Michelle Pfeiffer? Are they insane? Where are these people? Don’t
they know?’ I saw the script on my agent’s shelf and said, `Whoa,
what’s that?’ She said, `No, they want someone brunette, older.
Tough.’ [Smiling] `I could do that’. But now that it’s broken through
[independent filmmakers] want the biggest stars they can get. It’s
really a rare caseHomegrown, for example, Billy Bob Thornton wanted
to work with me, and that made a difference. And the director wanted
me. Otherwise it’s who has international numbers. Amazing anything
is ever cast correctly. The least consideration of any film I’ve
ever worked on is who is right for it. You look at Gone With the
Wind, how right Vivian Leigh was for that. Don’t know if that would
happen today.

LB: How do you know a good script when you
see it?

KL: It’s important for me to see as many colors
in the character as possible. I’m not a sort of iconic actor who
they say, "Get Kelly, she does that one really funny thing." I
like to show as much of a woman as I can. I like to fill things
out.

LB: So when you read a script, do you look
at character rather than the movement of the whole piece?

With Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse.

KL: I try to look at everything. First
I look at the character: Is this anything I’ve played before? Is
this anything I can learn from? Or will this just be a hell walk
through the whole thing. Then it’s the story, is it something people
are gonna want to see. If it’s commercial I look to see if it’s something
people will want to go and see. If it’s independent, it’s because
I love it…’cause they usually end up costing me money to do. Then
everything has to be there to have the potential to be great. Sometimes
I’m very wrong.

LB: You must consider directors.

KL: Yeah, that’s very important because they’re
the puppet master. I sat with Gus [Van Zant] for five minutes [on
Drugstore Cowboy] and knew we got the joke the same. And that was
probably the most free I’ve ever been on a film. Every day we had
a really good time. I didn’t know if anybody else was gonna like
it. I knew I was gonna like it. And still the first cut was terrible.
Matt Dillon said he wasn’t going to support the film. So you never
know.

LB: You were so cool in that film. I know
a lot of men who were in love with you for that role.

KL: [laughing] That’s so funny. It’s such
a dark part. Sort of scary to men, a woman who runs the show, a
matriarchal thing. Bob [Matt Dillon] always had to ask Diane [Lynch], "Okay
Diane, we’re thinking of doing this…" She was the mother
of them all.

LB: I want to go back to what you said about
not being an iconic actor. In his book about Hollywood, Monster,
John Gregory Dunne talks about the "ruthless economy" of
a star’s features, that stars are stars because they are able to
convey an enormous amount of information without seeming to do
very much. You have that.

KL: Well, for someone who looks like me you
wonder where Alfred Hitchcock is. That’s the kind of guy who would
have gotten my beauty and my humor and my intelligence and my power
and known what to do with it and not be afraid of it, and not feel
that all the women have to be friendly now.

LB: In Desperate Hours I remember you being
photographed coming out of carsankles, calves, knees coming out
of cars. From what you just said I’d think that would be frustrating
for you.

KL: That was a very frustrating film for me.
I had spent three weeks with a lawyer in Los Angeles for that part.
She wore no make-up and was economical with her sexualityused it
when she needed it in the courtroom. And she had these killer legs,
which the director [Michael Cimino] and I both keyed in on. But
then he decided to make me look like Claudia Schiffer. I just said "You’re
not going to put this drag queen makeup on me,I just don’t see
her with this super model look." He said, "All that’s
in the back of your character’s mind is that you want Mickey Rourke’s
character to fuck you." I remember saying to him, "Are
you crazy? How long do you think it would take for me to have a
person who looked like Mickey Rourke have sex with me? Do you think
it would take a minute? Thirty seconds?"

LB: How did he respond?

KL: You can imagine. This is Michael Cimino;
he just looked at me and shook his head and said, "I never
want to see you on the set without your make-up on. You look like
a little boy." And I thought that’s exactly how I would see
her. We put the makeup on and those high-heeled shoes and we had
to practice me getting out of that Jagmy leg straight out in the
air and down on the ground. I was pulling stomach muscles getting
up to the level. It was his own psycho-trip about beautiful women
and taking away a woman’s power, as opposed to making her a powerful
woman and attorney in the world. I don’t care how good an actress
you are. When you’re working with someone who’s a psycho, who doesn’t
have the same feeling about how the world works as you do…And
I think he’s brilliant, he’s done brilliant things. I just think
Desperate Hours is beyond flawed. And when Mickey Rourke rips my
shirt he says, `Tell me you need me?’ And my line is, `Tell me
you love me.’ Cimino cut that out. In [Cimino’s] head it was about
me wanting to have sex; for me it was about my character seeing
a future.

LB: That’s an interesting thing to hear, given
that in the film your character does seem a focal point in the
beginning and by halfway through is just a hysteric.

KL: Look at Year of the Dragon, he took that
beautiful Japanese model. He did the same thing with her. This
is a trip he has with beautiful women. He’s always attracted to
beauty and then he wants to destroy it and humiliate it and take
its power away. That’s why I say someone like Alfred Hitchcock,
he might have been as sick as they come…

LB: Apparently.

KL: Apparently, but he certainly knew how
to exploit that kind of beauty. Look at Rear Window. There’s so
many levels of performance in Grace Kelly, it’s justyou start to
see it opening like a Chinese box. At first you think what a beautiful
socialite she is and by the end you realize how sick and twisted
this girl is. It’s so great.

LB: Let’s talk about making an image on screen.
Whether you’re in a battle with a director or not, do you have
control over the creation of that image? How conscious are you
of creating an image that’s all "male gaze"?

KL: That’s a good question. In a collaborative
environment directors hire actors because they want their input,
not just their bodies. I have a lot of input. I do come shackled
with whatever people think I am. You know, I change my hair color
a lot, I do all sorts of different things. I think women have a
harder time. Most movie stars don’t change their look at all. They
have a certain thing that they do; that they cultivate and protect.
That would be too frightening for me to go along in that path.

LB: Why?

KL: `Cause I won’t repeat myself, the way
I dress and look. There might be crossover bits and pieces. But
I have to start breaking into someone else. No one wonders why
Sean Penn or Gary Oldman changes the way they look.

LB: Do you ever feel a little envious of younger
actresses doing independent film after you broke the ground. It’s
given actresses like Parker Posey the option, in a way. In `89
only some maniac would do indie stuff.

KL: [Laughing] Yeah, a maniac. Well, I’m a
consumer as well. I go to the movies with my popcorn and believe
everything I see. So when I see some great talent, male, female,
old, young, writing, acting, I feel like I’m in the right business.
Yeah, I do feel badly sometimes, not for whose coming up and getting
roles I’m not right for anymore but the people I compete with,
who range from Uma Thurman on up. I was number two for Pulp Fiction.
I mean, there were a number of movies like that. Often it’s between
me and someone younger.

LB: So who is the Hitchcock today you’d want
to work with?

KL: God, good question. [Pause.] Well, it
could be Gus, Gus has a little of that in him for sure. But with
Hitchcock there wasan intensity.

LB: Gus Van Zant seems maybe too quirkily
brilliant.

KL: Yes, he is, but what I mean is he’s not
afraid of women like that. Nicole [Kidman] certainly has that icy
beauty and intelligence. He’s just, he’s not afraid of tall, attractive
women, obviously. Maybe it’s because he’s gay [laughing]. But for
him it’s cool. It’s part of the fun of it to work with strong personalities.
[Pause] You know, when it comes down to it there are only a few
good actors but there are how many amazingly talented actresses?
I mean, I always feel incredibly lucky to get a job. When I hear
who else is up for parts it’s always these immensely talented actresses.

With John Travolta in White Man’s Burden.

LB: What about the men?

KL: I just think that acting and dressing
up and putting make-up on is something that attracts more women
than men. I heard a story of Sean Penn at one point shooting We’re
No Angels with Bob DeNiro and saying, "Fuck dis – I’m not
doing this anymore, I wanna direct" [she’s laughing]. When
I sit in the make-up trailer and see these men getting eyelash
make-up put on and eyebrow pencils. I think, "God, kinda weird." And
I’m in my 30s now, and what men are in their 30s? Alec Baldwin,
Andy Garcia I guess, Mel Gibson.

LB: So what about being in your 30s. Actresses
seem to have to face turning 40and then great actresses like Jessica
Lange and Barbara Hershey disappear for five years before they
reappear doing different kinds of roles.

KL: I can’t wait. I can’t wait. You just mentioned
two incredibly talented, incredibly beautiful actresses who are
now doing some of their best work. In their 30s women really start
to live…they’re not children anymore, and they’re not just mothers.
And that’s the time that’s the most scary to men? The most scary
to Hollywood? Whoever makes those decisions? Maybe it’s the audience.
I can’t wait til I get the chance to be a character and how my
face looks isn’t the first consideration. It’s stifling. I don’t
care about that. My idols are all older. There’s no one my age
or younger I think, `Ah, wish I had her career.’

With Billy Baldwin in Three
of Hearts.

LB: Who are your idols?

KL: I love Jessica Lange. Susan Sarandon’s
always great, always believable. Never studied acting in her life.
I just believe everything she does. I love her sense of humor,
her earthiness. I love that her intelligence shows. Those are the
women, in life, I always like.

LB: Because they’re strong, maybe.

KL: One day when my daughter was young I
was on the phone with my agent, breastfeeding my daughter, taking
a pee and making breakfast. And I said, `You have no idea what
I’m doing now.’ I told him and he said, "It’s always like
that with you," and I thought, no, it’s always like this
with every gal who’s bitten off a big chunk of life. Scariest
thing I ever heard was Kate Hepburn saying you can have two out
of the three: kids, a husband, a career. Kate, you can’t be right.

LB: You studied under Sanford Meisner in New
York. What did you learn from him?

KL: Listening. And really living in the moment.
You learn your text and have it in the back of your head, without
a thought as to how you’re going to say it. You work with some
actors who decide how they’re going to say this one cool line.
In their trailer. And I’m like, `You’re fucked.’ Cause it’s like
a volume thing, it’s the way we talk in life. All I really want
to do is entertain people out there sitting in the dark and for
them to believe it. MM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.