EXCLUSIVE: Kim Cattrall Talks Meet Monica Velour
An aging porn star befriends a star-struck fan in this poignant comedy from director Keith Bearden, in theaters Friday
Meet Monica Velour is a very sweet natured comedy about an aging porn star and her biggest fan, a seventeen year old nerd with a nostalgia fetish. Kim Cattrall plays Monica, a beautiful centerfold who headlined a number of off-the-wall adult films in the late seventies and early eighties. She has since fallen on hard times, resorting to ridicule at the local strip club where she dances to hoots and hollers of, "Is she wearing depends?" Tobe (Dustin Ingram), who has been a collector of Monica Velour VHS tapes, posters, and magazines throughout the years, decides to pay the hopeless and desolate Velour a visit while on a road trip to sell his prized Hot Dog vending truck. After an initial bumpy meeting, these two lost souls slowly, but surely, become friends, and for a few scant seconds, lovers. It's a coming-of-age tale that pays loving homage to films like Harold and Maude and The Last American Virgin.
We recently caught up with star Kim Cattrall to talk to her about this funny, heartwarming look at growing up and growing old. Here is our conversation.
Despite the porn aspect, and the bawdiness that goes with being a former centerfold, this is almost a G rated story. Was it the inherent sweetness of this relationship between Monica and Tobe that first drew you to this screenplay?
Kim Cattrall: It was. It was the character. She scared me. I had never played a character that was so hopeless. So at the end of her rope. She has no support. Usually the characters that I play are so empowered. This was a woman without any of those attributes, living by herself in a trailer park, who had a porn career in the 70s. She started stripping and hooking a little bit. She married this creep, they have this child. And now she is fighting for custody of her daughter. First of all, I didn't know if I could do this. If I could inhabit this. My life was going in a certain direction, in terms of playing these very powerful women. I thought, "Wait a minute. Why does this scare me so much?" Then I thought, "This could be quite an adventure as an actor." Gaining the twenty pounds. Discovering that scenario of what this woman's destiny was. Lowering my voice, my body attitude. Really, apart from this being exciting, it was some of the most fun I have had playing a real character. As opposed to being an idealized woman like Samantha Jones. She is like a super human. Or a comic book hero of what a woman is supposed to be. To really be someone this flawed, and multi-dimensional, yet also tough and narcissistic...Flying off the handle...It was really interesting to me to have a role that was so juicy. When I met Keith Bearden, our director, he was talking to people like Courtney Love, and a lot of other big name actresses, as far as Hollywood movies go. I thought to myself, "I want to put my hat in the ring." We met, and talked. He was originally a journalist. He had a great understanding of film, and the history of film. A lot of the same movies that I grew up with in the late seventies, he knew. He had a great reference point. Then, we rehearsed and rehearsed. I rehearsed without him. I wanted this to become second nature and very realistic. I wanted it to be in my bones, not just in my head. I also have a history of playing sexualized characters. I thought, here is a chance to play someone so marginalized, who has become such an outcast. How can I champion for her? As you can see, I am very passionate about this.
Yeah, it sounds like it. It's a great role. One of the interesting aspects of the character in terms of yourself, and I am sure you've had this pointed out quite a lot, is that during Monica's heyday, you, yourself, starred in some of the most remembered comedy classics of the 80s. One's that comedy nerds absolutely love. Did you find a connection to this character through that? That you guys had sort of a similar background?
Kim Cattrall: This was not lost on me. Absolutely. I mean: Porky's. Police Academy. Mannequin. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. These are, to me, wonderful movies for their time. And they were so much fun to do. To play this character, who was in this era, who was a big star, though in a different way...There is a crossroads here. You are right. That is very perceptive. I found that quite amusing. I had a little chuckle about that. I said, "I wonder if people get this, and notice." I think the fans will.
You can't forget Turk 182!
Kim Cattrall: No! I can't forget that one!
Have you ever met anyone with Tobe's passion when it comes to those films?
Kim Cattrall: Oh, yes! I can't tell you how many times I get into a meeting with a studio head who will turn to me and say, "You know, Mannequin...That was one of my favorite movies...Ever..." Or Big Trouble in Little China? They still watch it. And that is a huge compliment. You're right. Young men and young women who look at those movies go, "Oh, that is my Monica Velour!" But in more of a PG sense, of course. But yes! That is the great thing about my job. If you survive, and you continue to have a career...It is such a complicated equation, to have a life and a career in this business. And to keep working throughout each decade. I have been so fortunate. One of the reason I think I have been, is that I have such a very solid support base from my fans.
It's almost like you've had two separate careers.
Kim Cattrall: Yes. I really attribute that to going home, in the sense that I am a classically trained theater actress. I always viewed those first movies, as much as a loved doing them...The roles were not very complex. But I wanted to stay in the theater world. Theater was my sanity. Movies were my addiction. They were fun. They also paid for my life style. Which was meager. But in the theater, you are making two hundred and fifty dollars a week. On a movie, they give you a per diem. You don't have to dip into your salary. So, very early on, I got this idea that I could do these movies that would support me, and they would be really fun to do. But I could also do serious theater work. I would always jump between the two. Then Sex and the City happened. Thank god! In my forties, when my career was really starting to feel like it did have an expiration date. Because women hit thirty-five, and things start to change. You are no longer the young leading lady to the forty-year-old man. Or someone the same age. But women don't have the longevity in the feature film world that we should. Sex and the City came along, and my career went even bigger in the sense of recognition. Of playing amazing scenarios from terrific writers, with three other really great actresses. It really brought a woman's voice to the forefront. What I have done since then is continued my theater work, and I do television, and I did this film. Now, I have the luxury to say yes to films that I feel passionate about. That is what attracted me to Meet Monica Velour, which is a comedy, but it is also a very feminist film.
I want to ask you about one scene in particular from Monica Velour, coming from the acting aspect of it. When Tobe first meets Monica, it's at a strip club. She is on stage, dancing. Then you have this whole other scene going on below the stage. Take me through the steps of working through that, and having to stay in your own world while this small tsunami of madness plays out just outside of Monica's sphere...
Kim Cattrall: This was probably the most difficult scene for me. It was the last scene that we shot. Keith Bearden had hired this really great burlesque dancer named Julie Atlas Muz, who is very famous in the underground art scene in New York, and in Europe. She choreographed this quite sad, slightly pathetic strip to a 1970's classic, 'Tonight, I Celebrate My Love for You'. And she is dressed in a bridal getup. I am scantily clad, and I had to put on that twenty pounds, which changes your body image completely. As you said, in the runway of the audience are these young boys. The women that they've been educated to think are real women, are these women they see in porn films. Most of those women have had their breasts done. This is a woman whose breasts are very small, her stomach is hanging out. All of those other women that are in that club, hanging out...They look like force ads for gyms. They have these big fake breasts. To these guys, that is what a real woman looks like. That is the way they've been brought up. But that is not a real woman. This real woman comes in, and she is approaching her fifties. She has a tummy, as I said. And she is not looking her best. She has a tired routine. The kids start screaming, "This is something off the senior's menu! Does she have Depends on under there?" I have to say, we did it, because we had so many angles, for about four hours. After we finished it, it did affect me quite deeply. Because I felt like just a piece of meat. I kept thinking to myself, "The only way this character, Monica Velour, can get through this moment, is to be out of her body." If you look at that scene, she is dead in her eyes. That is the only way she can protect herself. She hears those cruel words, but it does not penetrate her. She just goes off and away from her body. It's like a pain. She knows why she is there. She needs money. She needs to get a lawyer to get her daughter back. Whatever she needs to do, she is going to do it. And it's this deadness inside that she needs, to get herself through that. Drugs, alcohol. All of those things she does. Snorting meth with bikers. She does that to make her life bearable at this moment in time.
How do you find that dead space within a character?
Kim Cattrall: As I say, it affected me personally, greatly. I knew I had to put up a shield. When someone says comments to me, in my own life...I have a very successful life, and I am very lucky, but sometimes ageism comments, they do get to you. You either try to educate someone, or you just say, "They don't understand that one day, too, if they are lucky enough, they will be this certain age. Maybe they will think differently about it." You can't be an open sore, but at the same time, you can't be blockaded like Monica is. You have to take it in and recognize it, and let it go.
What are your opinions about the end of the movie? I almost bought into this fantasy that Tobe and Monica could be together at the end of the day, but clearly, in a realistic sense, that is impossible...
Kim Cattrall: I don't think Monica ever considers this a true love story. She likes this kid, but she is a realist. She has her objectives straight. It's a fantasy that they can go off to Oregon. He can go to school, and she can learn how to do something else. And they can have a life together. She says, "You need someone your own age. You're just a kid. And I need to find someone that I can have for a father, for Kayla." It is all about her daughter. She is a realist. It is when his fantasy meets reality. Because she is always reality based. There is never a moment in her mind, even though they have sex. It is not sex with passion. She has not met her sole mate. Its sex for fun. She likes him. He is sweet. He likes her, and he is helping her. He cares about her. He made breakfast for her. He has a scrapbook of everything she has ever done. This is stuff that her husband has thrown away. Her life has been disposable. Here's someone who cherishes it. That itself is a love story. But it's not between equals. And it's not between people who should be together. But it is of the moment. When you tell people this is what the story is, they ask, "What happens in it? Explosions? People running off?" I say, "Actually, this is a very gentle push. You see the characters trying to interact." It speaks a lot about our director, who is a first time director. In no means is this a perfect film. I don't even know what a perfect film is. But he does things that are so simple, and they allow the audience to breath with these characters. They are not in a hurry. The events are, I feel, realistically placed. And very well judged. I get wrapped in by the quietness of the film. Not by the explosions, or the erratic behavior, or the music score. It has a beautiful pace to it, which is so reminiscent to me of movies from the 70s. Which I consider true American movies. Because they are talking about real people in heightened circumstances. I can see someone like Monica and Tobe existing.
You and Dustin Ingram carry a really believable chemistry. I believe in Monica and Tobe's friendship onscreen. What sort of process did you two go through together? Did you guys hang out at all before filming began, or did you just jump into straight into this?
Kim Cattrall: Keith Bearden didn't want us to hang out. He wanted us to be awkward together. After we finished filming, Dusty has become, like, my kid. I love him dearly. He is such a talented young actor, and so passionate about what he does. He cares so much. But it was difficult. He is so charming. He had just turned 18 when we did the movie. He just now turned twenty-one. When I see the movie, I am really reminded of how much of a baby he was back then. And every maternal instinct I had, wanted me to mother him. But Keith would say, "No. He has to relate to you!" He is a young actor. He had to relate to me. So that he didn't have to act all the time, he just is. That is what Keith Bearden was trying to achieve, which I think he did, brilliantly. In the way he shot scenes with Dusty, and in Dusty's performance. You see that in our connection onscreen.
One of the themes running through the movie is this love for nostalgia. But it really offers insight into something that is commonplace nowadays. Tobe loves these movies of the past. And we are seeing that now, where something like Police Academy is being watched and remembered by kids today, and the movies that are new, just aren't as attractive to them...
Kim Cattrall: I think that movies, like Meet Monica Velour, are rare. Because they don't make a lot of money. When you look at Police Academy, it was not made for a lot of money. It was made by a writer and director who had done WKRP in Cincinnati. He has a real funny bone, and he is a brilliant writer. I still look at The Honeymooners and laugh. I look at I Love Lucy, and I laugh. Hopefully, it's the same with this movie. If it is truthful, and there is conflict, and it is human...Then you can relate to it. I think, with a lot of those older movies...Even Porky's, to an extent, is based on good writing, good conflicts, and good actors. You get that combination together, and you have a product that people keep revisiting. It becomes a favorite of yours. It's comforting. I find that when I see old movies, like Harold and Maude, which this so reminded me of...When I watch those kinds of movies, I am not just reminded of my youth, but I go on that journey with those character. I laugh and I cry. They seem like part of my life, really. It's like a good book or a piece of music. You take them with you.
But what the movie is saying, and what is true, at least from what I see around me, is that we're not getting the same types of movies as we did back then. When Police Academy, or Porky's, or Big Trouble in Little China came out, they were talked about then, at that moment, just as they are talked about today as classics. Nobody is rushing to the video store to rent Yogi Bear for the fifth time. But in 1984, people would go back and rent Police Academy two or three times in a row.
Kim Cattrall: It does seem like that. Each generation does have its draws. That is like 3D right now. Who would have thought that 3D would come back? That is extraordinary. But there are a few gems. Look at a movie like Up. It is beautifully done. Or Ratatouille, these movies that are supposed to be just entertainment. I am like, "I could watch those again." The Triplets Of Belleville...
Yeah, that is a great movie...
Kim Cattrall: Maybe I am sighting animated stuff, because that is what I am very much drawn too. Good movies are just good movies.
Of course, I have to ask my last question, and you know what's coming...
I'm sorry, it's a prerequisite!
Kim Cattrall: It's always the last question, and people are so embarrassed to ask it!
It's hard, because I know you get it all the time. Now, you just mentioned 3D. Are they going to go that route with Sex and the City 3? Is there a chance we're going to see Samantha Jones in 3D?
Kim Cattrall: I really don't know. As an actor, they first get a script together and they give you some start dates. They put together a budget, and then they say, "We're going to send you a script!" They want to talk. That hasn't happened. There is now talk of a prequel. Candace Bushnell wrote a book called 'The Carrie Diaries'. We've seen little rumors about them wanting to make a movie about the girls in their twenties. Maybe late tweens. I didn't read this book. I haven't had a chance to. But Candace is a very good writer, and I am sure she has come up with a very good plotline for the girls. That to me seems...I don't know. I am not holding onto that hope. I feel like I've let go. Whatever happens with those characters...I would love to revisit them. Its like a reunion. Its like going home. Thirteen years of your life? That is a long time to be associated with one show and one character. One family. If it happens, that would be great. But if not? It was an amazing experience.
Did you think that the critics were a little to harsh on Sex and the City 2?
Kim Cattrall: Oh, absolutely. There were other movies that came out last summer, like Iron Man 2, and they were creamed by the critics as well. But there seemed to be, what I felt, after a while, a misogynistic slant to how much they didn't like it. In some ways, it was like, "We never really wanted to like this, and now we get to hate it!" It's a summer movie. We made it for fans. What can you do but hope for the best? It did very well at the box office. Any time a woman-driven film does well, in this climate, in this industry, you have to stand up and say, "Thank you for that!"
When you talk about this prequel, are you involved in any way with that? Do you have any idea who would make a good twenty-year-old Samantha?
Kim Cattrall: No. I know nothing about it. Except the little pieces of gossip. People will ask me, "Do you know about the prequel?" And I say, "Well, now I do." But I have never known much about it. I really don't. Who knows? Who knows why one film gets a yes? And another one gets a no? When you think about the fact that something like Black Swan couldn't get funding, you have to say, "What?" Anyway, my point is that I am not in this loop.
It seems a little strange to me, just in the fact that you have this established franchise that people still love, and that people want to still see. It seems pointless to turn back the clock on them...
Kim Cattrall: I don't think its possible for us to play twenty-year olds anymore.
Why do we even need that?
Kim Cattrall: Because! Its another way to make money. Isn't it. That's all it is. Why do they make sequels or prequels, or anything really? To make money. And hopefully to make good entertainment. That is what we always tried to do. We had good writers working on it. And there were a lot of barriers beaten down. For woman, I believe. There were a lot of storylines that helped both genders, and entertained them. That is what it was about. Entertaining. So, who knows what the future brings? Maybe there will be something spawned from further on in these women's stories together. Or, before they met. If they have a good enough script and a good enough director, chances are that it can be a good film.