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May 2006
FAY GRIM |An Interview with Parker Posey

An Interview with Parker Posey
By Nicole Schmuelian

May 17 2006

Sequels are done when films are successful, and for the most part when they are commercials, but when it’s an independent films and well over ten years to make, then’s rare and special. “Fay Grim” is the sequel to Hal Hartley’s Henry Fool, which came out in 1997. It’s a ten-years-later continuation of Hal Hartley's "Henry Fool", where Fay Grim (Parker Posey) is coerced by a CIA agent (Jeff Goldblum) to try and locate notebooks that belonged to her fugitive ex-husband (Thomas Jay Ryan). Published in them is information that could compromises the security of the U.S., causing Fay to first head to Paris to fetch them. In speaking to blackfilm.com, Parker Posey spoke about her character and coming back to a role she created.

Hal Hartley just said something really fascinating about your process. Five minutes before a take he totally has you, two and a half minutes you are halfway there, minute before you start shooting you are just gone, you are completely there.

Parker Posey: It's weird cause you want to come like fresh to things; you want to be totally open. It’s kind of like jumping into water or drowning. So I kind of danced around it. I think my process is kind of like being like a normal person and then being opened to something that's really going to happen to you, and then getting into the role. But acting's an intimate kind of process. Hal is more language oriented so but I think his work is very emotional. I have to fight in a Fay kind of mood set. Henry's gonna come back into her life. It kind of scares her. She can't stand her love for him. She knows that when he comes her whole world is going to change. It's more terrifying and outrageous than she ever imagined. So it's that kind of world, it's very mythic. In the other room we were talking about superman, and the similarities. It's very different than a Chris Guest movie. Hal is like a playwright. I think he's more like David Mamet, in his style.

Was there a scene in Fay Grim where you felt like you were drowning?

PP: No you know she's naïve. There's something in her that knew that she would have to be a superhero at some point in her life. It is a strange world. She's gonna swim. She's got it in her. Everything else is kind of bullshit to her for example this politic stuff and the terrorism. Someone is messing with her kid. Her kid is in trouble. Her brother, she's gonna stick up for her brother. She doesn't understand. I have the same kind of thing. You're just gonna read the news again? To find out what? That none of it's true, that you can't believe anything, we're still at war, you can't really figure it out. Disinformation is what this movie is dealing with too and the loss of the simple life. She loves her man. This is a relationship story, this is a love story.

Were you surprised that it went from Queens to Istanbul?

PP: No. I don't read from that place. I don't think 'what's Hal Hartley doing now'? It's the story, this family, the world he's created can span in that way.

Were you apprehensive about doing a sequel?

PP: It's so funny because people were having sequel questions. Because if people like Shrek One, they can go to Shrek Two, they can have it all. And Pirates of the Caribbean, they're popular now.

What's with all these fear questions? Did I look scared, did I ever seem scared to work in anything you've seen me do?

It's totally a cult classic.

PP: I'm so happy. You're right. I've gotten stopped, you can spot the Hal Hartley fan a mile away. No, it's his writing, his storytelling is the real star of the movie. It should be out there like he was in the early nineties, his voice should be popular again, you've seen like, anyone with special talents, in the early nineties it was like cool to be Jim Jarmusch and cool to be Hal Hartley and Richard Linklater and make a movie in real time, there was an openness to being different that I think has really gotten out of style now. If you're expressing yourself people are really shocked. But that's what art is. So why are people shocked? Why aren't people more supportive? They are in other countries. Success has a lot to do with money.

What was it like to work in Paris?

PP: I did two movies where I follow a man to Paris.

How was working there? Did you have any time off there?

PP: These movies both - people are like "you work so much, don't you want to take time off?" but these movies, they're shot in digital, they got their financing at the same time. We shot Hal's movie in January and Zoe's movie in May. They're good companion pieces, they played in San Francisco back to back. I didn't see them of course, they're good companion pieces together. Doing Fay Grim in Paris was just croquet messieurs, corporate hotel. And raining. And beer. Our wrap party, which for some reason was held in a really big night club. We were gonna have this big wrap party and get there at ten o’clock because the dance floor's like the size of this table. Around eleven like a thousand people are getting there dance on to Cuban music. I couldn’t believe it, we couldn’t t just hang out and just. But I was jumping around and then at four AM, we had to go to Istanbul, it was really fun. I went back a couple times. We started in New York and then we went to Paris. You gotta be strong to do Paris alone. It's very romantic. At least bring your dog.

Did you bring your dog?

PP: No. I took her to Berlin. I could take her anywhere there. She could go to bars, restaurants and shopping malls.

There was an article in the New York Times it said you had a Snoopy that got stuck in a tree outside your apartment? How did that happen?

PP: I have - if some of you might know this experience of your buzzer not working. So instead of wadding my keys in a sock and throwing them down for someone to open it I used a little snoopy key chain. I put my keys on the snoopy and he goes flying out the window. So the night before the interview I threw the snoopy key chain out the window and it got stuck in the branches. And I kept throwing things out the window at night, like trying to get the keys down. I threw a purse, I threw a pillow. I was like, I'll worry about it tomorrow. Then I called my super Juan, the next day to help me get it out. He left it in my mailbox. Snoopy. I had a fish (key chain) at one point.

What are your plans to work with Christopher Guest?

PP: I don't know. Has someone told you he's gonna do another movie? Maybe he'll write something else.

You play gay in the last movie? Did you get any feedback on it?

PP: No, I didn't. I love the lesbians I love the gays. By the way, anyone watching The Big Gay Sketch Show? That's my friend - it's very funny. It's about...pocket gay friend, this girl's like, I want a pocket gay friend. Then there is this little gay boy in her pocket and he says “you look fab!” It's really fun; it's the first gay show. Doesn't anyone watch youtube?

Have you song before? Do you have any interest in musicals?

PP: I sang in Waiting for Guffman and I sang in A Mighty Wind. I can carry a tune but I don’t like that Broadway singing. If something comes my way, I read it then I call my manager and say, "this is what I'm gonna do.” As far as having any plans, I just kind of wait. It just has worked itself out that way.

How does Fay change?

PP: There are like three parts to the film. The first part was the mother role. I had a beehive and grocery bags. Then the second part she breaks out of her shell, she's got to go to Paris and that has this whole romantic energy to it. Every CIA spy that comes her way is hitting on her. You see her dedication and love for Henry. Then you see her wake up to the troubles around her and the reality that's around her. People with these confessions and she likes the way it sounds, it turns her on, other than that she could really care less. She's this heroine, you see that she's good, she's a good person, especially in our political times right now. There are good people everywhere, just like her.

We were in Istanbul and we took a day trip. One of the people from the production office, her mother is from Turkey, so she took us out. There were these men in the airport one was a history teacher and they wanted to talk to me since I am an American. They asked me “How do you like out country?” and I said, “this is the nicest place.” I heard that Turkey is so nice and the people are so kind and I told them that. The textiles are beautiful and any kind of conversations I would have about Turkey people would always say, “you have to go, you have to go.” Then they asked,” do you think Istanbul could ever be the art capitol? Like Venice.” I said, “Yeah, I think it could, but politically what's going on there. Before I did the movie Turkey, was in the news a lot because of the European Union and all that. You have this hope you hope that it can. There is a lot of great stuff there.

There is a lot of stuff you don’t hear in the news about that country.

PP: Oh my God, the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, oh we decided to dig here 20 years ago and we found Jesus' friends stone rings, underground! They can't dig anywhere because there is a whole world under the dirt there. If you get a chance to go to Istanbul, go.

Did you have any say in Fay's fashion evolution?

PP: Never. Hal Hartley was kind of wild because he was like I want you to have a coatdress. The look in Paris with the sexy heels, garters, this bride to Henry Fool sort of, I was gonna say gargoyle but that's not the right word. So we went to a costume shop, in Paris the size of a football field. The women who worked there was like “I don't know how we're going to find a coat...and her eyes are just bloodshot, and we're running around and we found that coat. It fit like a glove and I still have it. But I loved it.

Hal said something about Henry Fool might be the Devil?

PP: Yeah, but what is the devil? I was raised catholic but the devil was never with a pitchfork. He comes to the town, to society, to shake people up and to eventually raise the consciousness of the town. Through him and through that experience Fay becomes enlightened. She becomes challenged, she transforms herself, she's a superhero and then she's a conscious hero, it's all these things. I only saw the movie once, smarter people can talk about it with some distance, I just played the part, but Henry being the devil, and what that is. It's great that a movie can have that. That people can talk about it in such a way. That's what we should do. Totally.

Do you ever watch your own movies?

PP: No! God no.

When they're on cable?

PP: Yeah I change the channel. No. Wouldn’t you if you saw yourself? It’s horrible.

Sequel to Party Girl?

PP: They were asking that before. Of course, I mean.

You're in all these cult movies.

PP: That's one of those movies; the New York Times called me an annoying brat. That's when I stopped reading about myself. Oh, it's such a - movie, dance around, cause I like to dance around and watch movies when I was little, you just get up, start dancing, dress up, and have fun

Do you have to come back for Superman?

PP: No I don't have to come back, the villains in the Richard Donner film didn't come back. It doesn't mean they have to return. I would love to do it.





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