Shannen Doherty: The Calm After The Storm

"When did you start to love acting?"

"When I was 10 years old. I was a self-conscious kid. I was worried about my looks, my teeth, my legs. But when I was acting, I felt comfortable."

At the age of 10, Doherty landed a part on "Little House: A New Beginning." She continued to appear on television shows and in TV movies throughout her teens. Then, in 1989, she played Heather Duke in the macabre teen comedy Heathers. Her costars included Winona Ryder and Christian Slater.

"Why didn't you continue to make films after Heathers?"

"I wasn't concerned whether the work was in film or TV, I only looked at how interesting the character was. Keep in mind I was 18 when I was offered '90210.' I didn't realize that it was going to pigeonhole me or that people would start hateful newsletters about my character."

Doherty admits that by working almost exclusively in television, she hasn't had the chance to work with two directors she admires, Oliver Stone and Martin Scorsese. But then she adds, "The TV audience has always been loyal and for that I'm eternally grateful. My fans have been with me since 'Little House.' They're almost like family."

"You sound as if you personally know them."

"Some of them I know," she says. "I love reading fan mail. I called a 15-year-old kid after reading his letter. He hung up on me three times and finally, it was like, 'Look, if you hang up on me again I'm not gonna call you back, and then you're gonna feel like an idiot. So ask me something only I would know.' He asked me my birth sign and my dogs' names and then he realized it was me. And we chatted for half an hour. It was pretty cool."

"Has there been a film role that you've gone after with a vengeance?"

"Yeah, Heat. I wanted to do that movie so bad. All my favorite actors were in that--Val Kilmer, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro. And Michael Mann is one of my favorite directors. When I went to audi¬tion I was freaking out. I've never been so nervous in my life. I got hives all over my arms and neck. On a set, I'm OK. I tune everybody out. But at auditioning, I suck." The part went to Ashley Judd.

"How do you cope with rejection?"

"Therapy helped. I went for four years."

"Was that part of the anger management counseling?"

"No, I was in therapy long before that. The anger management person spent most of the sessions talking about herself and telling me what a victim I was. My real therapist said that I was a bit of an asshole and asked me how I could have avoided the situation."

"Exactly what was the situation?"

"It was a dark parking lot. A drunk man was spitting in my face and calling me obscene names, and I created a distraction and ran. But people have their own perceptions of who I am, and they don't want to let go of that. And the more I try to explain myself the more stupid I feel. So now, I just want it to end. I'm not up for the battle. I don't want to sue the tabloids even though they've portrayed me as this crazy and angry woman when, in fact, I'm the furthest thing from that."

"You've done two movies with Ben Affleck--_Mallrats_ and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Do you think he's all that he's hyped up to be?"

"I can acknowledge that Ben is good-looking, but he's not my type." Now she waves to the waiter. "Excuse me. May I have another Coke please? And I am so done with this artichoke." Then back to me without missing a beat. "I like a man who's a little rougher-looking. I like some character in the face. A face should tell a story. See the wrinkles around my eyes? I'm proud of them. They tell me what I've been through."

"What actors do you find sexy?"

"Al Pacino. Harrison Ford. And Brad Pitt in Snatch?

"Whom among your contemporaries do you admire?"

"Angelina Jolie. I love her spirit. And she's not going to change who she is.'

Doherty seems to have changed who she is a bit. Instead of living in L.A. and hanging out at nightclubs, she now calls a quiet 25-acre horse farm in Ventura County home. She lives alone and is single. She does her own housework ("vacuuming burns a lot of calories"). On the weekends, she rides her horses and watches videos. And she tells me she's trying to make it through James Joyce's Ulysses.

"Do you think you're prepared for what may lie ahead careerwise?" I ask.

"On 'Charmed' there were a couple of moments when I gave the most brutally honest performance I could ever have given as an actor. What you saw came from my gut. And when I looked at those moments I knew that they weren't being given their proper due, because they were on 'Charmed.' It's a show for 12-year-olds! I used to always think, 'Why can't I have that John Travolta comeback thing where I'm taken seriously?' I'm ready to take on bigger and better. I want to show people what I can do."


Jeffrey Lantos interviewed Geoffrey Rush for the March issue of Movieline.

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