Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Feeling Choosy

"Fair enough. How about Father's Day? Everyone had such high hopes for that. Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Ivan Reitman--if those three guys can't make a funny movie, what hope is there for anyone else?"

"I had fun making that one. Billy and I worked on Saturday Night Live together. And Robin had hosted the show a couple of times when I was there, so I knew him a little. They were just hilarious together. We could hardly shoot some scenes because the cast and crew was breaking up so badly."

"So what happened? None of that translated to the screen. It was so not funny."

"Oh God, what can I say? I don't read reviews, because that just drives you out of your mind. I don't know why it didn't work. You can't blame that on me, can you?"

"Not at all. What about Jack the Bear?" Forgettable doesn't cover this one.

"To tell you the truth, I never saw it, because it was too sad. We were shooting this one scene where Danny [DeVito] is making an appeal for his son who has been kidnapped. And his eyes were tearing up, and I knew that I would never see this movie. I cannot take those kinds of emotions when they have to do with children. They freak me out. So I never brought myself to sit through it."

"If you could work with anyone in this business, who would it be? And don't bother saying Marty Scorsese."

Louis-Dreyfus blushes, and I realize that she might have been just about to mention Scorsese.

"It's only that everyone says they want to work with him," I tell her. "It's a given."

"OK. I would work with Woody Allen again. I would work with Peter Weir. Even before The Truman Show--I thought Fearless was terrific. Can I say I would work with the Coen brothers? Because I would love to. I thoroughly loved The Big Lebowski. I thought Jeff Bridges was so great, because, you know, he played this really stupid guy, and yet he never winked at the audience, he never explained himself. I'd love to work with him. I'd love to work with Emma Thompson, who I think is fantastic and also a great comedienne. Robert De Niro--I mean, there are so many good actors out. Actually, there's not so many good actors. There are some good actors."

"Are you a leading lady or a character actress?"

"I think I can do both." She pauses. "What?"

"What?" I answer, not sure what she means.

"You're giving me this look like I've lost my mind."

"Well, maybe I'm concerned because all the guys who have worked with you--Jerry Seinfeld, Billy Crystal, Rob Reiner--they're always saying how you're this leading lady. But I see you more as a character actress..."

"But I'm not fighting for leading lady roles. And in the movies that I've done--obviously they've been few and far between because I've been on the series for nine years and I've had two children during that time--I always played secondary characters. But I would like to think that I could do both. I'm certainly not a model type, so I couldn't be that kind of a leading lady. But how about a regular old leading lady, like they used to have in those Preston Sturges movies and all those great movies from the '40s and the '50s?"

"They don't have those kind of leading ladies anymore. If they do, they're 23 and the guys they're playing against are old enough to be their grandfathers. But I understand what you're saying. So what's your strategy?"

"All I know is that I'm really not going to do stepping-stone jobs anymore. I'm just going to do jobs that are creatively appealing to me. I don't need the money and I don't need the exposure, so I can be more choosy. But think of Frances McDormand in Fargo. I love that movie, and it's about a pregnant cop! C'mon, does it get better than that for an actor? I don't think so. So if the Coen brothers want to call, I'm listed under L!"

"Even though I hardly ever saw you on Seinfeld, I was well aware of you because you're often the prettiest, best-dressed woman at the Emmys or the Golden Globes. What's your feeling about style? This is Movieline's style issue, you know."

Louis-Dreyfus groans. "Oh God, I don't know. I'm not sure I have a real 'sense of style,' but I do know what I like. This sweater I'm wearing is a Marion Foale. I bought it from a photo shoot because it was so great. And no, I didn't steal it or ask for it--I bought it. During the day, I'm a clogs, khakis and T-shirt kind of girl. Although T-shirts are becoming an issue because the neck is crucial and often I can't find the kinds I like."

"Are you a big shopper?"

"No, although I used to be bigger. Now, because of the kids, I don't have the time."

"How do you choose whose clothes you're going to wear for an awards show? Everybody must be begging you to wear theirs."

"I've worn a lot of Armani. I know it looks good on me, fits great, feels terrific. I've worn Herve Leger. I've worn Bob Mackie. I have an idea of what works for me. I like getting dressed up, because it's kind of like getting married every time you do it. I'm very girly that way, so I dig it. I don't dig the time it takes, though."

"And how about your husband--does he like it as much?"

"No, I don't think he likes it that much. But he goes, he's a good sport about it. Plus, it's so much easier for men. It's a tuxedo, period. So he puts on his tux and he stands there uncomfortably. He looks beautiful, though, and now I got him a nice watch to go with the tuxedo. He's all set. He's got his studs that I gave him when we got married. I love men in tuxedos. They always look fantastic. You know what else I love? A man in a dinner jacket, a white jacket with black tuxedo pants. Could you die when you see a man like that? But there are rules about what time of day you can wear them, and I never read the etiquette book, so I'm never sure. But I'm going to get one of those for Brad."

"Now that we've done our duty talking about style, can I ask what sort of an ant you play in A Bug's Life?"

"It's about an ant colony, and the ants are the good guys, the grasshoppers are the bad guys. My ant is being groomed to become the queen ant. It's very funny how they do these animated films--they film you and get all your gestures down pat, and then they draw the characters to have your movements. My ant's very nervous and second-guesses herself all the time and doesn't feel confident in this position of power. Which very well could be me!"

"One last thing--if you never work again and all you're remembered by is Elaine from 'Seinfeld,' will you feel fulfilled?"

"You mean when I'm dead? Honey, when I'm dead I'm not going to care how they remember me. But the fact that they do remember me at all is pretty good, don't you think?"


Martha Frankel interviewed Terry Gilliam for the June '98 issue of Movieline.

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