Fall 2011

Parker Posey Revisits Her Top-Five Favorite Performances

Fall 2011

Parker Posey Revisits Her Top-Five Favorite Performances

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PARTY GIRL. I remember Daisy [von Scherler Mayer, the film’s director] coming up to me and asking if I could do something in one or two takes because there wasn’t enough film in the camera and they couldn’t afford to buy more. The pressure and excitement of working in New York was exactly what I wanted and exactly what I had wished for. That was a great part for me. I had vogued with drag queens at the Roxy on Saturday nights and I’d counted pennies in my apartment to buy pasta to eat, and I’d really enjoyed putting my stamp on that time and place in a movie. I thought it was really for kids who wanted to move to New York City and feel free to be themselves and to go out dancing. Like in movies from the forties, it was playful, fun, and generous. It was a 22- to 23-day shoot. I worked so hard, and I remember crying from exhaustion. My boyfriend at the time bought a pet iguana that I hated. I remember being really tired and crying and hating that iguana, saying stereotypical things that embarrassed me but that I genuinely felt, like, “I have nothing more to give! I feel like an acting machine! I am so tired!” I was 24 at the time, I think. Omar [Townsend], who played my love interest, wasn’t a real actor at all, but he was handsome. I could tell he looked at me like I was from another planet and was not attracted to me because I wasn’t a virgin. He asked me how to say his lines—fresh out of drama school. I really looked down on that and wished I had had a “real actor” to act with. I liked him, though. He was nice. And I ate so much falafel that I’ve never had another one.

WAITING FOR GUFFMAN is one of four movies I’ve made with Christopher Guest. It’s what he would call an “unscripted movie.” In other words, all the movies have improvised dialogue. It’s like jazz, but in movie style. There’s no rehearsing. After the first day of filming, I sat in the back of the van—we were all driving back together from Lockhart, Texas, into Austin, to the Double Tree Hotel—and my lower back was killing me. I was stretching it out, holding my knees to my chest. Eugene Levy asked me what was wrong and I said my lower back was sore, and he told me it was “from holding in laughter.” When I got back to the hotel I took a bath and I cried my eyes out because it felt like I had been thrown into unknown waters. There was no dialogue. It was about relying on your instincts, which felt really unreliable. But I had worked on the part and I had carried her history around inside of me, so it was just about being in the moment—for me, at least. Everyone’s process was different. Chris would say before a take, “This could really happen, you know. People are really like this.” And they are. People can get that carried away.

I was really scared to do SCREAM 3, but I needed the money. Today, starring in a B movie that makes a lot of money allows you to make indie movies with prestige. But back then, if you did B movies, it could show a lack of integrity and might hurt your chances of being perceived as a serious actor. I met Wes Craven and I’d expected him to look like a creep, but he turned out to be the ultimate father figure, soft-spoken and kind. I played an actress named Angelina (I think?) who is playing Gale Weathers, played by Courtney Cox. I was surprised that Wes let me get away with all the silly stuff I did in that movie, like mouthing Gale’s lines behind her back when she sees Dewey [David Arquette] for the first time—as if Angelina is so lost in her role as Gale that she can read Gale’s mind and know what Gale is going to say. I was curious to see if Scream fans were as nerdy as I’d hoped they would be. Would they catch all of this? Why else would anyone, especially someone as smart as Angelina, follow Gale around and into the situations that Gale throws herself into? People in horror movies are so stupid! Just leave! [Editor’s note: Posey’s character was named Jennifer Jolie.]

BEST IN SHOW was initially called Dogland. When I got offered the part, it really did seem as if people had stopped having children and started having dogs. Michael Hitchcock, who played my husband, and I had lunch one day with Chris [Guest], and he asked, “What if you two had braces?” I had just gone through a bad root canal and an ensuing Vicodin withdrawal, and I thought braces could be fun. The retainer Michael wore made him lisp, which worked for him, but I thought if we both lisped it would seem strange. There was so much backstory that didn’t make it into the movie. My character was a pill popper and a pot smoker, which was really fun to play. She was a Banana Republic–wearing businesswoman who’d lost herself by identifying way too intensely with her dog—she and her husband just bark at each other all the time. A lot of stuff gets cut in those types of movies, and afterward all the actors are really depressed and upset. I remember Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, and Catherine O’Hara were always harmonizing with each other on set. When we were all working together in the auditorium, there was a lot of singing. That’s probably where A Mighty Wind, Chris’ next movie, came from.

BROKEN ENGLISH was written and directed by Zoe Cassavetes, and we became friends during it. I was working on Boston Legal in LA when the financing suddenly came through. Zoe flew to meet me and we hung out for 11 hours, talking about my character Nora—who she is and what she is going through. I was staying at the Chateau Marmont and I remember sitting on the couch in my room with my hands on both scripts, completely overwhelmed, trying to soak the material into my system through a self-created osmosis. I shot the very first scene of the movie with Zoe’s mom, Gena Rowlands. I tell her how unlovable I feel, or something to that extent. After the movie came out, a lot of young women came up to me and said that it was their story: they drink a bottle of wine each night, take yoga or at least try to, and open themselves up to the depressing dating scene in New York.

There is a movie coming out with me and the wrestler Triple H called Inside Out. It’s my second movie with him. There’s a whole story about that one, too, but I don’t have time to tell it. Let’s just say his arm is the size of my thigh and he plays the love of my life.