The Sunday Conversation: Kim Cattrall
Kim Cattrall, 54, plays a former porn star who’s the object of a misfit teenager’s adoration in “Meet Monica Velour,” writer-director Keith Bearden’s first feature-length film, which opened Friday.
Your character Monica Velour — you’re certainly not a former porn star, but you do know what it’s like to be a 50-ish performer with a sex-bomb persona.
I think there’s a difference between sexy and being sexualized, and I think that for me as an actor, I know the difference, but I think the images from the work that you portray, whether it’s “Sex and the City” or other films I’ve done in the past — teen comedies, “Mannequin,” “Big Trouble in Little China” — those things sit in people’s minds as who you are. The career that I’m having post-"Sex and the City” has been about making different kinds of choices. I’m talking about “Ghost Writer,” “My Boy Jack,” “Any Human Heart,” the plays I’ve been doing in England, my objective was to take different kinds of roles, not just sexualized ones. And when this script came to me, I thought, “Am I going back on that track again?” And I read it, and it was so well written, and I thought this is not just a woman who’s been marginalized. She’s an outcast, and she’s a misfit.
I didn’t know whether I could do it, because to be that stripped of makeup, clothes, shoes, in Hollywood, you have to be beautiful; you have to be desirable. And that’s why so many woman of my age or even younger are pushed to Botox and plastic surgery, all the things that people say, “Why do women do this?"Where do you go in your 50s in your career?
And that’s been the question for me, and that’s why I’ve been so gratified by going outside of the system with public television and theater and these kinds of movies and European films, where there is a place for women in their 50s. These are wonderful roles, well developed and multidimensional that are exciting to play, much more exciting than these leading lady roles that I got in my teens and 20s and early 30s.
I noticed that your forehead did wrinkle.
Can you imagine? We make fun of those things, and they’re in the culture now. It’s like if you’re not using Botox, it’s like, “Really, you should do it.”
But there’s a scene where there are lights shining on your face that are so bright, they’d make a baby look like it had wrinkles. I thought that was pretty brave.
I look at people like Judi Dench, who’s in her 70s, and I think, “What the hell am I frightened of? This is a trailer park [where her character lives]. There’s no beautiful lighting.” The other chance I was taking is I didn’t have a Roman Polanski behind the camera. I had a first-timer, incredibly bright, an online journalist [who writes] about film. I met [Keith Bearden] and I said, “Why did you write this postfeminist film?” And he said because these are the stories I want to tell. The girl that he ends up with is not a cute little sweetiepie next door; it’s a zaftig Asian girl. I thought, “Wow, this guy is making American movies like movies of the ‘70s that I grew up with where I saw real people.” And gaining the weight was so liberating, because I could just be. I could eat what I wanted and I didn’t have to work out.
Going back to your comments about actresses over 50, it does seem that a lot of the older actresses with the best careers actually haven’t gone under the knife, like Judi Dench, whom you mentioned, or Helen Mirren.
Or Annette Bening in “The Kids Are Alright.” It’s interesting — these are the same producers, so they like women. You know, I think it’s every woman’s choice, not just every actor’s. And I have no judgment about it. It’s your body, your life. Do what you want to do.
I just did “Private Lives” last spring, and my leading man was 35, Matthew MacFayden. And everyone was saying, “This is not going to work because she could have had him,” just like the line from “Monica Velour.” And there is no age difference on that stage. He looked older, I looked younger. We just played the scene. I don’t care what people think. There were people at the screenings who are like, “Oh, gosh, whoa, the way you looked.” And they’re in the beauty business and the fashion business and I completely understand it, but in my life and career I want to embrace aging because I think that’s what’s interesting. I think a forehead without any lines doesn’t tell me they’ve lived a life. They’re trying to hang on, and I want to let go.
Your relationship with the young man in the film, Dustin Ingram, was an example of something you’ve talked about, which you call “the Rita Hayworth syndrome,” where the guy falls in love with the performer’s character.
Yes, of course. It’s really being fantasized about in that way — the tagline is “Where fantasy meets reality.” But what’s extraordinary in the film, which I think Keith captures, is she comes onstage and he sees her and he doesn’t see her any differently than the videos that he’s watched since he was old enough to think about his own sexuality. He doesn’t see a woman in her 50s. He doesn’t see her [rear] starting to sag or her stomach protruding. And what you see is just this image, which I think a lot of men and women see in movie stars. Sometimes I have conversations with people, and I know the stare now. They’re not really present; all these images are flashing in their head.
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