Patricia Clarkson Interview

A solid performance in a sexy white bikini

Have you ever been uncomfortable at the theater, you wanted to leave, but the movie was so compelling, you had to stay. Well, that's kind of what happened to me when I went to see The Dying Gaul. It's a complicated love triangle, that turns tragic. Don't worry, I'm not giving too much away - you have to figure something out with the title.

There's a line in the movie when Peter Sarsgaard is trying to sell his script to Campbell Scott; Campbell says 'No one is going to want to see a movie called The Dying Gaul.'

I want to say, you should go see this film. Not only for the wonderful performances, but for a very good story. And what a performance turned in by Patricia Clarkson; she plays the wife of Campbell (they also happened to be a real life couple).

Patricia sat down with Movieweb to discuss the role and how she got ready to dawn a pretty sexy outfit! Find out what she had to say:

You looked really good in that bathing suit in the movie, what do you do to stay in shape?

Patricia Clarkson: Drugs, (joking) no, I've never done any drugs. I walk my dog. Honestly, I walk my dog four times a day when I'm in New York, and you ought to see my dog's body. I'm serious, it's funny, but my dog is amazing; he's 11 years old, and people sometimes think he's a puppy. They'd say ‘Oh my G-d, he's beautiful' and he's very friendly; he's a sweetheart. I walk a lot and I live on the top floor of a townhouse, so I go up and down stairs all day so once you've walked a dog four times and go up and down stairs all day, I don't want to go to the gym. But for this movie, I did do some sit ups; I didn't hire a trainer or do anything crazy. I'm not a gym - but I walked on my treadmill because I was in LA before we started shooting and I did some sit ups and some stretches and stuff. I would do some exercises, a few every day, just on my own on a little towel and pray.

Have you ever had a Hollywood experience as bizarre as the one in the film?

Patricia Clarkson: No, I've never personally had - you mean been with a bisexual man? No, I've never encountered, but the night is young, it's Hollywood, baby! I don't know that it's any weirder than any other town. But I think every metropolitan city has its pockets of - that's what makes them great. It's why those of us who choose to live in the big cities - that's why because people of all walks of life, different people and different - it's an eclectic city. And that's what I love about it, I grew up in New Orleans and now I live in New York. They're both cities I love, and I like coming to LA; I don't know if it's a place I could live, but I like coming here to visit - as long as I'm at the Chateau Marmont, which is my home away from home. Then I'm happy for some reason, if I'm at the Chateau, I don't know; I think it's because I've stayed there for so long now.

Have you had a moment like Robert has where you had to sacrifice some of your ideals?

Patricia Clarkson: Of course, yes, I'm fortunate in that I have - I've made some very tough decisions. There are things that I've worked on that have compromised me; there are things that I wanted to get made that didn't get made. There are ‘unless we do this, unless we do that.' My favorite story is Station Agent when Tom McCarthy was shopping it around. Everyone was ‘Does this character have to be a dwarf?' Tom was like ‘Well, yeah, that's the story,' so we have all of those. Yes, I've been compromised, I've been compromising things at time, but nothing huge. I will say this: I have, in a way, kind of made the life I've wanted in this business. I have walked away from enormous amounts of money and I have made that life I have wanted somewhat in this business. I love doing independent film, I love doing theater, I love doing studio films, and I do all three now, or doing a recurring part on Six Feet Under. I'm not cut out to be a regular on a TV series.

What do you think about people getting to know each other by chatting online? Did you research?

Patricia Clarkson: Everybody is so interested in that, I don't own a computer. I have a much larger computer vocabulary now because of this part; I did learn and do research. And I have been on a computer with a friend or the man I date. I have been on a computer, but I'm not a computer aficionado. I'm not a computer gal, but I have in chat rooms, with different friends I have gone into a chat room. And I think they're fascinating and I think the beauty of chat rooms is that you can have your anonymity of course, and you can choose to be raunchy and sexy and bold. Or you can actually go into certain chat rooms and maybe have an incredibly soulful, meaningful conversation that will change your life or change the other person's life. And I think that's kind of great about this film, that you see how these chat rooms, how the Internet can, covers this broad base when we first start out - what is it - Men on a Bench - which is very funny and then it branches into something much darker, and then ultimately something kind of beautiful I think in the end.

Why did she started going to that chat room? Just curiosity or what?

Patricia Clarkson: I think it's curiosity because, Elaine, at the beginning of this movie she's somewhat happy, but I think there is a dollop of loneliness and boredom. This is a woman who is I think a quite productive screenwriter at one time in her life, like Robert I think an art film screenwriter. She says ‘I write the movies that Jeffrey will never make.' I don't think she dabbled in screenwriting, I think she was a very accomplished screenwriter, but I think she gave it up. And a little later in life as you can see had children and then got swept up in this Hollywood life. I think when she first encounters Robert she is smitten. I think they are kindred spirits and I think he's a beautiful man. I think she sees in him, internally and externally - and of course as played by Peter Sarsgaard, he is delicious and delightful. I think she's absolutely captivated by him, and so incredibly - and I think that's what's so sad -- deeply empathetic and compassionate about his loss and about what he is possibly. She most of all knows what is to come with that screenplay and how it's going to change and how he will have to make big compromises and, of course, the story goes in the trash.

You're so real in many of your roles; have you ever been asked to be outright melodramatic?

Patricia Clarkson: Every day of my life! (laughs) You should see me walking my dog. I've done farce, I've done very broad comedy on stage, I've done Nicky Silver - he's a great New York playwright. I've done three of his plays, and they're wild and crazy and broad; they're not quite melodrama, but they're larger in scale. But I don't know if I've ever been asked to play a melodrama. No, but I have been larger, and I did do Blanche DeBois, but she's quite dramatic, not melodramatic. She's one of the most real characters ever written and she's piercing in ways like Elaine, very, very complicated.

You and Craig missed each other in 1998 when you were doing The Maiden's Prayer, which was followed by the stage production of The Dying Gaul.

Patricia Clarkson: Yes, which I saw twice so I was so happy when he approached me. I loved the play, but he said the screenplay is going to be very different. And I was very happy about that because the play was so present in my mind. Because Craig is such a rare breed in that there are great playwrights and there are great screenwriters, I think there's just a sliver that is both, and Craig is one. He's a great playwright and he can write a true screenplay. You look at the job he did on Secret Lives of Dentists - I don't know if you knew that book, Jane Smiley - that adaptation is masterful how he captured again a very complex story, the details. But I'm so glad when he approached me, he said ‘The screenplay's going to be different.' He was kind of writing the screenplay with me and Peter and Campbell in mind, so he said. He said ‘Would you?' and I said ‘Of course, are you kidding? That would be astonishing!' So it was just shifted and altered enough and became its own piece. And so the play remains this extraordinary experience they've had witnessing it, watching it and this incredible I've had being inside of it.

What would you have done if this same situation happened to you?

Patricia Clarkson: It's so hard to say, I just don't know; I'm not good at ‘the cat who ate the canary.' I'm more vocal, and I think I would have been - I don't know if I would have actually taken on this whole - first of all, I wouldn't have used a computer, I would use the phone, the fax. I'm much more confrontational, I think I would have been much more confrontational; I think it would have been a much more immediate. I don't know that I'm good at deception, I would have been very vocal and very upfront and emotional.

Why do you think Craig didn't make her more vocal?

Patricia Clarkson: Because I think it was just who she is as a woman, as a character. Elaine, for all of her trophy wife, LA wife, is an intellectual. I think it comes through here (points to head) first; things go through here (points to gut) for me first. But with Elaine, when she takes on a situation it's more plodding and more methodical. She's a much more methodical person than I am, but I think that's the character. I think she's able to, that's how she views life.

What's next for you?

Patricia Clarkson: I have many things, I have so many things that I'm just not really sure. I have Craig's movie - I have this - I have this movie in April called Learning to Drive with Naveen Andrews and possibly this movie as Tallulah Bankhead. There's a lot going on right now, and I'm just not sure what I'll be shooting first.

Are you more busy because your career has taken off?

Patricia Clarkson: Well I was busy before, you remember the years that I got all those accolades I had three movies out that year and I had two in the can. Yes, things have shifted. Of course, things have changed and gotten better; I'm being offered more things, a lot of scripts with a lot of leading parts now, which are good because it just gives me a chance to have more breadth and play more complicated parts. I love doing supporting parts too, but I like to mix it up. Like in this it was nice to be the leading lady and in All the Kings Men, which I have coming out, is a great supporting character. But yes, things have definitely changed for the better, of course. I just have to take it slowly because sometimes I get a little overwhelmed and I can't do it all. Sometimes I'm ‘Oh, this script is so great,' and it's unfortunate. I'm lucky, lucky, lucky that I have maybe sometimes too many choices, I'm very lucky.

Since you were staying at the Chateau Marmont, you didn't get to stay in the house in Malibu?

Patricia Clarkson: Oh no, we could barely sit down in the house in Malibu. They were like ‘I see a footprint. Whose footprint is that? Don't walk, don't walk, you have to float, you have to float over.' We had to be so careful in this house, but it was the perfect house, and that infinity pool was crazy. I must say that pool was amazing; it's not my kind of house, but that infinity pool - and all my swimming at camp came in handy. My mother - I said ‘Mom, when you see this movie - first of all, it's a little risqué - but you're going to be so proud of my swimming strokes.' My mother is a swimming instructor at the camp we went to, she ran the waterfront and that's why we got to go free. But my mother is a huge swimmer; everyone in our family is. So I said ‘You're going to be proud of my swimming strokes.'

The Dying Gaul opens in New York and Los Angeles on November 4th and nationwide soon after that. It's rated 'R' for strong sexual content and language. As I said earlier, it should be on your 'must list.'