Kristen Johnson: The Star Who Fell to Earth
The amazon from Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin is an unlikely but beloved star from 3rd Rock who makes Mike Meyers' chest hair sizzle in the new Austin Powers picture.
It's not often that a full-figured, towering beauty with long blonde har and milky skin is also a laugh riot who regularly makes a complete ass of herself on TV. Suzanne Somers did it with ditzy charm on Threes Company. Farrah Fawcett did it without knowing it on Charlie's Angels. And now Kristen Johnston, 31, is doing it--so well she won an Emmy for her portrayal of a male space alien trapped in the body of a voluptuous earthling on TV's 3rd Rock from the Sun. This summer, Johnstons uniquely sexy brand of comedic largess will hit the big screen in the much-anticipated Mike Myers spy spoof Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, in which she plays appropriately over-the-top Ivana Humpalot.
DENNIS HENSLEY: How many days were you in bed with Mike Myers while filming the sequel to Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery?
KRISTEN JOHNSTON: One day. One hell of a day. He's the funniest human being alive.
Q: Is Mr. Powers hung?
A: Oh yeah. If he wasn't born that way, then he's had it surgically altered.
Q: What's Ivana Humpalot all about?
A: She's a Russian supermodel superspy. I'm in the funniest sequence in the film, where Austin photographs me and [Sports Illustrated swimsuit model] Rebecca Romijn-Stamos in lingerie. Imagine standing next to Rebecca in lingerie. It was very intense.
Q: How did you psych yourself up for it?
A: Slim-Fast for three days. Then on the day of shooting I held my stomach in and pushed my tits out.
Q: You've played your share of outrageous parts. Do you ever fear that you're going too far, actingwise?
A: Oh God, every day. Sometimes the director will say, "OK, bring it back." No one has ever said, "Could you do more?" Ever.
Q: 3rd Rock debuted over three years ago. Why did it take you so long to dive into movies?
A: I didn't want to rush. Every day on a sitcom you feel rushed, and you don't have time to take stock. The last two summer hiatuses I turned down some films to do plays, which people in Hollywood were so shocked by. But I was overwhelmed and I needed to sit in a dingy little rehearsal hall where no one cares how much dough you're making or who you are and you work your butt off.
Q: Thanks to the sitcom, you became famous overnight. Was that a shock?
A: It's a lot to deal with even if you're pretty sturdy. What was most interesting to me was the sadness that's attached to mourning the loss of that person who can just move through the world unencumbered. Not having been exposed to that much television, I didn't understand the impact of it. I just thought, "Let me make some money so I can move back to New York to do theater."
Q: Did you feel guilty for resenting fame?
A: For so long I was ashamed of it. I feared I was becoming just another Hollywood person who says, "Oh don't take my picture, I can't handle it," and I hate those people. Don't we all? So for me it was about letting that feeling exist, and I think because I let it exist, I got over it faster than people who whine all their lives.
Q: Weren't you at least relieved that you didn't have to struggle so much anymore?
A: Yes, but I think there is an extraordinary benefit to being the underdog, and having people say to you all your life, "You're too this, you're too that," and you answer, "Screw you, I'm going to do it, no matter what." When you're no longer the underdog, what do you have? You have to find different goals.
Q: Have you been offered a wide variety of parts or does Hollywood just want you to do variations on your 3rd Rock character?
A: They're not all aliens or tough dames. But I'm not an idiot--I'll never be Laura in The Glass Menagerie. As long as it's off the beaten track, I'm there.
Q: Do you have a strategy now in terms of your career?
A: I never had a strategy. I don't think you can. I mean, I would never have said four months ago that I'd be doing the Flintstones prequel.
Q: You're playing Wilma, right?
A: Yes, but it takes place before she meets Fred, who's played by Mark Addy from The Full Monty. Wilma's very wealthy mother is played by Joan Collins. Do you have any scoop on her?
Q: Just don't ask her, "How's that book coming along?" You won an Emmy for 3rd Rock. What was the most surreal part of that experience?
A: It was all about what I wore. I thought that was weird. Then I went backstage to that huge press room, and the second question from 300 journalists was, "What's your least favorite body part?" Bizarre.
Q: What's been your favorite tabloid appearance?
A: OK, I was walking through the airport last year, and I was getting some magazines for the flight, when I saw the Star and on the cover it said, "Fashion Disasters of 1997." And I think, "I just have to look and see who it is." And it's me, Tori Spelling and Demi Moore. Good company, huh? I bought it and it's been on my refrigerator for two years.
Q: There seem to be a lot of younger women acting with older men. If you were going to ...
A: Ed Harris. He's so sexy.
Q: Have you ever been onstage and aware that somebody famous was in the audience?
A: Yeah. Paul Newman and it freaked me out. He sent a letter to all of us after the show, but no salad dressing.
Q: Where's the weirdest place you've ever seen your own image besides the Start?
A: A billboard of me as my 3rd Rock character Sally in Times Square. It had been up for a year and I kept forgetting to look at it. So one day last summer, I was driving down Seventh Avenue and all of a sudden I saw it, and it was the most otherworldly experience of my life, no pun intended. I envisioned all those acting teachers who said, "You're never going to make it."
Q: What was the worst audition you ever had?
A: Please, do you have seven hours?
Q: Have you ever been asked to do nudity for a part?
A: No, but my boobs are bouncing and my thighs are exposed in Austin Powers. Maybe when I'm doing my B movie, I'll do it. I want to make a bad horror movie so bad I can taste it. I want to be in, like, panties and a T-shirt, brushing my teeth, asking, "Who's there?"
Q: Would you fall down for no reason when you're running away?
A: Totally. I want to be a bad actress in a Roger Corman film.
Q: What's your favorite waste of time?
A: Watching the Two Fat Ladies on the Food Network. [In a British accent] "All right, now we're going to cook the lard..." The shit they make you would never eat in a million years.
Q: What are you proudest of?
A: The fact that I'm still sane. But in Hollywood that term can mean anything.
Dennis Hensley interviewed Rose McGowan for the February 99 issue of Movieline.