Teri Polo: Teri on a Tear

Teri Polo had spent more than a dozen years trying to get a break in Hollywood when Meet the Parents came along. She's hoping her starring role opposite John Travolta in Domestic Disturbance will solidify her new status.

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It had been nearly 15 years since Teri Polo moved to New York and landed her first acting gig on the soap opera "Loving." It had been almost a decade since she won a starring role opposite Ethan Hawke in the comedy Mystery Date. It had been all too long since she'd done any big studio films, and the ones she had done--_The House of the Spirits, Aspen Extreme_ and The Arrival--didn't ask much of her anyway. So when TV work on "Sports Night" and "Felicity" led to a role opposite Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller in last year's smash hit Meet the Parents, Polo was understandably relieved. "Now people look at me wherever 1 go," she says over a Caesar salad in a pasta place near the Studio City bungalow she shares with her husband, photographer Tony Moore. This fall Polo will probably have even more people looking at her when she stars in the drama Domestic Disturbance, in which she plays the ex-wife of John Travolta and the current wife of Vince Vaughn.

DENNIS HENSLEY: Did Hollywood casting agents fight over you after Meet the Parents came out?

TERI POLO: No, I still have to grovel, but it's all fun, because now people are nice to me. I haven't gotten to the place where anyone wants to tear me down and say bad things about me.

Q: Is there going to be a Meet the Parents sequel where you meet Ben's parents?

A: Yes. We're hoping it's going to be called Meet the Fockers, because Focker is Ben's character's last name. I think the best casting would be Ben's real parents, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.

Q: Is your next film, the drama Domestic Disturbance, a white-trash family feud movie, as I've heard?

A: Vince Vaughn plays the stepfather from hell. I'm married to him and he's wonderful to me, but horrible to my 11-year-old son when I'm not around. My son tries to tell me, tries to tell my ex-husband, who's played by John Travolta, but we don't believe him.

Q: Do you have a lot of action scenes where you're running around, trying not to get killed?

A: Oh, yeah. Vince throws me to the ground. I fall down stairs. By the end of the movie, my character should have brain damage.

Q: I'm guessing because you don't fight back, you didn't have to get in any special shape.

A: You're right, but Harold Becker, the director, asked someone to ask my manager if I'd lose weight for the film. I was pissed. I don't care whether you ask me to lose weight, but ask me personally.

Q: Wait a second. You're starring in a movie with John Travolta and they want you to lose weight?

A: They asked all three of us, but I probably lost the most. Anyway, the next time I saw Harold was at a fitting a month after the audition. I held up my Slim * Fast and said, "So Harold, I hear you think I'm a big fat cow." He was embarrassed and said, "I never said that."

Q: Don't tell me you let him off the hook.

A: No, I didn't. At that point he didn't know whether he should leave the fitting area or just stay, so I said I was just kidding and told him to sit down. Then I took off all my clothes except for a little g-string and a bra and said, "Think I'm a big fat cow now?" He turned so red he couldn't speak.

Q: Did you get a chance to dance with John Travolta on the set?

A: No, but we blasted the Grease soundtrack in our makeup trailer and John would sing and dance with us.

Q: What was the most fun you had off the set, which was in North Carolina?

A: My husband and I went to Bald Head Island for our four-year anniversary. We spent the night in bed with champagne, tequila and Krispy Kreme doughnuts and watched a boxing match on Showtime.

Q: I bet you have good wedding pictures, considering your husband is a photographer.

A: We do have really funny wedding pictures. My husband's in Levi's, sneakers and a polyester shirt. I'm in flare-leg Gap corduroys, a T-shirt, Converse flip-flops. And, of course, no makeup.

Q: What, Vera Wang wouldn't take your calls?

A: We were married at City Hall in Las Vegas at 11 p.m. on a Sunday night.

Q: How very Angelina Jolie of you. Is it true that your husband proposed to you in Sears?

A: He turned to me in the middle of the store and said, "Let's go to Vegas and get married." I said, "Yeah, right, buddy. We don't even have rings," figuring that would scare him off. But then he said we could get the rings right then. We walked around the entire Burbank mall, but couldn't find any matching rings. Finally, we got comfort bands from Sears.

Q: Were you sure you wanted to marry him? A: Well, after we arrived home from Sears, I kind of freaked out. Then my mother gave me the best advice--that you can't plan your happiness. She said, "You're happy now. Do it. Whatever the future brings, deal with it then. Deal with this now. Be happy, live life." So after the call we went to Vegas.

Q: When did you know you wanted to be an actress?

A: I became disillusioned with dance when I was 16 and started focusing on acting. I moved to New York between my junior and senior years of high school to just see what it was like, to go to a modeling agency and see how to get representation. I told my parents at the end of the summer, "This is what I want to do for the rest of my life," so I stayed.

Q: Did you end up graduating?

A: No, and I was an honor student. I tried to get my GED, but the classes were held at a clinic for girls who get pregnant before they finish high school. I thought, If I ever make it, someone is going to dig up these records, think I quit school because I was pregnant and write about it in The National Enquirer.

Q: One of your earlier films was The House of the Spirits, in which you played Meryl Streep's sister. What's your favorite memory from that film?

A: One night, the director, Bille August, invited me to dinner with Meryl, her husband, Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons. While we were sitting at the table Meryl said, "Did you guys see in the dailies where Teri's lying so still in the coffin? How did you do that, Teri?" I thought, "Meryl Streep's asking me how to do something?"

Q: In the mid-'90s you moved from New York to L.A. Were you impressed with the city?

A: I was miserable. I thought that to make it you had to have the biggest tits, big collagen lips, big hair, a tan and you had to go to all the clubs and parties. It wasn't me, but I tried.

Q: Did you get hit on a lot?

A: No. I asked my husband about this. He said I wasn't asked out more because other guys thought they couldn't get into my pants. I said, "So you thought you could get into my pants?" He said, "Oh, yeah, that was a done deal." So I said, "Well, it's true, but you gotta be more subtle about it."

Q: What did you get picked on for when you were a kid?

A: I never got picked on, but I never had a lot of friends. When I talked to my parents about it, they said, "They're just jealous because you're beautiful and talented." It was probably one of the worst things they could have told me, because I became self-conscious.

Q: What would you love to do in a movie that you haven't done yet?

A: Shave my head, wear no makeup and get really dirty. In Hollywood, most things are based on looks, so I'd love to do something that has nothing to do with how I look.

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