Rebecca De Mornay: The Mini-Star with Many Faces
Rebecca De Mornay explains why she thinks she's already famous enough, reveals how she got the scar on her lip and confesses that there's something "weird" about the way her face changes so dramatically from one role to the next.
By the time Rebecca De Mornay knocks on my door at the Mondrian Hotel, I've just about had it with her. I've been in L.A. for five days waiting for this interview to happen. She kept canceling because, her publicist assures me, she's got a terrible cough. Today I have my bags packed. It's now or never.
When I open the door. I'm completely bowled over. De Mornay is a knockout. Her hair is blindingly blonde, her eyes the color of the Caribbean. She's wearing a snug green T-shirt and black pants that seem to be spray-painted on. I'm not the first to say this, but I have to repeal it because it's true: she is much more beautiful in person, without a drop of makeup, than she has ever seemed on-screen.
The coughs racking De Mornay's body are painful to witness. I take back everything I've been thinking about her. I feel like I'm torturing her. not the other way around. But she listens attentively with her head cocked to the side and talks with a quick laugh while noodling a scar on her lip with her fingers. If she's thinking she'd rather be home in bed, she shows no sign of it. She looks you square in the eye and dares you to look away.
"I've read everything ever written about you," I say, pointing to the two-inch stack of magazine articles on the table. "And I know your life story by heart..."
She blushes. "Is it awful?" she asks.
"Not at all," I say. "Your father is [right-wing talk-show host] Wally George. He left when you were two months old. Your mother remarried, a man named De Mornay, and he died when you were five. Your mother became sort of a gypsy and you wandered around, finally settling in Austria. You overcompensated for being the new girl in town by be coming really smart..."
"I said that?" she asks, startled.
"I'm extrapolating," I explain. "You learned three languages and people noticed you. You went to a free-thinking school, and you got to see some of your teachers sun-bathing topless. You excelled academically. When you were 19, you came back to America, did a small part in Francis Ford Coppola's One From the Heart, and then got your big break in Risky Business. You hate to talk about the men in your life, but you've had four lovers who were famous--Harry Dean Stanton, Tom Cruise, Bruce Wagner (the writer of Force Majeure and Wild Palms) whom you married and divorced quickly, and poet/songwriter/ singer Leonard Cohen. After Risky Business you made a series of either bad or unsuccessful films, some-times both, until you played a nanny from hell in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, which put you back on the map again. You directed an episode of 'The Outer Limits,' and you executive-produced your new movie with Antonio Banderas. And you've been writing a novel for years. Did I leave anything out?"
De Mornay is laughing, "My God, Martha, you know everything about me."
"No, Rebecca," I remind her, "I know nothing about you."
"Well, can we clear something up? It always says in the press that my first film was One From the Heart. I was an extra in that film. I had one line. This is not my film debut. My debut was Risky Business. I was an apprentice on One From the Heart, and Francis [Coppola], as a favor, gave me this one line.''
"OK, anything else you want to clear up?"
"No, I can live with the rest. But what are we gonna do now? I don't have anything else to say ..."
"Not to worry. We'll talk about movies, we'll talk about life."
"I better eat," she says. When her shredded wheat cereal with a banana and skimmed milk arrives she leans over and begins shoveling it in her mouth.
"Whoa, you don't have to eat like it's a marathon."
"No, I always eat like this. Let me get it out of the way."
"Where'd you get the scar?" I ask. "When I watched Risky Business with my boyfriend last week, he said that he remembered the first time he saw you, that you had this fabulous scar on your lip. But on the video, it wasn't apparent."
"I got it from a jealous boy when I was five. It was a birthday party that my mother gave for me, and she invited all the little kids, my friends, and she gave them all musical instruments. She wanted us to be creative at the same time we celebrated my birthday, and she gave this one boy these cymbals, and he was sort of jealous that I was talking to this other boy. And he came over and slashed my face with the sharp edge of the cymbal, split open my lip, and then I was rushed to the hospital. I had to have my lip sewn up, and in those days, they didn't think enough to put those dissolving stitches in where you would have never noticed it, so what you actually see are the stitch lines."
"Happy birthday, huh?"
"Yes. And guess what? I still love men, anyway! I remember something so funny, that when I did Risky Business, one of the reviews said that I was 'a very imperfect beauty with this delicious scar on her lip.' I was thinking, that's what reviewers talk about?"
"You look so different from one film to the next. When I saw Backdraft, it took me 10 minutes to figure out that it was you. I figured you had had cheekbone implants or some other kind of plastic surgery."
"Stanley Kauffmann, who is a really wonderful fan of mine, once said in a review, 'It seems to me that Rebecca De Mornay changes her actual chromosomes from role to role.' But it is a very weird thing that my face really does become something else according to what I'm thinking on the inside. It literally changes around, somehow."
"In Guilty as Sin, you looked just like Hillary Clinton!"
She slaps my hand. "Martha, I do not look like Hillary Clinton! But once I had this boyfriend, and he said, You know, you have this Hillary thing going...' I don't see it."
"Did you ever meet her?"
"Yes, I met her at a fundraiser before [Bill] became president, and I spoke with her and said, 'It's so funny because people say that I look like you.' And she said, "Well, I'm really flattered, thank you. because people have said it to me, too.' We both really laughed."
"In Details magazine a few months ago, they interviewed Traci Lords..."
"I saw that," De Mornay shrieks. "And they kept saying that she looked like me!"
"Yeah," I say, "but I'll bet nobody ever had the balls to tell Hillary she looked like Traci Lords."
"I'll bet," De Mornay agrees. "By the way, you can see that I never had any, right?"
"Any plastic surgery. I mean, one day I might, but I haven't yet. I hate plastic surgery. I have a horror of any kind of knife. I don't like it. I just think that I'll never have plastic surgery if I'm not in front of the camera. If you make your living selling this thing, which is the way you look, then maybe you do it. But trust me, the minute I'm directing or producing and not starring, I would never even think of it." She turns her face from side to side, so that I can see that she's scarless.