Doing It His Way – Michael Pitt

— Client: ZOO Magazine — Journalism - Celebrity Interviews

An interview with Michael Pitt is a reporter’s dream. Or nightmare. Depending on where you’re coming from. Most questions will remain unanswered. What you will get instead are moments of raw sincerity, something extraordinary among people who live in the public eye. The 25-year-old Pitt is at the point where he could or could not become a major star. So far he has been working against it. His past projects have been deliberately off-kilter. He exposed both body and soul playing a student who tests his sexual boundaries in Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers” and played a sultry glam rock performer obsessed with an East German transsexual “Hedwig and The Angry Inch”. But his best-known (and most acclaimed) role to date is his portrayal of the self-destructing rock star in Gus van Sant’s “Last Days”, a challenging cinematic meditation on fame and death loosely based on Kurt Cobain. But he also stars in the upcoming “Silk” by director Francois Girard, a romantic period piece about a young French silk merchant in love with a Chinese concubine that could be a potential blockbuster. It’s easy to imagine him as the next teen idol. As much as he probably dislikes it, Pitt is the perfect incarnation of the actor as a young rebel. Brooding, sensitive, conflicted, unpredictable and angel-faced. Talented from the gut, suspicious of fame. And stubbornly refusing to participate in any bullshit. Our interview starts with my tentative question about Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games”, the film he’s currently shooting. There’s a long silence on the other line, then an exhalation of smoke and the throaty statement: “I think this country is fucked up”. After the first fearful pang of losing control, I decide to go with the politics. So why does Michael Pitt think that America is fucked up?  “Media fucks with me because there is no real information available. I have to get on a plane to know what’s going on. I should just leave.” When I suggest that he should stay and try do fight against it, I get the weary answer: “Yeah but the problem is that when you want to do things you have to go undercover. All politicians say that they are going to change things when they get in a position to do it. And then when they get there they have become like everyone else. The whole game is rigged.” He speaks with the perspective of the underdog, the person who’s never had the luxury of losing innocence, because he has always known that life was unfair. “I’m part of the problem, not part of the solution, I’m uneducated and uninvolved, he states.  ” But he still can’t help but feeling betrayed. “I don’t think Americans are stupid, I think they’re just not given the information. You have to do so much work to get it.”  Pitt grew up in a working class environment in West Orange, New Jersey “Exotic, huh?” He landed his first acting gig at age 16 in an off-Broadway play. He had dropped out of school and says it was “the first time no one told me I was stupid.” His performance garnered great reviews and he was cast in a recurring role in the popular teen soap “Dawsons Creek”. It seems to be something he’d rather forget.  He doesn’t specifically mention the TV series, but stresses that he’s never been interested in fame and fortune. ”I was doing this play and was able to get a little apartment and buy groceries and I thought that was what I was gonna do. Then it gets more complicated, people say, well, here’s a shit-load of money, here’s what we want you to do, and, at a certain level, especially if you haven’t had money, you feel like you have no right to turn this down.” With experience, he has learned to only choose projects that he enjoys. “That’s really the only way I can do it. Because my brain gets bad if I don’t. I never come off good and personally it’s not healthy for me. I didn’t get in to this to feel like I was selling a product.” Pitt also plays guitar and writes the music for a four-member band called “Pagoda.” He performed his song “Death to Life” in Last Days, generally considered one of the film’s most touching moments. He says he has only seen the movie once, but likes the fact that Van Sant decided to steer away from literal references, such as using Nirvana for the soundtrack. “The fans were disappointed because they wanted to see their rock god, they wanted “The Doors,” but he forces you to look at the person instead. And I get the sense that a lot of people didn’t treat him [Cobain] like a human being.” Like Cobain, Pitt is currently feeling ambivalent about his craft. “Acting is weird. It kind of creeps me out. To do it right you have to really fuck with your emotions. I’m not sure it’s healthy for you.”  He feels less conflicted about his music. “Maybe that’s because I haven’t done it for that long”. But he also seems to enjoy the sense of creative control. “As an actor you’re just the vessel. It’s not your vision, it’s the director’s vision. Your job is to help the director. At the end of the day a good director can make a good film with so-so actors. You do your job and then they make it what they want.” However, Pitt concedes that the actor/musician cliché has its own baggage. “You don’t get respect. People are judgmental. So am I. I try not to be, but I am. But then again, I believe you should just do what you’re doing and do it pure. “

Slice of Life – Nick Stahl

— Client: ZOO Magazine — Journalism - Celebrity Interviews

To many of us unfamous folks, the life of a child actor seems both exotic and slightly creepy. There’s the “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” cliché of the kid who gets too much too soon and never quite manages to grow up gracefully. But in Nick Stahl’s case the opposite seems to be true. Rather than smuggling an overly entitled inner child, Stahl seems more like an old soul trapped in a young man’s body. Practically a veteran in the business (he started acting in the late ‘80s) he has managed to become something as rare as a 27 year-old character actor. Stahl excels at the brooding, mysterious types that carry around a lot of heavy baggage that slowly becomes unraveled before the audience’s eyes. He is equally convincing as a hero as a villain, bringing a sense of alienation and vulnerability to both. Besides obvious talent, Stahl also seems to possess a sort of earthy humility. Perhaps what makes him so unique is his highly pragmatic professional attitude. To Stahl, acting is work. A way to make a living. Something you do – not something you try to be. “I’ve never really considered any other career,” he says, explaining that this single-mindedness is partly a product of necessity. “When you start working and traveling as a 10-year-old kid, it leaves so little time for school. I sort had to put all my chips in and really commit to it. So it became really the only thing that I knew how to do.” Maybe it’s good to not have had time for adolescent dreams of stardom. As a teenager, Stahl was already dealing with the very real, adult issues that every freelancer faces. “For most of the time I kept working, but I also had huge dry spells. But then would I seem to get through that phase and eventually get another job.” Many of those jobs led to highly acclaimed (and deeply moving) performances like the young boy yearning for a father figure in  “The Man Without a Face,” and the teenage lover of a 30-something woman in “In The Bedroom”.  For the most part, Stahl has stuck to smaller, ensemble driven productions like “Bully” and the now defunct HBO series “Carnivale” (a hit among critics but not with mainstream audiences), but his biggest star turn yet was the part of John Connor in Terminator 3. Although his part is underwritten and the movie is essentially flat, there’s a fragility and despair to Stahl’s anti-hero that feels real. Working on such a big production was alien to him in some ways: “It was just very different for me, because I’ve never been part of something so massive before,” he says, “You do feel like you’re part of a machine. You know, you almost forget that in this hugeness, there’s a movie being made.” The blockbuster aspect was also a challenge. “It does entail some sort of pressure, that this ain’t going straight to video. People are actually going to see this, even if it’s bad or I’m bad or whatever.” However, Stahl is currently operating in more familiar territory, starring in an independent family drama called “Ferris Wheel” also featuring Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson and Dennis Hopper and directed by the Irish director Bill Maher (not to be confused with the American comedian). The plot is centered around Stahl’s character “a simple guy with a dingy, meager apartment who works on a road crew” and his 12-year-old niece who is abandoned by her mother (Theron) and left in his care. It’s a project that seems very much up his alley: “It’s just a great tale about a family. I like simple stories, that are well written and with characters that are clear.  I love those kinds of movies.  A true slice of life. I’ve always felt a certain confidence in doing those kinds of roles.”

MKO – Interview with Mary Kate Olsen

— Client: FASHION magazine — Journalism - Celebrity Interviews

It’s hard not to like Mary Kate Olsen, even when she’s 45 minutes late. I’m waiting for the child star turned fashion icon in the lobby of New York’s Bowery Hotel. It’s a setting that seems to fit her slightly enigmatic and otherworldly persona: ornate antique furniture, a roaring marble fireplace, straight out of Narnia.  When she shows up, all by her tiny self, she is deeply apologetic about her delay: “I’m so so sorry, I hate being this late!” She was doing fittings for Elizabeth and James, the contemporary fashion line she runs with her sister Ashley. There was a dress that didn’t look right. They had to get it resolved. Was I terribly bored while waiting? She seems way more sorry than she needs to be and I melt.

Much has been said about Mary-Kate’s appearance. Her creative and plentiful layering of oversized sweaters, scarves, jewelry and vintage dresses has been labeled anything from “boho chic” to “she looks like she’s homeless”. Personally, I’ve always been a fan. Today her outfit–a striking black and white knit cape jacket, a long black skirt and Robert Lee Morris silver jewelry–looks pared down and stylish. Her curly hair is lustrous, her skin glowing and the only evidence of her alleged late night habits is a slight Marlboro cough.

Though you have to wonder about that party animal reputation. For someone who’s supposedly clubbing her nights away, MK is amazingly productive. In addition to her two clothing lines and acting career, she and Ashley recently released “Influence”, a beautiful coffee table book of in-depth interviews with fashion iconoclasts from Lauren Hutton to Terry Richardson. ”Making the book was one of more interesting processes I’ve been through,” she says. “To reach out to people we admire and ask them to be part of the project is a very vulnerable position to be in.”  It’s not like they had to face rejection, however. It almost seems like fashion royalty bent over backwards to participate. For example, Karl Lagerfeld found time to schedule his tête a tête with the Olsens in Coco Chanel’s legendary rue Cambon apartment the day before a show. “That was mind-blowing, such a surreal experience,” she admits.

The sisters are also in charge of two clothing labels, the self-financed high-end collection The Row, sold in prestigious shops around the world such as 10 Corso Como and Harvey Nichols, and Elizabeth and James, their successful lower -priced line, available at places like Holt Renfrew and Bergdorf Goodman. The two lines each has its own separate identity and aesthetic. For spring, the luxe and slightly austere The Row features ….tk while the more eclectic Elizabeth and James serves up a mix of inspirations that range from  lingerie to men’s suits to hi-tech fabrics. There is no doubt that the twins are actually quite involved in the design and production process. “We have a great design team that oversees everything, but we’re there at least two or three days a week,” says Mary Kate. ”I’m very detailed oriented, so if something is the slightest bit off it really throws me.” That’s when having a like- minded partner comes in handy. “It’s kind of great that there’s two of us, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get everything done,” she says, “I usually know how Ashley’s going to respond and if I think she won’t like something I know how to change it. You learn to think like the other person.”

And then there are acting gigs such as Mary Kate’s recurring role on the acclaimed TV series Weeds and her well-received turn as Sir Ben Kingsley’s free-spirited love interest in the indie movie The Wackness. “I have some stuff lined up for 2009, which is nice,” she says, looking excited, “but it’s too early to talk about.” Taking the leap from tween princess to art-house starlet involved some soul searching. “I wouldn’t say that it was a choice to act as a child,” she says, “I mean, I knew I liked it, but I also knew there was something more to it that I hadn’t been able to experience.” Hence she decided to start over and take classes along with regular beginner actors in New York. “It changed everything. I was challenged and felt like I really found something that felt good.” It was around the same time that she became Mary Kate The Fashion Icon.  “I was finally allowed to dress the way I wanted to,” she says. She quickly established her approach to dressing, which is based on fashion as a form of storytelling. “When I get dressed I think of it as dress-up time, like the clothes are costume pieces,” she says,  “That’s why I like vintage – it has a story behind it. I’m not afraid of walking down the street in something that people think is crazy. What I can’t stand is looking like everybody else.”

Our time is up and Mary Kate checks her phone. She discovers that she has four missed calls and looks horrified. “Oh no, I’m behind schedule again,” she says, “I have to go and look at a new office space.” As she gets up she offers to leave cash for her 3-dollar cappuccino and apologizes for being late again. And then she tells me I have beautiful eyes. It’s only our first date, but I think I’m in love.

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Rose In Bloom: Interview with Rose Byrne

— Client: FASHION magazine — Journalism - Celebrity Interviews

Rose Byrne needs to enter shopping rehab. “I have so many clothes it’s ridiculous!” exclaims the beautiful 29-year-old Australian actress who stars as Glenn Close’s exceptionally well-dressed nemesis on the award-winning TV series Damages. It’s a frigid winter day in Manhattan, and Rose and I are on our way to Opening Ceremony, New York’s one-stop-shopping center for the kind of cool indie designers that Rose favors. Like her lawyer character Ellen, Rose is whip smart and articulate, and her sense of style reflects her intelligence. No frilly minis and oversized sunglasses for her—instead you’re likely to see her in clean but subtly conceptual clothes, such as the simple and slightly architectural Calvin Klein gowns she favors for the red carpet. (She’s also Francisco Costa’s actress du jour and was his date for the CFDA awards.)

Being a gorgeous and talented starlet may seem like a fantasy existence, but Rose seems intent on keeping it real. She almost manages to convince me that her life is pretty ordinary —she claims she doesn’t go to cocktail parties much—however, she’s facing a real-world problem that most of us can relate to; she’s trying to downsize her sartorial spending this year. “I only use about 30% of my clothes!” she says regretfully. So our shopping trip ends up being a very sensible exercise. Welcome to Rose Byrne’s guide to Less is More shopping:

1. Run, don’t walk!

Since New York City has a spotty public transportation system, its inhabitants spend a lot of time on foot. “Since I moved to NYC I have never shopped so much in my life, I think it’s because I’m walking around more and pass shops that are really nice,” Rose reflects, “I live near the Marc Jacobs store, which is deadly, and I try to avoid it, but occasionally I’ll get sucked in”.  She now tries to walk by briskly, which is also good exercise.

1. Unplug your computer.

So what do actresses when they’re slow at work? Same thing you do, they look up their favorite online stores. “In between takes I’ll start trawling through the Internet,” confesses Rose, “It’s dreadful! And it’s only gotten worse since Topshop went online. That’s my staple, I have Top Shop clothes that I’ve worn for 10 years.” Another temptation is the sales section of Net A Porter , which Rose seems to be able to recite by heart:  “Black Dries van Noten blazer, amazing, used to be $1200 and now it’s reduced to $300, which is a total f-ing bargain!” Luckily, she only has one more week before Damages wraps, which means a lot less down time in the trailer.

1. Know your style.

As we walk around Opening Ceremony, Rose patiently goes through every rack while squealing “Mmm!” and “Cute!” appreciatively at whimsical Tsumori Chisati dresses and Vivienne Westwood rubber shoes. But it’s the sleeker garments with interesting details, such as a black fine-spun knit sweater with white dress shirt sleeves from Hiromi Tsuyoshi, that really attracts her. “I’ve been wearing a lot of black lately, black turtle necks and black fitted dresses. You can’t go wrong with that,” she says wisely.

1. Wait for the sales.

“I love Chloe,” says Rose, “But it’s really expensive.” However, she will splurge if there’s a sale. Case in point: the gorgeous wedge shoes with lots of strappy buckles that she’s wearing. “I bought them on sale at Barneys two years ago. They were reduced from $600 to $200,” she recalls. “Finding bargains definitely helps me justify my purchases.” In fact, she avoids things that are seriously pricey. She decides to try on a black short-sleeved shift dress with broken glass beading by Marios Schwab, but insists that the 50% price reduction is the deciding factor. “I would never look at it for $3000 [the original price],” she says.

5.Try it on, then walk away.

Rose picks out two items to try on, the aforementioned Marios Schwab dress and a sequined top with a cape detail by Kate Moss for Top Shop. The dress has a slightly awkward cut and is passed over. The top however, she’s clearly smitten with. “I think it’s so pretty, I’m just worried I won’t wear it,” she frets. Instead of making a rash decision she decides to mull it over. “If I really want something I’ll think about it for the rest of the day and then I’ll come back later,” she says.

6. Beg for freebies (this may not apply to non-starlets).

Rose is very involved in the wardrobe choices for her Damages character. “We’re in a real dialogue. If don’t like something I’ll tell them straight away,” she says. She cites her character’s wardrobe, (which looks better suited for the Condé Nast building than City Hall) as a fashion inspiration in real life. “This season she has a real armor about her, she wears beautiful Bottega Veneta, Narciso Rodriguez and Givenchy dresses, she’s very sophisticated and all about not being vulnerable and I love that,” she says. It’s not surprising then that she works hard on the wardrobe people to give her the costumes. “I beg them and they say no. And then I beg some more and they say no. And then I beg some more and they say yes,” she laughs.

1. And if all else fails, be generous.

If, in spite of all your attempted restraint, you still end up with superfluous clothing, there’s a great way to make it useful again.  “I usually give things away to my girlfriends or people at work,” says Rose. “All my friends have my hand-me-downs so when I see them and they’re usually wearing something of mine.” She even posts garments to her friends in London and Australia, where she’s from. “It’s the least I can do. Everyone’s so broke and it’s always nice getting a little package in the mail,” she says. Sounds like the ultimate-less-is more solution.

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Absolutely Ashley – Ashley Olsen interview

— Client: FASHION MAGAZINE — Journalism - Celebrity Interviews

Ashley Olsen is two minutes older than her fraternal twin Mary Kate and in many ways, Ashley seems like the archetype of a big sister. She’s thoughtful, independent and nurturing. She talks about her companies like they’re babies. She worries about other people’s feelings. When we first meet at the cozy café Cluny in the West Village, close to Ashley’s home turf she apologizes about being late (8 minutes) and for being so difficult to track down (she rescheduled once).  Later in the interview she tells me that she avoids selling The Row to downtown stores because she might open her own shop there one day. No, she’s not afraid of competition, she’s afraid of offending the other retailers. “I’m someone who definitely doesn’t like confrontation at all,” she says.

For someone so sensitive and considerate, it must be excruciating to not be treated with courtesy in return. It’s well known that Ashley is more wary of the spotlight than her sister, who has continued to pursue acting and parties. The reason for Ashley’s withdrawal, she says, is that she can’t stand being hounded by paparazzi. “When you have an aggressive man approach you with a lens close up in your face, you never really get used to it,” she says. Her solution is to keep an extremely low profile. “If I would be constantly bothered by cameras I’d have a complete meltdown. I’d rather not be in that situation,” she says. “What I do is just go to work and hardly ever go out and I’m much happier that way.”

So does all work and no play make Ashley a dull girl? Apparently not. She radiates pride when talking about her fashion endeavors. Ashley and Mary Kate are the founders and creative directors of the unfailingly on-trend contemporary fashion lines Elizabeth and James, Olsenboye and the new vintage inspired denim division TEXTILE, which will be carried exclusively in Canada by Holt Renfrew this fall. But the project that seems closest to her heart is The Row, the acclaimed fashion collection of luxury basics that Ashley and Mary Kate built from scratch.

“It started with two pieces of clothing that I made for me and my friends,” she says. “I showed them to Maxfields in Los Angeles and they asked me to expand on the concept. So we did!”

That meant learning the fashion industry from the inside out. Ashley researched material and manufacturing and went to Paris with Mary Kate twice a year to sell the collection herself.

“It was a real ground-up experience,” she says. “We wanted to tackle this new industry and do it by ourselves. It was purely just my sister and I, taking an idea and expanding on it and bringing it to life.” The elegant, subtly avant-garde and slightly austere collection is so sophisticated that it’s hard to believe that it’s conceived by two 24-year-olds. But then, they’re about 45 in fashion years.

“We’ve always been involved in fashion,” says Ashley. From a very young age the girls were actively involved in picking their costumes and promotional outfits.  “We would try on hundreds of outfits every week. We would have adult designer clothes altered and fitted to us.” Some memorable looks? “I was always baggier and my sister wore really tight things. Mary Kate liked her biker shorts with fringe, I would wear shoes and pants that were three sizes too big!”

After a period of fitted and minimal outfits, Ashley seems to have gone back to her love of volume. The day we meet she’s wearing a light, loose-fitting cotton shirt over a long black dress with a leather jacket tied around her waist. On me, this outfit would have looked like maternity clothes, but she manages to turn it into the height of nonchalant chic.

Speaking of maternity, it’s a subject she enthusiastically endorses. “Kids are just amazing!” she exclaims. She has been happily involved with the actor Justin Bartha (from The Hangover) for two years and has lived with him for one. Although she’s not ready to make the commitment now, she envisions motherhood in her future. “I absolutely want children. I always wanted to be a mom and have a family,” she says. But for now her business seems to be the benefactor of her nurturing. She speaks about brand building with the tenderness of a parent: “At first you have to keep it small and focused and nurture it for a while until it gets to place where it’s OK standing on its own. Then you have to figure out what it needs to go the next place. Though it’s never completely out of your hands, it has a mind of its own.”

Contrary to popular belief, Mary Kate and Ashley are two very different people with different roles in their companies. While they consult each other on every decision, Ashley is the main brain behind the brand building, while Mary Kate’s creative strength is storytelling ( she often works on the narrative of a collection) I come from a very different perspective,” Ashley admits, “I think it pushes you further creatively and emotionally. It’s very interesting. And we always want the same thing in the end.” Her future visions for The Row and Elizabeth and James involves growing them into lifestyle brands with home and furniture collections, and one of her pet projects is to eventually open a flagship store for The Row in NYC.  “I would love a retail venue that would really help people see how you envision the label. I would want to create a very homey place where people could feel comfortable and know that they would be taken care of.”

As for Ashley’s own publicity-free comfort zone, she may be getting ready to step out of it soon. “If I would say that I wasn’t interested in acting ever again that would just be a lie,” she admits. “I was born and raised in the entertainment industry so it feels like a second home still. If I could work with a Woody Allen or Sofia Coppola I would definitely think about it. Talk to me in a couple of years. It will be much different I’m sure.”

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Golden Girl – Renée Zellweger shines on and off the silver screen

— Client: Zoo Magazine — Journalism - Celebrity Interviews

Being a writer at a photo shoot is not something I normally enjoy. It usually involves a lot of waiting; a lot of, “I’m sorry to bother you, but when do you think so and so will be ready for the interview?” and a lot of trips to the catering table, which is embarrassing as I am usually the only person eating. However, on an early Saturday morning in June, as I walk into a tiny hotel bedroom crammed with clothing racks, hairdryers and stylists, I am struck by the warm and friendly vibe. People say hello. They smile. They chat and laugh. Then I notice that one of the petite blond women sitting in the room is not a stylist, like I had thought, but Renée Zellweger herself—in the flesh. It’s not so much that she looks different in real life. Rather, it was her low-key manner and the relaxed attitude of those around her. It made me forget she was, well, a movie star.


Actress talks about dealing with stress. She says that as a metaphorical way to create order, she likes to do her own laundry, in a New York City laundromat.

Writer: That sounds like unusual movie star behavior.

Actress: Oh, I don’t think so.

Writer: No?

Actress: What’s “movie star behavior” anyway?

Writer: I wouldn’t know.

Actress: Me neither. It’s just living, right?

Writer: I suppose that’s true. Everybody’s people.

Actress: Exactly. [Laughs] What you call “movie star behavior” is in my translation “behavior that would render one friendless.” [Laughs again] It implies entitlement and it makes me laugh, ‘cause I think how do you become entitled when you’re lucky enough to have a job that you like?

Writer: I guess it’s because the rest of us feel so removed from all of that that you almost don’t think of movie stars as human beings…

Actress: [Laughs] It’s funny, I was walking home from the shoot yesterday and this woman stopped to say hello. And she was surprised because she said that I really looked like myself and she said ‘most of them don’t’ and it made me laugh.

Writer: Why?

Actress: Because it’s an It! [Laughs again.]”Them” would be plural for ‘it’!

Writer: I never thought of how dehumanizing that is.

Most people want to be regarded as individuals and recognized for who they are. For actors, this must be an existential dilemma. In their job, they invest their heart and soul in various fictional characters. Yet, they also have to ensure that their off-duty personality sparkles while remaining appropriately opaque.

As an actress, Zellweger has a talent for convincingly inhabiting vastly different roles. She can be earnest, conniving, funny, heartbreaking, sexy, frumpy, and pretty much whatever else is needed from a leading lady. She’s really good on the red carpet too—gracious, witty, knockout elegant.

But just like in her movie roles, the actress does not get caught up in stereotypes or genres. The off-duty Renée Zellweger seems determined to live her life in a way that can make ordinary people relate. She goes to the laundromat. She took the train to the Obama inauguration and stood huddled up in the crowd like everyone else. She is unfailingly friendly and polite. And most unusually, she listens. She absorbs what other people have to say and offers a response.

“It’s interesting because the parameters for what is considered acceptable behavior are very ambiguous now,” says Zellweger. “With the cell phone camera, you get that thing where your picture is taken but it’s not taken with you, it’s taken of you, as if you were the Statue of Liberty or something. People don’t say ‘hello,’ they just put the phone in your face and snap.”

Zellweger laughs as she speaks. She has always dealt with life’s little adversities by turning them into comedy. “I look for humor everywhere, all day, every day,” she says. “It’s a constant. It’s in my life perspective, my communication, my defense mechanisms. It’s my go-to safe place. Inappropriate moments for laughter make me laugh the most. Surgery. Biopsies. When things are going so badly that there’s nothing else to do.”

Zellweger’s sense of humor has served her well. She is not just an actress doing comedy, she is genuinely funny. Her performances are delightfully hilarious because of the humanity she brings to her parts.

In the upcoming romantic comedy, My One and Only, Zellweger plays Anne Deveraux, a bourgeois ‘50s housewife who takes her sons on a cross-country quest for a new husband. “She’s a little detached; she’s not involved with her children and she’s living a role, with unrealistic expectations for perfection,” says Zellweger. “She’s aspiring to live the American dream as one might envision it in its most idealized state as opposed to being involved and grounded in what’s true.” Through trials and tribulations and failed attempts at romance, Deveraux gradually starts to reverse her value system. “It’s a really interesting transition. She starts to involuntarily lose the things that she uses to define herself and she really discovers her own value and strength and starts to have real relationships,” says Zellweger. “And I like her, even when she’s running around in the beginning of the story, ridiculously. She’s fun. She’s naively optimistic in a silly way that actually becomes more and more important as her story progresses and it develops into something much more genuine.” It’s interesting to hear an actress give her character such an astute diagnosis of dysfunction. Do you have to understand tragedy to be funny? “I don’t know,” says Zellweger. “I think funny comes from smart. But when I’m working on a movie, I don’t think of it in terms of how people receive it, as in, ‘this is funny, this is sad.’ It’s just whatever is honest, you know.”

Finding that core of honesty in a horror film is a more complex business. Zellweger’s first scary movie, Case 39, is about a social worker who tries to intervene in a child abuse case but ends up being pulled in too deep. The movie opens this winter. “It’s scary as an actor because there’s a lot of vulnerability in the mix,” she says. “You have to have complete faith in your collaborators when you’re asked to do certain things that may not be based in reality. ‘Cause if you took them literally, you’d feel quite silly.”

Zellweger says she was drawn to the project because the script reminded her of the creepy, subtly unraveling plots of masterpieces such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining. “She’s interesting to me. I like that she seems to get her self worth from doing right by other people. It’s almost like a compulsion,” says Zellweger of her character Emily Jenkins. “I love watching her lose her surefootedness in this place of moral virtue and losing her ability to distinguish between what’s real and what’s in her mind. It’s really interesting to watch her deteriorate into the kind of person that she’s trying to protect people from.”

The movie was directed by German director Christian Alvart and shot in Canada three years ago. “It was exhausting. But it was what I needed. I needed to go to Vancouver and work in the rain with a very demanding young director who’s inspired and on fire. We worked really long days sometimes without stopping to go to the bathroom. I’ve never before worked with someone who moved the camera so quickly, it was very impressive,” says Zellweger. “One time we did 62 setups in a day, which is unheard of. And I have very, very fond memories of it.”

As hardworking and as down to earth she seems to be, there was one time when Zellweger refused to come out of her trailer. It was the night of November 4, 2008—the U.S. presidential election. Zellweger and many of the crew who were filming the upcoming My Own Love Song were glued in front of the television news. They didn’t stop watching until John McCain gave his concession speech and Barack Obama addressed ecstatic crowds in Chicago.

“I write checks and I watch the news and I suffer hives pretty regularly, but, I don’t know, I don’t talk about it,” says Zellweger of her political fervor. “I think it’s easy to damage the thing you intend to help unless you are responsible in how you approach something, and I believe you have to do work to substantiate your opinions before you push them on to the public.” Zellweger is an avid reader and is more knowledgeable about foreign affairs and recent political history than most of her fellow Americans. That may be one reason why she remains so connected to the real world.


Actress is talking about the stunning photo and reportage book, Intended Consequences: Rwandan Children Born of Rape, by photo journalist Jonathan Torgovnik.

Actress: I recently read a book by this guy who went to Rwanda to photograph the sons and daughters of rape victims from the 1994 massacre. It’s about how the mothers have managed to find love for their children and what a struggle it is that they’re the product of both Hutu and Tutsi parents. They have both their features and they’re recognized as mixed race. It was a real smack to think about how rape in that war was a process, a war tool, and how these women were repeatedly gang raped and sometimes taken from place to place and abused over and over again. The atrocities are too many to mention and it’s silly to try to pretend that you can properly empathize from your apartment in NYC, but it moved me profoundly. And you start to think ‘I never had a bad day! I never had a bad day, ever!’

Writer: That’s why it’s important to keep your eyes open to the world…

Actress: Anyway, this is not the happy photo shoot at the beautiful Standard Hotel, is it?

Writer: No it’s not! So let’s…

Actress: Let’s move on to clothes!

Writer: Yes! So what’s with you and Carolina Herrera? [Actress has exclusively worn Herrera’s designs for public events since 2002]

Actress: It’s a wonderful relationship and I’m so grateful for it because it eliminates most of the things that I find impossibly uncomfortable about my profession.

Writer: Which are?

Actress: You know, being responsible for being appropriate and all the politics involved. I can’t ask a bunch of designers to spend tons of time – even if they offer – on a dress that I might wear. I can’t accept that, it’s too much! I can’t do it! I have a very good relationship with everyone at Carolina Herrera; they’re so generous and I have really great friendships with some of the people who work there. In the offchance that something doesn’t work out we can communicate openly. And it’s enriched the experience of having this public persona side of the job. It’s made it fun in a way that I would never have imagined. I get an excuse to see my friends! It’s like the photo shoot for this story – I’m going to miss that group of people. I like getting together all day and collaborating like that and sitting in the hotel room laughing with those people who became my friends. I’m kind of having a lifetime of that and I love it.

Writer: Because you’re constantly collaborating.

Actress: Yes all the time. And it’s fun. It’s just fun.

I must confess now that I didn’t linger at the photo shoot that Saturday morning. The timing of the interview was vague and I didn’t want to wait around all day. I interviewed Zellweger on the telephone instead. Remarkably, when she called me at the scheduled time two days later, she immediately asked me where I had gone to that Saturday. I was surprised. I was surprised she had noticed I was gone, and surprised that she cared. After speaking to her, I’m no longer as astonished. People are important to Zellweger. She wants to make connections, real connections, to those she meets. I think it’s about mutual respect. And it might have something to do with wanting to have a positive impact in the world. If you see her, I think you should smile and say hello.

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For Your Pleasure – Bryan Ferry from Roxy to Dylan and back again

— Client: Zoo Magazine — Journalism - Celebrity Interviews

Bryan Ferry is eating a sandwich in a cramped location van under the Brooklyn Bridge. But even in this dingy environment, he exudes a certain elegance. The 62-year old rock legend, crooner, sex symbol and style icon is in fine fiddle. He’s hardly changed from his days as “The Sultan of Suave,” a dandy who donned white tuxedos, dated supermodels and sang “Love is the Drug” during Roxy Music’s mid-70s heyday. But in spite of his enduring allure, it’s difficult to put Ferry’s then and now together. The soft-spoken, pensive man facing me has none of the glossy rock god’s swagger. It’s not only because of his subdued manner. He just doesn’t appear to have that kind of ego.

Most profiles of Bryan Ferry mention his reserved demeanor and reluctance to talk about personal matters. That’s all true. Although he’s polite and friendly, without necessarily being warm, he’s clearly not a celebrity intent on charming the media. Strangely enough, I had reason to be grateful for this. Ten minutes before our rendezvous, the cap on my front tooth fell off, exposing the jagged remnant of a chopper I damaged as a child. The conversation that followed resembled a meeting of two autistic adults, each mumbling while staring off into space. I like to think that this may actually have helped establish a quiet and trusting atmosphere.

Ferry has a tendency to answer the unasked questions. Direct inquiries about personal matters, especially those that include the question, “why?” tend to elicit a blank “I don’t know.” Then, after a protracted silence, an answer might slowly emerge, perhaps not with the information one expects, but insightful nonetheless.

Ferry has reason to be cautious. He has just suffered a bout of bad press, when comments he made about the work of Third Reich filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl and architect Albert Speer were interpreted as pro-Nazi. The day before we met, he posted a distraught statement on his web site, explaining that his words had been misrepresented and that he found the incident deeply disturbing.

During our interview, he’s on high alert as soon as I mention the word “style.” “Art is dangerous,” he says with a shudder, explaining that discussing art is what got him into trouble recently. To his relief, my lack of confidence, due to the missing front tooth, makes me reluctant to push the subject.

Bryan Ferry is promoting Dylanesque, his latest album of Bob Dylan covers. Although he’s famous for his interpretations of other artists’ songs (from The Rolling Stones to Cole Porter,) this is the first time he has devoted an entire album to one musician. Ferry’s affinity for Dylan goes way back. 34 years ago, he included a version of “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” on These Foolish Things, his first solo album.

Ferry’s 2007 Dylan is quite different than his take on Bob back in 1973. “Hard Rain” has a boppy glam rock beat and coolly detached vocals, while the tracks on Dylanesque are fueled by a restrained melancholy layered with the romantic sound that has become Ferry’s signature. Like an experienced leading man, he delivers the lyrics crisply, with a rich undercurrent of emotion. “For some reason, the earthiness of his songs suit me,” says Ferry. “And the poetry certainly suits me. I like singing beautiful words. You can probably hear it in my voice.”

Ferry says the project came about while he was working on the new Roxy Music album, the band’s first since 1983, which won’t be released for at least another year.

“I write so slowly, so it’s very frustrating for the band,” he says. “And while we did some work together and it was very nice, I didn’t really have any lyrics and I wanted to get something out, so I did this project. I had it about in my mind for a very long time, and I had some unfinished Dylan songs in the can, such as ‘All Along the Watchtower.’ It was only a sketch, but bones were there, and I liked what the bones sounded like.”

Throughout his career, Ferry has systematically gone back and forth between writing his own music and performing covers. “It kind of means I have two careers running in parallel,” he says. “But they have overlapped here and there.” Do the two feed off each other? “I think so. It’s a nice break for me, to get away from my writing and the band, although I use some of the band [for the solo projects],” he says. “It has probably kept the band alive, because it’s a bit weird to work with the same people all your life. It’s also been very educational for me to sing songs from different genres and expand my repertoire and my range. It has made me a more complete singer.”

The relatively quick process of recording covers also serves as a kind of therapy for writer’s block. “I could never write fast enough to keep up with my need as a singer for new material,” he confesses.

Watching Ferry in front of the camera is fascinating. He pulls his whole body together and projects an inner intensity that gives him an aura of mystery and glamour. Obviously, he’s perfected this persona over time. Originally from a small town outside Newcastle in the north of England, Ferry escaped his blue-collar roots through art school. Although he claims no responsibility for the quote, “I was an orchid raised on a coal tip,” (which, along with “Sultan of Suave” is a frequently printed cliché,) Ferry fashioned himself into a sleek young sophisticate with the help of good clothes, beautiful women and generally refined tastes. “Things happen without you designing them,” he says, when asked about his status as a style icon. “You sort of fall into some kind of flow.” That flow included designers Anthony Price and Wendy Dagworthy, whom Ferry credits for Roxy Music’s look. He also says that he loved going to Hollywood movies as a young boy. He especially admired elegant leading men such as Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper. The influence is pretty obvious.

But Ferry is also passionate about his humble upbringing. He talks tenderly about his father, a man who loved nature and worked with horses, who courted his mother for ten years because they couldn’t afford to get married. “We were very poor,” he says. “Poor like when you don’t have a car or a telephone or a fridge. But it was a dignified poor. I was brought up great. Me and my sisters all went to college; our parents just wanted us to get on and have different lives, which we did. Especially me.” Ferry became obsessed with music at age 10, when his older sister took him to see Bill Haley. “It was amazing,” he recalls. “So colorful. It was like one of those Forrest Gump moments, a pivotal moment in life.” He started going to jazz concerts and collecting records he had read about while delivering newspapers. “Buying a record was kind of a big commitment. You had to go to the store and ask for the record and then look at it and ask them to play it and then you would listen to it. And think ‘Oh I love it, but God, can I afford it?’ It was the week’s money that you’d earned. I still have the first EP that I bought. It was Charlie Parker.”

Ferry seems to almost regret that his own sons haven’t had to work as hard for their cultural formation. “Music is not as important anymore, or I suspect that it isn’t.” he says. “My children love music, they have really good taste and they have so much, they have Dylan’s whole catalogue on their iPods. There’s too much of it, it’s too easy.”

He also acknowledges that the music industry has been completely transformed since the explosively creative 60s and 70s. “The music business is very different now, it’s quite cold. It’s all sort of corporate, cut and dry, marketed and la di dah. That’s why I enjoy being on tour. It’s me and the audience and nobody gets in the way of that.” Ferry expresses admiration for some contemporary artists, however, especially the Canadian indie band Arcade Fire. “The boy in Arcade Fire is really good, got a bit of character. You don’t really find that many character singers. It’s a good band,” he says.

Bryan Ferry’s musical relationships have been unusually long-term. Besides performing and recording with Roxy Music for over 35 years, he is still working with producer Brian Eno, who was part of the band in the beginning. As a solo artist he has played with the same back up musicians for many years. “I’ve got a fantastic band,” he effuses. “They’re all different ages, different types, it’s a weird band, because they have such a wide taste, they’re all specialized in different fields.”

So what is it like working with the same people decade after decade? It’s the kind of direct question Ferry prefers to ignore, but he gives it his best shot, summing up some of the complexities in his personality in the process. “I was always a bit of an outsider, but I do like the companionship when it’s there,” he says. “But I also have to get away from it. So I’ve had the best of both worlds really. I’ve been very fortunate. So far.”

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