Patricia Clarkson Sounds Off on Ageist, Sexist Lingo: 'I Love Animals, But I Hate Cougars'
Patricia Clarkson is hot, and proud of it -- just don't call her a cougar. The veteran actress addressed the plight of the older woman (and older actress in Hollywood) while playfully discussing her latest film, Friends with Benefits, in which she co-stars as Mila Kunis's free-spirited, sexually aggressive mother.
Clarkson steals scenes away from her oft-nude co-stars in the romantic comedy, about two twenty-somethings (Kunis and Justin Timberlake) who attempt to have a sexual relationship without all the pesky feelings. She even self-identifies as a MILF in the film as the unabashedly carnal ex-hippie who shares a tenuous bond with her daughter (and comically hits on Timberlake, whose mother she played in the SNL Digital Short "Motherlover").
For Clarkson, the comic offers have only recently begun to come in; she points to Woody Allen's Whatever Works as a turning point for her, going from a primarily dramatic actor to one known to nimbly mix humorous roles into her repertoire. "Now I'm being offered a lot of comedic parts, which is great because I'll always be offered dramas," she explained. "You know, somebody ill, somebody dying --- they're coming to me first." (She next appears onscreen in One Day as Jim Sturgess's mother -- who is, of course, suffering from cancer.)
"As we get older in this industry -- and look, I'm very lucky, I'm still very much working in movies at 51 -- comedic parts are very few and far between," Clarkson continued. "I think they think women aren't funny as they get older, when we're much funnier! We have a lot more to laugh about."
But when older actresses land comic roles in the age of the MILF (post-American Pie, which popularized the term), it's often either in maternal roles or as sexually aggressive older women preying on younger men -- the infamous "cougar."
"You know, I hate 'cougar,'" Clarkson said. "I love animals, but I hate cougars. But 'MILF,' you know... it is what it is. That they feel that a woman of a certain age has to have a label, we always have to label the things that we are most frightened of, like -- God! -- a woman aging who's still sexual. 'We've got to give her a term!' Just let her be older and sexy."
"'Hot''s good, 'hot' is a good place to start. Or, you know, 'sexy' -- 'she's a sexy woman.' She doesn't have to be, like, a jaguar. You girls are young, nobody gives you terms. They just think you're beautiful or hot or pretty or sexy, they don't say you're, I don't know -- a cub."
As for the idea of a no strings attached sort of relationship, Clarkson opts for tradition. "I don't think I could do friends with benefits," she laughed. "I have my friends, and I don't want to be naked with them. I don't want to see them naked. Do they look like Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis? No... I like the separation of church and state."
Friends with Benefits is in theaters this week.