Lisa Kudrow: The Best Friend

Lisa Kudrow has made a career of playing Friends on TV and in movies. Here she gets friendly about life off camera from how her dad urged her to have sex with her boyfriend to what she loves most about her "good brain" husband.

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It's only a matter of time before your friends start to bug you, whether they're real or in your television set. So it's odd that Lisa Kudrow's ditzy Phoebe from Friends isn't irritating anyone yet. Maybe it's because she just hovers in the background most of the time, and when she interjects the occasional good joke, she delivers it with just the right amount of restraint to keep it happily in the air for a while.

Kudrow is different from her Friends in real life, too. A Vassar grad and the only married cast member, she'll soon be the only parent, too.

Like her Friends, though, Kudrow has been hitting the big screen these days. After a small part as Albert Brooks's date in Mother, she costarred with Mira Sorvino in last year's Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, then took a lead in the indie Clockwatchers. Now she's back in a small part in the small indie The Opposite of Sex, in which she yet again plays the best friend.

DENNIS HENSLEY: I heard The Opposite of Sex is pretty racy, but in it you have a line where you say you'd rather have great shampoo than great sex.

LISA KUDROW: Right. My character is uptight and annoying. I play the best friend of Martin Donovan, who's a gay teacher in a relationship with a young lover. Everything's fine until his half sister, Christina Ricci, comes to live with him and causes one problem after another.

Q: What appealed to you about the movie?

A: It was a good script, from start to finish, and I knew Christina Ricci was going to be in it. She's amazing, the most professional actor I think I've ever met. You can be chatting with her and when they call action she's right there. There's no drama with her.

Q: I hear you make out with Lyle Lovett in the film.

A: That's right. I've been where Julia Roberts has been.

Q: How hard was it to not go for his hair?

A: [Laughs] It wasn't hard at all because my character is so uptight it wasn't going to happen.

Q: What's Lyle like?

A: He's so cool and the biggest Southern gentleman I've ever met in my life. Like, the minute you walk in the room, he gets up.

Q: Do you have anything in common with your prudish character?

A: I definitely relate to the uptight part, because that's mostly who I was when I was growing up.

Q: Ever said great shampoo is better than great sex?

A: Yeah, I think I said something like that before I had sex. And probably after I just started having sex, too. My mom told me, "Keep doing it. It gets better."

Q: You talked to your mom about sex?

A: Yeah, I'd tell my parents everything. I had no life, so I could tell them everything. I waited until college [to lose my virginity]. I was a priss. I wanted to wait until marriage, because I thought, "Every man wants to many a virgin." I think my dad had told me that when I was younger.

Q: Did you learn nothing from Pretty Woman?

A: I thought that movie was bullshit. She was not entitled to ask for the picket fence and white knight. When you decide to become a prostitute you give up certain entitlements.

Q: What films influenced your ideas about love and sex?

A: Old movies like Life With Father, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Margie, Cheaper by the Dozen. They were all set when girls weren't supposed to [have sex]. For some reason, I decided that's the world I wanted to grow up in. I don't know where it came from. My parents were much more liberal.

Q: Did they ever wonder about you?

A: My college boyfriend of a year came to visit me at home, and my dad noticed we weren't kissing each other, so he had a talk with me. He wondered what was going on-- why no affection? He asked, "When your mother and I go to work in the morning, you sneak in his room don't you?" I said, "No, I don't!" I swear he almost yelled at me and said, "You're a freak. That's what young people are supposed to do! I can't talk to you." And he walked away.

Q: Wow, I've never heard of that before. It's usually the other way around.

A: What can I say?

Q: Getting back to movies, do you feel a lot of pressure to be in a hit since you're such a hit on TV?

A: I decided early on that I don't know anything about movies. I was just learning about TV. I'm not going to pretend that I know what's going to be the script for me.

Q: How did you feel about the performance of Romy and Michele's High School Reunion at the box office?

A: For me Romy and Michele was about gathering information and getting experience, and I feel pretty lucky that it came out fine. It wasn't a blockbuster, but it opened at number two and it made money for the studio. But then you read, like, Entertainment Weekly and they say that [all the movies by Friends cast members] bombed except for Scream. So it's like there's blockbuster or bomb. Nothing in between. I don't understand big-film pressure. Like, if you're going to make a film it has to be great and it has to make $200 million. It's just unrealistic. I didn't know that it was presumptuous for an actor to be in a film.

Q: Did you get to keep the great duds from Romy and Michele?

A: No. They're at Disney.

Q: They'll need them for a theme park ride.

A: Right, one where you ride on a giant feather boa.

Q: Does it ever bother you that the media pits you and your Friends costars against each other?

A: The first thing I learned after the initial extravaganza we went through is that it doesn't matter. They either love you or they hate you. You don't have to say a word or do a thing and they'll decide.

Q: When Friends first took off was your head spinning?

A: Yeah, but I was holding on to it, trying to get some perspective. All I could think was, "OK, we're not this good."

Q: Was there a moment where you thought, "It's official, we're overexposed?"

A: None of us knew how much press we were supposed to do. It was part of the job. The studio was saying, "We need to do this." But we were thinking, Do we really need to do this? Some of us were more savvy about it. I was not one of the real savvy ones.

Q: Did you feel a backlash?

A: Yeah. I felt that as unreasonably loved that we were, we were also unreasonably despised at some point. Especially with the movie stuff.

Q: There must have been some thrilling times, too, when you first hit it big.

A: God, where do I start? One of the first great experiences was before the show even aired. Jim Burrows, who directed the show, thought it would be a good idea for Warner Bros, to let us use their jet to fly the six of us to Las Vegas. He took us to dinner at Spago, we gambled and then flew home.

Q: Whose money were you gambling?

A: Our own. But if you forgot money, Jim had some for you.

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