Lara Flynn Boyle: Iron Butterfly

Lara Flynn Boyle, whose movie career kicked into gear when her TV series "Twin Peaks" kicked the bucket, comes on as a self-described "young girl" whose Mother Knows Best--but she's got the tensile smarts to survive the mean streets of Hollywood.

I'm worried about Lara Flynn Boyle. No, no, no, I'm not worried about her career. Ever since the TV series that launched her, "Twin Peaks," went down in flames, her career's been going swimmingly.

Everybody, it seems, wants to work with her: she was directed by Clint Eastwood in The Rookie and co-starred with Christian Slater in Mobsters; in the past year alone, she's made Equinox with Matthew Modine, The Temp with Timothy Hutton, and Where the Day Takes You with Dermot Mulroney.

Neither am I worried about her material well-being. She's got a house in Studio City, a new, black BMW 325i, a closet full of Melrose duds, and money managers investing what's left over. And I sure as hell am not worried about her corporeal assets: she's 22, with a face full of freckles that make her seem impish, she's willowy yet ample in all the right places, and she has bright blue eyes. Still, there is cause for concern.

She wants to meet me for lunch at one of her favorite hangouts, Smokey Joe's, a humble coffee shop in the Valley. I arrive at one, the appointed time, and ask for a seat in the no-smoking section. The booths are Naugahyde, the menus laminated, the staff multicultural. On the walls are framed glossies of celebrities who have frequented the place in the past: Donny and Marie Osmond, Roy Rogers, and the late progenitor of the Arquette acting clan, Charley Weaver.

While I'm fiddling with my tape recorder, Boyle walks in and takes a seat on the opposite side of the coffee shop. I look up and see her. I wave. She waves back. I motion for her to come join me. She motions for me to come join her. I point to the no-smoking sign. She holds up a pack of Marlboros and smiles like a bridge player who's just trumped my ace. If I were a director or producer, I would have stayed put, but in the Hollywood hierarchy, a reporter is out-ranked by a hot starlet, so I collect my gear and wade into the haze of secondary smoke.

The waitress comes over and Lara orders. "I'll have french fries, ranch dressing and ice coffee."

"That's your lunch?" I ask. She smiles and replies, "I love junk food." Lara Flynn Boyle might have the body of Artemis, but she's got the stomach of Jimmy Hoffa.

"How do you eat like that and look the way you do?"

"I don't know," she says. "I guess I have a lot of energy."

"Do you exercise?"

"No, not unless it's for a job. On The Temp I had a personal trainer. It was so strange getting up early and putting on a Walkman and walking up stairs for an hour. After the shoot, the producer, Howard Koch Jr., told me how good I looked and suggested I should continue with the trainer. I said, 'Will you keep me on the payroll to pay for it?' He said, 'No,' so I said, 'Forget it.'"

I would have thought that as an actress who gets paid for being beautiful, Boyle would treat her body as a temple. She shakes her head. "I like nicotine and I like the taste of coffee. My friends call it the Bette Davis syndrome." Boyle then confides that the reason she was 10 minutes late for the interview is that she's "afraid to walk into restaurants alone."

"But you did walk in alone," I say.

"That's because I knew you'd be here," she explains. "I always come a little late to make sure the person I'm meeting is already there."

"I see." This strikes me as a rich vein, so I keep mining. "Are there any other places you're afraid to walk into alone?"

"Supermarkets," she says.

"What do you make of these fears?"

"I don't know," she says. Not a lot of introspection here. Maybe it'll come with the years.

"So who does your shopping?"

"Either I go with friends or my mother shops."

"You make your mother shop for you?"

"Well, I'm a young girl, I don't cook. There's not much to shop for."

Yes, but not so little that she gets it herself. This is the first of many times during the interview that she refers to herself as a "young girl," though she's 22. I let that one slide and ask, "Doesn't your mother have better things to do than shop for you?"

"Well, we live together, so it's--"

"You live with your mother?"

"She's the best roommate I've ever had."

I wonder what happens when Boyle brings a date back to her place and mom is sitting on the couch watching TV.

"I introduce him and then, the next day, my mom will say, 'I think I'd like him for my third son-in-law.'"

"Meaning what?"

"Meaning that I'll be divorced twice before I marry him."

"So you and your mom joke about your being divorced?"

She shrugs nonchalantly--isn't this how all mothers and daughters talk?--and says, "To me, breakup and divorce seem like the norm. Whenever I meet people whose parents are still together, I'm amazed. They're freaks. They make me nervous. Seeing people still married after 20 years is like watching a TV show."

Can you see why I'm worried? I've been visiting with Boyle for all of 20 minutes, and already I've uncovered self-destructive behavior, a too-cozy relationship with mom and more phobias than Sigmund Freud would have known what to do with. Could she be putting me on about the supermarkets? I lay a trap.

"Okay, so what happens if you're really hungry, and you're alone, and you can't get hold of any of your friends and your mom is getting her hair done? What do you do for food?"

She doesn't fall for it; with a level gaze, she replies, "I'd go to a McDonald's Drive-Thru." She must be for real. I usually don't offer guidance during interviews, but in this case, I decide to break with tradition.

"You might need a therapist," I say.

"I think I'm okay," she says, and I watch as the former Bonnie Bell Clear Skin girl lights up another Marlboro while she dredges a fry through the ranch dressing. Can you see why I'm worried? How has it come to this?

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