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The actor: Parker Posey excels at playing prickly, condescending snobs as well as free-spirited ingénues. She made her name in the ’90s in a series of cult-hit independent movies like Dazed And Confused, The Daytrippers, Clockwatchers, and Party Girl, then went on to more memorable roles, including making regular appearances in the mostly improvised Christopher Guest movies. On Aug. 22, she starts a four-episode stint on the Showtime comedy series The Big C, playing a new friend for the teenage son of Laura Linney’s character.
The Big C (2011)—“Poppy”
The A.V. Club: What’s the name of your character and what’s the role?
Parker Posey: Do you have the name? I forgot her name. I just got in from Canada. I just drove a 12-hour drive that should have been 10 hours. So I’m kind of like, rolling around. I’m trying to stretch my back out. I’m gonna say Darlene. [Laughs.] I play a woman with a little bit of arrested development, someone who has someone in her family that is sick, and I meet Gabriel [Basso]’s character in an online chat room for kids with cancer. I still see myself as a kid, I have intimacy issues, which explains why I befriend, a 15-year-old. We have a lot in common. There’s a lot of laughter, a lot of silliness, and it was a good time.
AVC: Any weirdness with playing the girlfriend of a teenager?
PP: No. No, I’m not his girlfriend.
AVC: Then was there any weirdness in the dynamic, or when you read the role, did you think she was a little oddball?
PP: I really didn’t want her to be too weird. I was begging, I’m like, “Please don’t make her too weird.” But I think weird is fine. I think there’s room for some. You know, it’s a half-hour comedy about cancer. There are all sorts of personalities and complexes that these characters have in that show to make them funny and tragic and worthy of the big personality of television. You kind of have to stick out when you’re on TV.
AVC: What is it about the character that spoke to you when you read the script?
PP: Well, I ran into Laura Linney on the street, and my mom’s friends had just been in town and they were just talking about her show. And I said, “You know, my mom’s friends really, they love your show.” And she said, “You should come on and do it.” And that’s how it started. I was pitched the part from the creator, Jenny Bicks, on the phone, so I never read anything. The idea was really interesting to me. There’s certainly a lot of people out there who have family and friends who have cancer.
AVC: The prospect of working with Laura Linney couldn’t have hurt either, right?
PP: Oh my God, I know. Well you see, 20 years ago, one of my very first jobs was with Laura in a PBS show called Tales Of The City that was a six-part show based on Armistead Maupin’s Tales Of The City. Then Showtime picked up the second book, More Tales Of The City. So I worked with her a day on that in Montreal. It was really a long time ago. And I’ve worked with John Benjamin Hickey [who plays Linney’s brother on The Big C] in The Anniversary Party. He played my husband. I’ve never had the honor of working with Oliver Platt [who plays Linney’s husband], but I’ve certainly seen him around. So they’ve got a bunch of great actors. So it felt really good just to get up and go to work not too far from New York where I live. So I really, really enjoyed that.
Tales Of The City (1993)—“Connie Bradshaw”
PP: I played Connie Bradshaw, Mary Ann Singleton’s friend from her hometown, and I believe the only person that she knew in San Francisco when she moved there. I played a young woman who was sleeping around, had a big heart, turned to some bad relationship with a real player, right? And you know, she danced a lot. I remember shooting a disco scene and when I saw Laura, she said, “Do you still have that shirt?” And I do still have it. I have this great, long-sleeved shirt with a horse printed on it. That kind of influenced me for dressing the part on The Big C, where I’m kind of the female version of John Hickey: counter-culture, baggy, bell-bottom jeans, flannel shirt, grubby, drives a Dodge Dart—you know, kind of stuck in the past, or born at the wrong time.
AVC: Tales Of The City was pretty risqué for public television. Was there a feeling around the set of, “Hey, we’re doing something new and revolutionary”?
PP: I know! That was a big deal. Yeah, I remember that. Yeah, you know, there was [that feeling], but to me it felt like an independent movie that was going to be shown on TV. There was a lot of excitement about it because the books are so loved. Armistead was around all the time. We had a great director, Alastair Reid, that was such a sweetheart and so fun. There was just a lot of laughing. We had a really good time. And then there was a big letdown when they didn’t get the second part [filmed], and then there’s also a third part. Eventually, Connie has a daughter and dies [during childbirth], and she gives her daughter to Mary Anne, and her dying words are, “Name her Shawna.” And she leaves us. I’m still looking forward to playing that, although I don’t think it’s going to get produced. But it was such a great serial. Have you read Armistead Maupin? He has a really good book on tape called The Night Listener that’s kind of autobiographical that he reads. I remember listening to it on an airplane and really enjoying it. Working in San Francisco is the best. I love San Francisco. It’s one of my favorite cities. I just had so much fun.
More Tales Of The City (1998)—“Connie Bradshaw”
AVC: What was the difference when you came back to do the sequel for Showtime a few years later?
PP: The big difference was we were in Montreal. That was the really big difference, and going like, “Why Montreal?” Oh, you can’t afford San Francisco. San Francisco’s such a character. So it’s a shame that we couldn’t shoot there. Maybe they did some exteriors there. I only worked a day. And I think Armistead wrote, I think he might have written me into that. I can’t remember what I played. I think it was something like a new-ager, something at a flotation tank or some kind of new age spa.
Clockwatchers (1997)—“Margaret Burre”
PP: That’s a good little movie. You know what’s really good in that movie? The music was really good. I mean, the cinematography was really good. The movie’s by two sisters named Jill and Karen Sprecher. I remember really loving my part in that. There’s this woman in the workplace named Margaret who hates her job. She thinks any job in an office is not the way to live. She thinks she’s invisible. She carves into her desk, you know, “Margaret was here.” There’s a big scandal because someone was taking money from the tip jars. It’s nothing, but it’s a big drama in the office. And because Margaret’s really loud, people start to turn on her and she gets taken away from the premises. I remember having to shoot this scene where I get carried away, and I was so mad—I wasn’t mad, I was upset, because the camera was literally on the floor. And what I didn’t know was that I was really already in it, and feeling like this huge injustice that I was losing my job. I was walking around going like, “I can’t believe the camera’s on the floor” and I’m about to be taken out of here by the police. You do these little movies that are 20 days, you know, they go so fast and you’re so in it. There’s no time to even go to the craft-service table to eat a carrot stick. It’s just fast and focused.
AVC: Were you upset that the movie was ending and trying to use it to get into your character?
PP: No! No! I was upset because I think I was just kind of taken with the part. Margaret wasn’t seen, then I wasn’t seen, and it just kind of all bled together. The camera department became the corporate system that she was so mad at. I remember this one scene, I have a roommate that works for an airline, that I never see. When the Toni Collette character comes over, I offer her something to drink and it’s like a tray of airplane food, and airplane liquor bottles. [It was] a lonely, kind of trickster part. And then I wore my roommate’s flight jacket to work, her stewardess outfit. I was doing all these provocative things. Like, Margaret would steal from the restaurant. I think she stole a bunch of matches or something, like lemon drops, saying this thing, “Well, they take from me, why can I not take from them?” Just this real counter-culture rebel.
AVC: Do you have an affinity for those kind of parts? A lot of your early career was these kind of independent movies.
PP: Well, I think that’s because that’s what was around. I don’t know. I feel like it was also around a time where they could write things for me. Like, people could write a part and then I would do it, you know? Like The Daytrippers or Party Girl was written for me. But I don’t know if Jill and Karen had it in mind when they wrote Margaret for me to play. But also, you know, you couldn’t get someone that demanded a salary. Directors couldn’t go to an agency like CAA and get Winona Ryder for their little million-dollar movie. But they could come to me and my agent, and go, “Is she doing anything, will she work for free?” And I’d say yeah. It’s great. And that’s it. It’s nothing deeper than that. Of course, it’s all changed now.
Party Girl (1995)—“Mary”
AVC: But you said the part in Party Girl, for instance, was written for you.
PP: No, it wasn’t. No. But I remember when they did press for that, people wanted to know, because they thought that it was written for me, right? And then I started making stuff up. Like I said, “Yeah, I was discovered at the makeup counter at Barney’s.” And that’s why. It was a total lie.
AVC: Do you ever read those clips again and just laugh at them?
PP: No! No, but I can tell you, it makes me laugh when you say you’re going to go through my résumé and talk about my movies, because I’ve lied on my résumé and I’ve made up names of movies, I’ve made up certain things about myself. Because it’s just, you know, whatever. I shouldn’t be taken that seriously.
AVC: What are some of the fun things you’ve made up?
PP: I don’t remember. But I know that when I hear them back, I’ll be like, “Oh, I was really bored.”
AVC: This was back in the ’90s, earlier in your career. Do you still do it now?
PP: [Laughs.] I don’t. I think that was early on, when I was doing a lot of press. Because you just get silly and it’s that horrible thing where you’re joking but the other person doesn’t think you’re joking, and there’s no time to clear it up.
Waiting For Guffman (1996)—“Libby Mae Brown”
AVC: Did Christopher Guest know you from your other projects? When did he come and say, “Hey, we want you to come in and do this part”?
PP: I was a dwarf extra on a movie called the Coneheads that Lorne Michaels produced with Dan Aykroyd and Chris Farley and David Spade. That was my first paycheck that was… [Starts shrieking and laughing.] [To someone off the phone.] Can you get me a towel? A spider just crawled on my back. [Back on the phone.] Hello? I’m so sorry! [Laughs.] Um, it was a really gnarly spider. It just scared the shit out of me!
So I guess a year goes by, and I happen to be in L.A., auditioning for a recurring part on Murphy Brown. This is when they would fly me in to audition for things, when TV was still in its narrative form. So I was in L.A. for a week and that’s when I met Chris Guest. Karen Murphy, his producer, had called Lorne Michaels and asked him if he knew anyone who could play 18 and improvise, and Lorne Michaels recommended me. So I went in and I met him, and we hung out for a half an hour. I’m from the South. I couldn’t wait to play that part, and already had so much to give to it. And I just couldn’t wait.
AVC: Was the improvisation something you’d done before?
PP: I hated rehearsing in college. No one wanted to rehearse with me, because I would say, “You’re killing it.” I never wanted to overdo things or even rehearse because it always embarrassed me. I’m not that good at it. I’m not good at auditions either. I’m uncomfortable just being there on set. So no, I hadn’t done it. The first day, I was in the van and I was holding my knees up to my chest and my back was killing me, and Eugene [Levy] said, “That’s from holding in laughter.” Then I went to my room and drew a bath. I took a bath and I cried my eyes out. And I felt like I had been thrown into water that I just didn’t know. It’s not like, “Oh I’m gonna come up with something and say something funny,” for me at least. I think all the actors in that had various ways of improvising. It was really like, find your character and just be in the moment, and it was crazy. Chris would say, “You guys should come watch dailies,” and I said, “No, I really don’t want to.” He’s like, “Come on! What else are you going to do?”
So we watched them, and I couldn’t believe that it was all funny. It was really, really funny. And, you know, you would just talk until the mag rolls out. Everything everyone said, when they weren’t trying to be funny, was funny. It was so strange. I have so many memories from that, like Fred Willard sitting in one of those fold-up aluminum chairs in Lockhart, Texas, smoking a cigar and looking out into the little town. It leaves my mind reeling. I’d take a nap every day at lunch. I’d get so tired, right? But it was so much fun. By the time it was over, I was so sad. I think I felt like I would never see [Guest’s character] Corky again. It was like I lost that world.
Best In Show (2000)—“Meg Swan”
AVC: When he got you back together for Best In Show, did it feel kind of like...
PP: Different world! Different world. That’s dogs, you know? It’s so strange to me, because when I got back to New York [after Guffman], I went to the Joyce Theater and I saw Corky. I saw a gay man that had the same haircut, the same little earring, and I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Oh my God, there’s Corky.” But Best In Show was totally, totally different. Totally different. I thought Guffman was, because we’d all rehearse and make up silly dances on Monday, on our day off. And oh my God, Chris cut himself out of those movies. That’s the sad thing. He had to edit it, and he was just like, “Ugh, enough.”
AVC: He’d rather show everybody else over himself?
PP: He just got bored. I think he was bored with himself. It’s just really hard to cut, because you have to cut for jokes. And it’s so funny, because, you leave those movies and everyone’s upset. All the actors are like, “Aw, Chris cut that scene,” and they’re really funny. These movies are really funny.
AVC: Which scene that got cut were you most unhappy to see go?
PP: It’s not from me. Do you want to get Fred Willard going? You can just [ask], “Fred, what did Chris cut of you in Best In Show?” But I don’t remember, honestly, I know he doesn’t like anything that gets too mean. Like where the joke is at the expense of someone else.
AVC: And Meg was a kind of prickly, mean character.
PP: Yes, she was. You know, there was a lot of pill-taking and pot-smoking and alcohol with Meg that is not in the movie at all. There were interviews with me and [Michael Hitchcock’s character] Hamilton where I’m taking pills. I smoked, took a puff of the pipe before work, and Hamilton’s like, “Meg, what are you doing?” And she’s like, “What does it look like I’m doing?” He goes, “Do you know what time it is?” And I was just like, “Yes... [Laughs.] It’s like, 7:00.” But there’s other stuff too that was really funny that he cut. Like the dog pooped in [Hamilton’s] slippers, and I’m shouting at my maid. With stuff like that, you’re going, “Oh, why did he cut that?” It just didn’t move the movie along. Fred Willard worked three hours on that. He came in and left. He worked for two days. Isn’t that amazing? And he’s like, the last act of that film. The movie wouldn’t work without him.
AVC: So how was it working with the dogs in that kind of improvisational environment?
PP: I felt like it didn’t really matter, the dog, with Meg. She’s really just talking about herself. So that was something that my husband did. So I wasn’t at the training classes at all with him. We shot together, Michael Hitchcock and I. We had a pointer initially, so we shopped at J. Crew, but then the dog changed to a weimaraner, so we started shopping at Banana Republic. So there was a poodle, the standard poodle—Jane [Lynch] and Jennifer [Coolidge’s characters’] dog got fired because she was misbehaving. So there’s somewhere on tape that has auditions for the poodles that day. It was really funny. In the lobby of the Sheraton. So there’s a scene where we’re grooming PJ—that was her real name, I don’t remember her name, I think it was Bea in the movie. Chris would say, “You know, let’s get the groomer over here, the owner, to come give another little talk, just to refresh how you position the dog on the table, and how you hold its neck and tail and all of that before they’re going to go out and show.” And as we’re just about to start to roll, she came up, she started critiquing the dog’s coat and said the dog would never win the competition, we’d never even be able to compete, that the coat was not perfect. And we’re like, “Well, we weren’t asking for a critique of the dog. We’re just, ‘How do you hold your scissors?’” So it was a really intense scene, and really, really funny and charming. There’s a really funny documentary on PBS about cat competitions and it’s really, really good. You see how different cat people are from dog people.
AVC: What was the difference?
PP: Longer hair. You know, cat earrings. I don’t know. Just more homey. Just a little witchier.
Parks And Recreation (2011)—“Lindsay Carlisle Shay”
AVC: The character you played on Parks And Rec seemed to have that same prickly personality. You seem to play that a lot: snooty, prickly, kind of condescending.
PP: Yeah, society lady. I think because I can look like that, do you know what I mean? And yeah, I get cast as funny, bitchy people. I like them. I think they’re funny.
AVC: Do you have any trepidation when you come in as a guest on an already established show?
PP: I was so happy to land in Parks And Rec. I don’t remember what I was doing. But yeah, what is this world? What’s the town? What’s the vibe? And I’d worked with Amy [Poehler] before, and I just love her. She’s so silly. I love that silly sense of humor. Absurd. And it’s kind of crazy; you shoot in a week. Those people go home at like, 5 o’clock. We shot in the Valley. It was 120 degrees. It was so hot. And Nicole Holofcener directed it. But it’s weird. It’s a different world. Like, the walls could move if they weren’t screwed in enough.
The Return Of Jezebel James (2008)—“Sarah Tompkins”
AVC: Amy Sherman-Palladino was coming off Gilmore Girls at the time, so Jezebel James got a lot of attention. Were you aware of all the attention the show was getting? And had you been a fan of Amy’s work before?
PP: No. I read the pilot and thought it was interesting, and that the writing was really good. We shot it in New York and Amy didn’t like office scenes that had editing in them. So one day out of the week, we would shoot a Steadicam shot. On Wednesday, we’d have a film day, and then on Friday, we’d do it live, and it was a 60-page script a week. It was so hard. I would have these fantasies of words coming out of my tear ducts, or my ears. She was a stickler, too. It was like, “Don’t say ‘and,’ say ‘but.’” So it’s hard to do a seven-page scene and keep it fresh every time. So on Friday night at 1 o’clock, it was really, really hard. I don’t really like to repeat myself, because then it kind of loses the life of it. But TV can be very—you know, it’s so much a writer’s medium. It can just be all about the words. Some TV, it gets to be like that, where every word you say has been approved by the network.
AVC: Because her dialogue is very dense and rapid, how did you prepare?
PP: I had a reader. I had someone that would follow me around with my lines. [I read] every time I could have a little time off. But it was hard, because there’s only a few options when you play someone that talks that fast. And it’s neurotic and crazy, and someone that’s really ahead of themselves. They’re not really thinking when they speak.
AVC: How was it shooting in front of a studio audience?
PP: I did it on Will & Grace a little bit. It’s kind of like, “Why are you guys sitting there?” You know? It’s a little in-between.
AVC: Did you feel when you were onstage with the audience that the timing was off? Or did it feel right when you were filming it?
PP: I think it’s something that people get used to when it’s a half-hour studio audience, the timing of the jokes, so that rhythmic “Someone says this, someone says that, and then you have the punchline.” So anything more in that format, people just aren’t used to. But I wasn’t really thinking about that. I wasn’t thinking about that when I was doing it. It was just a lot of dialogue. It felt like I was at boot camp.
AVC: So there’s obviously not a lot of room for improvisation there.
PP: I kept thinking she should write period plays from the ’40s, you know? There’s something about her jargon that’s very screwball. She’s got a real talent for it. I don’t read anything or follow up on whether it was a success or not. I just kinda take the jobs when they come and see how they turn out. But I’m glad I went through it. I’m glad I had that experience. It was probably one of my most difficult ones.
A Mighty Wind (2003)—“Sissy Knox”
PP: I think Eugene Levy’s work in that is so brilliant. He’s so good in that movie. So committed as a damaged guy, you know? I think what I took away from that was traveling and going on tour, and watching Catherine [O’Hara] and Eugene every night sing to each other. There’s a punk club in Washington, D.C., I think it begins with an S. I don’t remember. Well, we played there, and there were bands in the audience who knew those songs by heart. Watching Catherine and Eugene every night sing those love songs to each other was amazing. So moving.
AVC: How was the tour experience?
PP: I think we did seven or eight cities, maybe. I remember we went to Canada. We were in San Francisco, we did Town Hall, that was really amazing. Because there was a lot of singers in the group that just loved to harmonize. Like Jane Lynch and John Michael Higgins and Catherine O’Hara, those three especially: When we were in the arena for Best In Show with the dog competitions, they were always harmonizing. People would just stand in groups and just be singing during breaks. I think that’s why Chris got that idea. He’s like “Oh wow, we should do something about music.”
AVC: How confident were you in your singing for the movie?
PP: I can carry a tune, but I am not a harmonizer. But I loved her. The Main Street Singer, it’s like they just found God. Everybody’s laughing all the time. I remember we did this exercise, I don’t know if it made it into the movie, but we would all stand in a circle and sing a song of the colors of the rainbow that Jane and Higgins made up. It was, [Singing up the scale] “Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet!” But we’d have our hands just inches away from each other’s crotch. [Laughs.] And that was the exercise we did. And that was part of our vocal warm-up.
AVC: The crotch part?
PP: Yeah, it’s just the vibrations. [Laughs.] It’s so silly. I loved how competitive Higgins and Jane were. They were really into practicing. Fred Willard had a moment that that didn’t make it into the song that I thought was so funny, where he had a bottle of Vermont’s Own Maple Syrup, in those little moonshine jars. You know those jugs that maple syrup comes in? And he’s holding up a shot glass and holding up that maple syrup, and he says, “I don’t drink and I don’t smoke, but every now and then, I just pour myself a shot of some of this stuff!” And he pours himself a shot of maple syrup and drinks it. [Laughs.]
AVC: It does seem like Fred Willard was the life of the set in those movies.
PP: It just doesn’t stop. And he’d be like, “One more Chris. One more.” Chris would be like, “I think that’s fine. I think we got it.” [Laughs.] The big thing on set is that it’s very real. He’ll come up and he would say, “This could really happen. This isn’t too far from the truth. This is it. This isn’t really funny. This is how people are.” I get so many comments about, [how] people really relate to those characters, because they really see people who are really like that.
AVC: When you come off those movies and then you go back to doing scripted stuff like The Big C, is there an adjustment there?
PP: Yeah. There’s so much trust that you’re given as an actor. There’s so much freedom. When you go into something that’s scripted, especially in movies, sometimes there’s just more pressure and there’s an energy around it: “Will we be a success?” or, “We only have this amount of time to do it,” or whatever the pressures are, that never make their way into a Christopher Guest movie. Because it’s like the cameras aren’t even there. The main focus is what’s going to happen in front of camera, and it’s just kind of seamless. That’s what you strive for when you go on set. I think those movies are so special because of all of the people involved. It’s a huge group, but I feel like I’m still getting over the privilege to work like that. When you think about just the amount of faith and trust that Chris gives in everyone… Chris told me, “I had no idea Jennifer Coolidge was going to open her mouth and talk like that. I had no idea.” Isn’t that amazing? When you go into a situation in Hollywood and you have to read what’s in front of you on a piece of paper in a room full of other people, it’s hard. It’s a bummer. It can be so free to see that it could be so much more loose, and when it’s loose like that, people are free to have fun and take their time. I feel really lucky that I’m in that group.
But I got spoiled, creatively. I got really spoiled. And who knows. I don’t even know if he’s going to do another one. That’s the other thing. When I was in Canada, I ran into Catherine. And we were both talking, “I wonder if Chris is going to do another one?” Every time we see Bob Balaban, [we ask], “When’s he going to do another movie? When’s that gonna happen?” I mean, we all love each other. I love those people. I have a lot of love and respect for their intelligence and their sense of humor and their kindness. We need more of that.
As The World Turns (1991-1992)—“Tess Shelby”
AVC: A soap opera must be the opposite experience, because you’re pushing through every shooting, right?
PP: [Laughs.] They bring the kids in at the crack of dawn. We’ll be in a rehearsal hall at 6, and then around 7:30 you’re in the works. You’re in hair and makeup. I had a great time on that. That was great training. I remember sitting on a rock, or banging my foot against a rock on set, like on the lake, and it making a hollow sound. Like, “Oh, it’s not real.” Even the grass is plastic. Some of the directors were easy, kind of, “Camp it up and have fun with it,” and some of them took it really seriously. I remember when I first showed up on set, my first day, I took a nap in my dressing room and my [character’s] Aunt Barbara knocked on the door and she came in, and she was like, “Be careful what you say around here, because the walls have ears.” I thought that was so fabulously funny, especially since I was probably 21 years old. I just ran into her four or five years ago. Her name is Colleen Zenk. And she hadn’t aged a bit. She looked amazing. It was so good to see her. I remember learning lines and sitting on them. Unless [the actor] started screaming or cursing, that was what ended up on television. It was like, “That was great! Moving on.” You get two takes and you would move on, and you’re like, “What?” [Laughs.] It was just bad, like, “Wow, I’m doing really bad acting.” I was straight from drama school, so I was projecting. But I had fun.
I did Dazed And Confused during that time. They wanted to give me a three-year contract, but I just got out of drama school and I told As The World Turns that I didn’t want to be anywhere for three years after being in school, so they gave me a year and a half. After a year, when they saw that I was getting a lot of independent work, the producer, Laurence Caso, came up to me—and I’ll never forget, it was so cold in the studio. It was like a meat locker. You’d put on your wardrobe and your pantyhose and everything else, and then I’d wear two robes and just walk around shivering, and go to the green room and talk on the phone. And he came up to me and he says, “Parker, if it’s all right with you, I’d like to get Holden in a coma before Labor Day. And that would have your contract be cut short. Is that all right?” I was like, “That’s amazing Laurence. Thank you so much.” He goes, “You’ll always have a place here if you ever want to come back. Just keep in touch.” And I cried. I thought he was so sweet. [Laughs.] “Holden needs to be in a coma by Labor Day.” So funny. I got my first couch and TV, and my first apartment that I lived in for 13 years, during my soap days. Then I did all those independent movies through the ’90s.
Dazed And Confused (1993)—“Darla Marks”
PP: That movie is so popular. The Christopher Guest movies and Dazed And Confused are huge. I’m talking like, from bikers to strangers in a grocery store. That movie is so loved by so many people. This woman that I just worked with said that her autistic son who’s 11 knows every word to Dazed And Confused. I was like, “Come on set and be an extra.” So she was an extra. We had a 10-year reunion in 2004 or something. It showed at a drive-in in Austin to like, 6,000 people. We were all sitting down in the grass and people were standing up during the screening and quoting lines and singing songs to the screen, and drinking beer and smoking, and I crawled over to where Rick [Linklater] was sitting to just nudge him and say hi. He started laughing. He’s just giggling, and he goes, “I made a drive-in movie!” That’s genius. Because he did, and he didn’t know that’s what he was doing, but that’s exactly. That movie’s a drive-in movie.
AVC: And people have been quoting it, especially Matthew McConaughey’s character, for almost 20 years now.
PP: They’re still quoting me too, okay? [Laughs.]
The Daytrippers (1996)—“Jo Malone”
PP: I think The Daytrippers was a really special one, because it seems to capture what the independent film scene was like in New York in the ’90s. I had done a reading for Greg Mottola, that Campbell Scott and Liev Schreiber were in, about an MTV network. Investors came and said, “This movie’s going to be too much money. You can’t make this movie.” And Steven Soderbergh and Campbell Scott [tell Greg], “Just go and write a movie that you can shoot for a couple hundred thousand dollars.” So Greg said, “Okay, um, I’ll write something that shoots at my parents’ house, I’ll use my parents’ car, I have my apartment, I have my friend Andy’s apartment, we have Seth, we can use his apartment in Brooklyn, we can shoot in Campbell’s place.” And he pulled in all these favors. It was a 16-day shoot, 16 or 17 days. The production company was called Fiasco Productions, and the camera got stolen the first day. We brushed our own hair. We shot in film so it was like, we only had this amount of film and the sun is going down. Shooting in New York City. We were stealing shots. Anne Meara was hysterical. I just love her so much. I remember her in her bra and underwear getting dressed in Greg’s little apartment on Sullivan Street. Stanley Tucci and Hope Davis fighting in the apartment below when [her character] finds out, you know, when the end of the movie comes. It’s such a perfect movie. It took Greg almost 15 years to make another movie, which was Superbad.
After that, I remember doing, I think it was You’ve Got Mail. Meg Ryan had just read one of Greg’s scripts, and it’s a really, really good script. She didn’t know if she was going to do it or not. That was kind of when everything changed. At first, he could make movies with whoever he wanted. And then all of a sudden, the whole thing got co-opted by the studio system. So Greg moved out to Hollywood, and it took him forever just to make a movie again. And he’s so talented. It’s kinda sad. It’s kind of a bummer story, I’m sorry. But I think it’s interesting.
AVC: Is it because the independent system became less independent at that point?
PP: Yeah, it got co-opted, you know? It became something that was viable and could make even more money if it was made a certain way. So the budgets inflated, right? And once they got more money, then they became less dirty, then they became a little watered down. Less creative. But that’s a perfect little movie.