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Holly Hunter - Idol Chatter
Holly Hunter - Idol Chatter

In the frank indie Thirteen, as in life, Hunter isn’t afraid to bare all.

Good golly, Miss Holly—your film career careens from the commercialism of Broadcast News to the insanity of Raising Arizona to the nasty indie grit of your latest, Thirteen, a no-holds-barred tale of teen girls gone bad, cowritten by an actual 13-year-old. So tell us: Do you ever feel about yourself in Hollywood the way your character in The Piano (for which you won an Oscar) does at the end of that movie, when she declares, “I’m quite the town freak”?
[laughs] I don’t know how Hollywood perceives me. I don’t really think about it.

From the films you make, I believe you, honey.
I act on impulse an awful lot. And if you’re talking about actors who love to do theater and continually go back and forth between it and film—

—as you do—
—there may be less of an intention to carve out a “career,” an

“image.” So I always feel like there’s room for me to move around, and it’s not so scary in terms of “What’s happening with my Hollywood Thing?!”

Which must drive people who are convinced you have the “Oscar curse” mad.
That’s a concept that has no relevance in my life. But, of course, I’m not utterly satisfied with my career because I would like to work more.

But, as you’ve said, your choice is “not to do pure, unadulterated shit” because “I’d rather be home walking my dog.”
Yep, that’s me. [laughs]

So what’s it take for you to say yes to a script?
Well, you know, in the ’70s, the leading characters in movies were always kind of electrifying, and there was a darkness explored. So, like, in [1998’s] Living Out Loud, there were elements that hearkened back to a different era of moviemaking, certainly for women. And that’s a rarity—I haven’t seen a part that complicated and unpredictable since.

Interestingly, that was your last big starring role.
And it’s one of my favorite performances; a tremendous opportunity [to play] a very complicated, always fascinating woman. There was a scariness of “What will she do now?” so the element of danger was inherent.

And your roles are almost always dangerous. Like, how exactly do you prepare for a scene—specifically, the one in David Cronenberg’s Crash—where you’re getting all horny by watching videos of car wrecks while, simultaneously, feeling up James Spader’s and Rosanna Arquette’s crotches?
[laughs] Well, I’ll tell you, David doesn’t direct actors and he doesn’t create an atmosphere, either—he creates a WORLD. And, also, I was in the room [in that scene] with Elias Koteas—one of my favorite actors—and his commitment was complete: He was immersed, he was gone, and I wanted to go there, too.

I’ve long thought of you as the female Harvey Keitel—he’s one of the thimbleful of male stars who’ll do about anything for their art, including frontal nudity. Which is to say, baby, Sharon Stone has nothin’ on you. . . .
I just don’t feel uptight about nudity—I’ve never signed a nudity clause in my life. And whenever I’ve done nudity, I felt it was right—I mean, we’ve got five senses and sex employs all of them, so if you’re expressing something about what it means to be alive in the world, how can you subtract sex from that? And if you’re having sex with somebody, you’re, generally, going to be nude. And, if not, well, that can be interesting, too. [laughs] And if I feel comfortable with the director , well . . . like in Thirteen, [director and cowriter] Catherine Hardwicke and I didn’t even TALK about the nudity much.

Wow—I don’t even remember any bare booty in Thirteen.
That’s interesting and kind of great—because it’s full nudity. But there’s nothing sexual about it: It’s two people who live together who are having this heated confrontation, and she just happens to have no clothes on. I like that. It feels like real life.

Cool. Last question: As the über anti-bullshit movie star, what’s still the best thing about having a Hollywood career?
“Your car is here, Miss Hunter.” [smiles] That’s pretty nice.

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