Mary Stuart Masterson: Beyond the Pale

Mary Stuart Masterson can't figure out the wine list a the Mondrian Hotel. "These must be the prices for a whole bottle," she says. You never know at a place like this, I warn her. "Ha-ha,

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...right," she laughs. She has one of those infectious laughs, or may be the Heineken and the Liberace clone at the piano are going to my head. I'm beginning to get the feeling that Mary Stuart is fun to be around and, let me assure you, this is not a given with movie actors.

Meanwhile, the hostess pops up every few minutes to make sure we have "everything we need," and keeps eyeing my tape recorder and notebook. "Work with it, work with it!" she exhorts, like a drama coach. I lean across the table after she leaves: Don't you think our hostess is quite obviously-

"An actress? Yeah," agrees Masterson. "I had that sneaking suspicion when we walked in. People who are obviously actresses are always very daunting to me because I never felt like one. I never had head shots taken." Maybe not, but she was in The Stepford Wives when she was seven.

I've noticed Masterson is consistently singled out as a bright presence on screen no matter how dim the film she's in. "I wonder why," she says. "Maybe 'cause I do really bad movies!" The flip assessment is delivered with another laugh, but it's pretty accurate. Her last three films especially-Chances Are, Immediate Family, and Funny About Lovewere"Bombs?" she asks, helpfully. That term could also be applied to earlier films like Mr. North, Gardens of Stone, and At Close Range. All this is a testament to just how much impact Masterson had in the single movie she's done that actually got seen-the John Hughes/ Howard Deutch Some Kind of Wonderful. She imbued her tom-boy character Drummer Girl with a depth Hughes, who wrote the script, could hardly have been counting on-in fact, she's the most believable and interesting character in any Hughes film.

Though she worked with Hughes, Masterson was never a member of the late, unlamented Brat Pack. As she puts it, "I wasn't part of the package." While her acting peers were holding court at L.A.'s Hard Rock Cafe, she stayed at home in New York between films, and attended N.Y.U., where she "went through a romantic neo-beatnik-Bob Dylan-blues-coffeeshop-cigarettes-writing poetry till four in the morning-spiritual en-lightenment-thing. You know-you're rich if you have depth of thought, poor if you have material wealth. As if one existed to the exclusion of the other." Masterson says that, in terms of her film choices and everything else, she used to be "incredibly idealistic. Now I'm just optimistic."

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