Close Encounters of the Celebrity Kind...
Calling Piper Perabo
Expanded Edition of the 4-4-07 WCT Interview
by Richard Knight, Jr.
The actress in evening dress, on screen with First Snow co-star Guy Pearce and with Imagine Me & You love interest, Lena Headey
Movie audiences who have only seen Piper Perabo in supporting parts in The Prestige, Because I Said So, Cheaper By the Dozen and her
breakthrough role in Coyote Ugly have missed the young upcoming actor in two of her best movies. These would be starring parts in
Lost and Delirious and Imagine Me & You, the lesbian themed indies that have garnered Perabo such a devoted GLBT following. Now
Perabo (who was named after actress Piper Laurie) co-stars with another GBLT audience favorite, Guy Pearce (from The Adventures of
Priscilla Queen of the Desert) in the psychological thriller First Snow.
In the film Perabo plays Deirdre the longtime live-in girlfriend of Jimmy (Pearce), a cocky salesman whose life spirals out of control
after events following a chance encounter with a fortuneteller prove to be eerily prescient. Shot in barren New Mexico, Perabo brings
much to a character who can’t do much more than offer support for a situation that she doesn’t understand.
Perabo, who lives in New York, enthusiastically talked at length about her work on First Snow and how her performances in the lesbian
themed pictures have elevated her credibility as an actor in the business.
Highlights from our conversation:
WINDY CITY TIMES (WCT): When I told my publisher and editor that I was going to be talking with you the whole office, all these
lesbian girls, started screaming “Piper! Piper!” (laughs)
PP: (laughs) I should come to Chicago more often!
WCT: You gotta come here, girl. Anyway, I think First Snow had this really cool, eerie Hichcockian feel to it which I’m sure you’re
hearing as you do press for this. What draws you to a part like Deirdre?
PP: There were a couple of things. I had heard about these two writers, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby and I was really interested to
read their script. When I read it I didn’t think they would cast me because she’s a little tougher and dryer and keeps her cards
closer to her vest than characters that I usually play. It was something that I really wanted to try. Then I heard Guy Pearce was
attached and I’m a big fan of his.
WCT: She doesn’t say a whole lot but you can see the concern in her eyes over what Jimmy (Pearce’s character) is going through.
Are you a fortunetelling type or more like, “I don’t want to know?”
PP: I’m more in the camp of “I don’t want to know.” For me, this movie is a perfect ad for “Don’t go to fortunetellers” because they
plant that little splinter in your brain and it can really start to affect you.
WCT: Right. Can you just talk for a minute about working with Guy Pearce? Was it a little daunting to work with such a great actor?
PP: He’s such an interesting and compelling actor so it was really challenging. He lives in Australia so you never see him in the
tabloids and it’s hard to know what he’s going to be like. Whether he’s going to be generous in the scene or not and how he works
in general and I was really daunted going in. But it was sooo much fun. There really was a lot of discussion about the script and the
place and I think you can feel that New Mexico is really a character in the film. I think a lot of that comes from discussion from Guy
with the writers. Listening to him talk about those kinds of things and working on scenes with him was just amazing.
WCT: It’s interesting that you mention that because that’s the next thing to discuss on my list – the barren landscape in New Mexico
really seems like another character and you really get that. You can either look at that country as like the perfect place for serial
killers or the perfect artist retreat.
PP: It’s funny right?
WCT: It really is. I’m the artist retreat type because I’m a real Georgia O’Keeffe person – I grew up in Nebraska and love that
barren country – but what was your reaction to the country when you went out there to film?
PP: I had never been to New Mexico until I went to go shoot this. I had seen O’Keeffe’s paintings of course and Ansel Adams has
those vast landscape shots of New Mexico and I had certainly a new understanding of those pieces of work once I spent time out
there. It’s so kind of awe inspiring and majestic but at the same time it makes you feel really small. It’s sort of the perfect
background for a story like this, I think.
WCT: Yes. Did you get a chance to go visit O’Keeffe’s place at Abiquiu? I just wondered that because they mentioned Abiquiu Lake
in the film.
PP: I know, isn’t that funny?!
WCT: That’s so cool.
PP: I didn’t go to Abiquiu but I went to Santa Fe to see her museum of her work there. It was so amazing.
WCT: Yes, that’s a wonderful place. Talking about O’Keeffe leads me to the next perfect segue and to my lesbian readership…for
anybody keeping score you have now kissed Hugh Jackman, Guy Pearce and Lena Headey (she’s laughing) – all major gay
heartthrobs. So who was the best smoocher?
PP: Wow, woah, they’re all really good (giggles). Guy has sort of the best mouth of them all but Hugh had just finished re-shoots
for X-Men when we did our scenes so he was in his, sort of, Wolverine form—
WCT: And what a form!
PP: Yes, and what a form! (laughs) And Lena Headey is so beautiful and now she’s had all that success with 300. I think it’s going
to be a much longer line to kiss her these days.
WCT: Well maybe that will also encourage some people to go take another look at Imagine Me & You which was the sweetest comedy.
PP: Thank you; it’s one of my favorites.
WCT: It’s interesting how the lesbian movies are these really sweet romantic comedies and the of course the gay movies are sort of
man on man stuff (laughs). So let’s talk about this for a little second. Has the fact that you’ve done these two lesbian films caused
any backlash for you or made you a more interesting person to cast?
PP: You mean in my life or in my work?
WCT: Well let’s do both. Work first.
PP: In work it’s been nothing but positive – the effect of both those films. People have said that to me in the past, “Do you worry
about playing gay characters?” or “Does it worry you to do these films?” and in fact Lost and Delirious – for as many people that saw
Coyote Ugly that’s great – but really the reason I get to meet a lot of interesting directors is because of Lost and Delirious. Because
Léa Pool is such an incredible director and that film is so beautiful. It opened a lot of doors for me.
WCT: It should have because you’re amazing in that film and I’m happy to be able to tell you that.
PP: Thank you. As soon as I read the script I was dying to do it and I had this feeling about it – that kind of heartache. In some
ways a very similar effect has happened with Imagine Me & You although it’s a completely different tone. (Director) Ol Parker is such
an incredible writer and because I did a British character in a British film, I’m sure is what got me into The Prestige for example with
Chris Nolan. And Matthew Goode (her costar in Imagine Me & You) is this sort of genius British actor and the dialogue in that is so
good and the tone is so funny and fast and sort of understandable. I love those films so much and it’s only been good for me that
I’ve done them.
WCT: Have you seen Matthew Goode in The Lookout?
WCT: It’s a complete change of character for him. It’s amazing. It’s cool. You’re going to love him in that.
PP: He just signed on to do Brideshead Revisited. They’re doing a remake with him and I’m so excited.
WCT: Oh I want you to be in that! Come on – let’s get you an audition for that.
PP: I know but its British and I can only be in so many British films or the British actors are going to come after me and hunt me
WCT: Okay, about your personal life. Has it affected your personal life? Has there been more scrutiny because you’ve done these
two lesbian films?
PP: No. Not at all really. People ask me if I’m gay but I don’t know; I don’t consider that scrutiny (laughs). I think that’s a
WCT: Oh good, good. You’ve got that “who cares,” “comme se/comee sa” attitude. We love that.
PP: Well yeah, who cares and why are you asking?
WCT: Right. And that said, are you eventually going to do a big budget, lesbian comedy-drama-action blockbuster?
PP: (laughs, tongue-in-cheek) I’m looking for that big budget lesbian action comedy! I haven’t read a script that I think is funny
enough yet. I’m looking for it. Hopefully, Jerry Bruckheimer will back me up on this one.
WCT: Well my publisher actually has the lesbian in the military movie script that she wants to send your way.
PP: Perfect! She can send it to my agent.
WCT: You also have a musical career background. I know you did a lot of musicals in college. So you must sing, yes?
PP: I do sing.
WCT: Didn’t you sing in Coyote? Am I wrong?
PP: You know originally I did sing in Coyote and then it got re-dubbed.
WCT: I seem to remember you shaking it on a bar somewhere singing but (laughs).
PP: They just wrapped on the set of Hairspray and with Dreamgirls I feel like there’s going to be a revival of these big musicals.
Musicals are always popular in wartime and I feel like they’re coming.
WCT: We need some of that fantasy, absolutely.
PP: I’m excited about it. I love musical films.
WCT: Oh, well, you’re talking to a show tune queen so please!
PP: Oh my God, wouldn’t it be so fun if they started remounting all the big musicals on film again?
WCT: Yes. Is there a part that you’d want to play? If they redid Carousel or something?
PP: I’d really like to play Adelaide in Guys & Dolls if I could have my pick.
WCT: That’s a great role, too.
PP: Oh my God, I think it’s genius and you get all the good dance numbers. That would be so great. Nathan Detroit’s always really
appealed to me.
WCT: And you’re a “New Yawker” now. Don’t you live in New York?
PP: I do and Adelaide’s such a New York girl.
WCT: Right, she is. Can we talk a minute about this picture that’s coming up with you, Carriers? It sounds really creepy. Is that
the next one we’re going to see from you?
PP: That’s the next one you’re going to see. It will be at the end of the summer or early fall and again it’s a new writer/director –
these two brothers from Spain – the Pastor brothers – and it’s sort of an apocalypse thriller. It’s really dark (laughs) again like First
Snow but I think it’s really good. It’s really beautiful. Benoít (Debie) who shot it got an award for Best Cinematographer at
Sundance this winter and I think it’s going to be a really, really interesting film.
WCT: That sounds cool. So this is another film with first time directors. You obviously are a little bit of a risk taker. Are you just
PP: Yes. I like writer/directors. With the first timers it’s a real dice roll – you have no idea how it’s going to go but in some ways it
allows for a lot more input. There’s a lot more dialogue going on with a first timer and also I learn a lot, too because they’re usually
more open about their thought process and the storytelling. For me it works really well. I’m happy to take a risk.
WCT: Is there a career path for you or is it whatever part that comes up that’s interesting?
PP: It’s really whatever part that comes up that’s interesting. When I read a script I just want to be open and aware to see if it’s a
story that I think I can tell well. Having a path is just something that’s never been the way that I work.
WCT: Your lesbian fans are many and varied, as I’m sure you’re aware, are they important to you?
PP: Totally. I mean I try to tell stories that I feel…you know when I go to see films I feel like the ones I connect to make me feel
like I’m understood and I’m part of a bigger group of people who have similar concerns and feelings.
WCT: It’s probably also great to be on the forefront – to tell some of these kinds of stories that we really haven’t seen before.
PP: Well going back to Lost and Delirious. One of the things that was so exciting as an actress to read that script was that the
character was such a hero. I think partly because the script was written by a woman and then also directed by a woman. There are
not a lot of young women hero characters and it’s funny to me that in the lesbian scripts that I’ve read there are women heroes. I
think in real life there are female heroes all the time and that’s not reflected in films and in love stories there’s female heroes too
and that’s something that I have experienced and I believe in. I mean one of the things that appealed to me immediately about
that story was the hero aspects.