Mary-Louise Parker: Oh Mary!

"I don't get parts because of the way I look. I lose parts. I thought I was really fuckin' cute until I got into the movie business." So says Mary-Louise Parker, who has been getting gigs in Hollywood because of her reputation as a strong, theater-trained actress, not because of her face.

Think of her performance as a passive Southern girl in Fried Green Tomatoes or as Matt Dillon's pathetic girlfriend in Mr. Wonderful or as the white-trash mama in The Client, and you'll understand what she's talking about.

Whether Parker will make it into lead roles, as competitor Penelope Ann Miller has done with such amazing luck, remains to be seen. She has the type of malleable face that says yes. In the meantime, she's picking good roles in smaller projects, such as Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway, a period piece about gangsters, and smaller parts in bigger productions, like Boys on the Side, a drama about AIDS starring Whoopi Goldberg. As far as the fame that goes along with a big-time career; Parker is a little apprehensive Although she's fearless on-screen (remember her sob scene in Grand Canyon?), she's reluctant when it comes to the celebrity thing.

"I'm afraid to go on 'Letterman' because what if I sat down in that chair and I couldn't leave and he decided he hated my guts and then I started punching him and then I'm on the cover of The Post the next morning?" Parker says without taking a breath.

How was it working with another formidable presence, Woody Allen? "He would say things like, 'It wasn't funny when you were um ... it was funny the first ... um ... do it the way when it was funny.' But you know what he means," she explains. "He doesn't belabor you with a bunch of bullshit." Does she think this will be her breakthrough role? "Well, I just walk around my co-star John Cusack a lot and call his name. I don't do that much, really. But I wear a lot of hats."