Selma Blair and Rachel McAdams Share Their Stories of James Toback’s Sexual Harassment VANITY FAIR

October 26, 2017 – Vanity Fair Interview
by Krista Smith with Julie Miller

Selma Blair and Rachel McAdams Share Their Stories of James Toback’s Sexual Harassment

Photo by Jeff Vespa

Both women encountered the director early in their careers. Both describe remarkably similar experiences of his targeting and humiliation of young actresses.

A week after The New York Times and The New Yorker ran back-to-back reports cataloguing Harvey Weinstein’s alleged serial sexual harassment of women in Hollywood, actress Selma Blair saw a story on HuffPost about writer and director James Toback’s new film that made her blood run cold. The piece, written by a female reporter who interviewed Toback at the Venice Film Festival, was titled “James Toback Gets Us, He Truly Gets Us in ‘The Private Life of a Modern Woman.’”

Blair tweeted the story with a single word in response: “Ironic.”

In the days that followed, Blair, who has appeared in films such as Cruel Intentions, Legally Blonde, and Hellboy, learned about a group of women on social media who claimed to have been sexually harassed by the director (Two Girls and a Guy) and Oscar-nominated writer (Bugsy). Their accounts sounded eerily familiar. The group, which included Blair, worked with Los Angeles Times reporter Glenn Whipp on a story that broke on October 22, citing 38 women in total who alleged sexual harassment suffered at the hands of Toback. Since then, the number of accusers has risen to more than 200 women—including Blair and Oscar-nominated actress Rachel McAdams, who both spoke exclusively to Vanity Fair this week about their experiences with Toback. (Toback, 72, has written for Vanity Fair in the past. When reached by phone Wednesday evening, Toback said he had no comment on any of the allegations.)

Blair, 45, and McAdams, 38, tell remarkably similar stories about Toback’s modus operandi—the requests to meet him in hotel rooms, flattery about their acting skills, the promise of a role in the movie Harvard Man, which opened in 2001. The consistent themes in the stories of Blair, McAdams, and the hundreds of actresses who have come forward with their own tales of harassment hint at some of the reasons charges of sexual misconduct have plagued Hollywood since its inception. Actors and actresses, newcomers especially, essentially are always auditioning—any encounter, especially in a company town such as Los Angeles, could lead to a big break. The situation is compounded by the fact that many acting courses teach students to use, explore, and expose their vulnerabilities. So when a threatening individual manipulates a performer’s insecurities in a meeting purportedly related to an acting role, the experience can be confusing.

Explained McAdams, “I was 21 and in the middle of theater school when I met [Toback]. Theater school was a very safe space.” But Toback, she said, “used the same language during my audition—that you have to take risks and sometimes you’re going to be uncomfortable and sometimes it’s going to feel dangerous. And that’s a good thing—when there is danger in the air and you feel like you are out of your comfort zone.”

It is easy to see how a young actress at the start of her career might respond to a director’s lecherous behavior as an acting exercise or “test.” In an opinion piece in The New York Times that detailed an incident with Harvey Weinstein, Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o noted that “body work” is part of the coursework at fine-arts programs at schools such as Yale. Perhaps Weinstein knew this when he reportedly asked to massage and be massaged by women. Perhaps Toback knew this when he allegedly asked young women, after rattling off his film credits and famous friends, to trust him and disrobe so that he could help them become better actresses.

When reports of Toback’s alleged harassment began pouring in, both Blair and McAdams were motivated to speak out. Blair, who cooperated with the initial Los Angeles Times story on the condition her name not be used, said Toback threatened her life after their encounter, which she said took place in 1999. And in the nearly 20 years that followed, the actress only told two people about her experience.

“I still felt so powerless and scared,” Blair said, describing her emotional state earlier this week. “I kept thinking, ‘O.K., is there a big actress who is going to come out so that she can be the face of this? I want to bring as much awareness to this harassment as possible because I want Toback to be held accountable.”

Toback denied the allegations to the Los Angeles Times, claiming that he had never met any of the then-38 accusers or, if he did, the meetings were very brief. He also claimed that for the last 22 years it had been “biologically impossible” for him to do what he was accused of, citing diabetes and a heart condition.

“When he called these women liars, and said he didn’t recall meeting them and that the behavior alleged could not be attributed to him, I just felt rage and an obligation to speak publicly now,” Blair said.

“I did not want to talk about this ever again,” McAdams said. “However, even though it is a really bad memory, I feel like some good could come from talking about it now.”

What follow are edited excerpts from the actresses’ conversations with Vanity Fair.

Selma Blair’s representatives arranged for her to meet Toback and described him as a “really interesting and odd guy,” who could help her gain credibility with the indie-film crowd. (She had filmed Cruel Intentions, but it had not yet been released.) Blair’s team said Toback would only meet in his hotel room; Blair insisted that they meet in the hotel restaurant. The two were meant to discuss a project Toback had written called Harvard Man , so the actress dressed accordingly—a pleated Y.S.L. skirt, a grosgrain ribbon, and a cable-knit sweater.

That afternoon, I arrived at the restaurant and sat down at a table. After a bit, the hostess came up to me and told me that James Toback could not make it down, but that he wanted me to meet him in his room. Against my better judgment, I went upstairs.

I was rattled, and looking back, I don’t think James Toback ever planned to come down to the restaurant.

I went in the room feeling a little off balance about the arrangement, but he seemed nonplussed. He pulled out the script and said, “I look at you, and I see that we have a real connection. You could be an incredible actress, just by your eyes. But I can tell you don’t have confidence.”

He said, “Where are your parents?”

I was thinking, “Why is he trying to make me feel so uncomfortable?” But I realize now he was really trying to figure out what support system I had. I answered him. My mother was in Michigan, and I had an estranged relationship with my father.

James said, “You know, I could have him killed.”

He sat back in his chair and said really confidently, “I do it all the time. I know people.”

Now I’m even more nervous, because he’s told me I have no confidence, he said he could have someone killed, and he said we had a connection—which no one had said to me before in this business. I really believed that when he started to talk . . . that he was going to be my mentor. That is how he got into my brain. You know, in acting classes they get into your personal history and connect that to work. So this conversation didn’t seem that strange. It seemed like he was concerned that I would not be seen as the actress I had the potential to be, and that he could do for me what he did for Robert Downey Jr.

It was about 40 minutes in and he said, “Will you trust me? I cannot continue to work with you unless you trust me.” He said, “I need you to take your clothes off. I need you to do this monologue naked.”

I said, “Why would my character need to be naked? She is a lawyer in a courtroom.”

He said, “Because I need to see how your body moves. How comfortable you are with your body. This is where I start training you.”

I told him I was uncomfortable. But he continued to coax me—saying that this was in no way a come-on. This was part of training. He wanted to make me a good actress. He wanted to make me comfortable. I thought, “Well, my representation sent me to see him. He must be really important.” I took off my sweater. I was so private about my body. I do remember looking down at the script and seeing my bare chest and not being able to focus on anything but the words and my face being so hot and puffy and feeling so ashamed.

He commented on my body—said that it was Eastern European. I was just trying to block it all out.

He said, “Wow, you need a lot of work.”

I put my sweater back on. And he proceeded to tell me how much help I needed . . . that I was really just a mess. As I was telling him, “Guess I better get out of here . . .” he sat down on the bed and said, “No, you have to talk to me.” He started to rub his penis through his pants and asked, ‘Would you f**k me?’”

I managed to say, “No. No, I won’t. Are you married? Do you have a wife?”

He said, “It’s complicated, but yes. She’s wonderful. She’s a writer. She’s a teacher. And she’s a wonderful woman. And I have a girlfriend who can’t get enough sex. But I love that. I have to come six or seven times a day or else it really doesn’t work for me to get through my day.”

I felt trapped. I did not know how to get out and save face and not make a scene. Was I imagining it? He dropped some names [of actresses] that he did some really dark sexual things with. These felt like lies and dark gossip and that he would add my name to the list. I went to leave and he got up and blocked the door. He said, “You have to do this for me. You cannot leave until I have release.”

I said, “What do I have to do? I cannot touch you. I cannot have sex with you.”

“He said, ‘It’s O.K. I can come in my pants. I have to rub up against your leg. You have to pinch my nipples. And you have to look into my eyes.’” I thought, “Well, if I can get out of here without being raped . . .”

He walked me back to the bed. He sat me down. He got on his knees. And he continued to press so hard against my leg. He was greasy and I had to look into those big brown eyes. I tried to look away, but he would hold my face. So I was forced to look into his eyes. And I felt disgust and shame, and like nobody would ever think of me as being clean again after being this close to the devil. His energy was so sinister.

After he finished, he told me, “There is a girl who went against me. She was going to talk about something I did. I am going to tell you, and this is a promise, if she ever tells anybody, no matter how much time she thinks went by, I have people who will pull up in a car, kidnap her, and throw her in the Hudson River with cement blocks on her feet. You understand what I’m talking about, right?”

He looked at me with those bug eyes that had just raped my leg. And I said, “Yes. I understand.”

I left. I was shaking and scared. I told my boyfriend and made him promise not to tell anyone. My career was just starting, and I was frightened. I thought I was going to be kidnapped if I told anybody.

When my manager called me back and said, “James Toback wants to see you again,” I said, “That man is vile. And I never want to be in a room with him again. Do not send any girls or women to him.”

I didn’t want to speak up because, it sounds crazy but, even until now, I have been scared for my life. But then these brave women spoke out, and he called them liars and said he didn’t recall meeting them . . . that [the] behavior alleged was disgusting and it could not be attributed to him. I just felt rage. Pure rage.

Also, where are the people who have been financing his movies? His high-profile friends? This man, unlike Harvey Weinstein, does not have a company that can hold him accountable. Who is coming out and saying, “This is a horrible story and we are looking into this.” Or, “I knew something.” Where was our union?

I would like to see Toback admit this happened. None of us are asking for money, for jobs, or for fame. We don’t want to be threatened on social media or called whistleblowers by people who don’t know what it means to be defiled and degraded and made to feel worthless. What I do want, in my dreams, is for someone bigger than me to call him out. I want to light the pyre of public opinion.”

Photo by Jason McDonald

Rachel McAdams was a 21-year-old theater student in Toronto when she was invited to audition for Toback for a role in Harvard Man.

This was a big audition. I was pretty fresh and new to all of this. So we did the audition and he said, “I think you’re really, really talented. I think you’re quite good for this actually, but I’d like to workshop it a little with you, and maybe rehearse a bit more and see if we can get you all the way there. Leave your phone number with the casting agent’s assistant, and we’ll get together and workshop this a bit.”

So I did. And he called me that night saying, “Would you come to my hotel so we can work on this and talk about it?” I actually had my first TV job the next day and had to get up at five in the morning. So I said, “Is there any other time that we can get together?” I didn’t really want to go to a hotel and meet him. He said, “It has to be tonight. I am going out of town first thing tomorrow. This is our only chance.” I really didn’t want to go. I was so nervous about this show that I was starting because I hadn’t done TV before. I wanted to focus on that, but he was so insistent. So I went over to the hotel, went to the room, and he had all of these books and magazines splayed out on the floor. He invited me to sit on the floor which was a bit awkward. Pretty quickly the conversation turned quite sexual and he said, “You know, I just have to tell you. I have masturbated countless times today thinking about you since we met at your audition.”

He started that kind of manipulative talk of, “How brave are you? How far you are willing to go as an actress? I want to build some intimacy between us because we have to have a very trusting relationship and this is a very difficult part.” Then he asked me to read passages out loud from different reviews of his films and different critics talking about his work. It was all so confusing. I kept thinking, “When are we getting to the rehearsal part?” Then he went to the bathroom and left me with some literature to read about him. When he came back he said, “I just jerked off in the bathroom thinking about you. Will you show me your pubic hair?” I said no.

Eventually, I just excused myself. I can’t remember how long I was there. I felt like I was there forever. This has been such a source of shame for me—that I didn’t have the wherewithal to get up and leave. I kept thinking, “This is going to become normal any minute now. This is going to all make sense. This is all above board somehow.” Eventually I just realized that it wasn’t.

I was very lucky that I left and he didn’t actually physically assault me in any way.

I had never experienced anything like that in my life. I was so naïve. I think I just didn’t want to believe that it could turn worse. But yes, there was this sinking feeling inside of me. Like, “Oh my god, I am in this hotel room alone with this person.” I just kept trying to normalize it—thinking, “This has to be some weird acting exercise. This is some kind of test. I just have to show that I am brave and this does not bother me and nothing can shake me.” I really was frozen. My brain was not catching up.

When I went home, I just couldn’t sleep. It was the worst way to start a new job. I got up very early in the morning and called my agent at the time. And she was outraged. She was very sorry. But she also said, “I can’t believe he did it again. This isn’t the first time that this has happened. He did this the last time that he was in town. He did this to one of my other actresses.” That is when I got mad, because I felt like I was kind of thrown into the lion’s den and given no warning that he was a predator. This was something that he was known for doing already. I was so surprised to hear that.

Sexual harassment is so pervasive, many women seem to have their own story. I just think there is an “anything goes” [attitude] in Hollywood that gets taken too far. And there is a sense that you don’t have to be responsible for your actions—there is just no limit to what you can be subjected to.

This has all got to stop. We need to start acknowledging what an epidemic this is, and what a deep-seated problem this is. You have to get it all out in the open and in the light so that we can really understand how pervasive this is. I think we almost have to exhaust ourselves sharing our experiences before the rebuilding can begin. And hopefully we never slip back into this darkness again.


Selma Blair Interview With HUNGER TV – Watch Here!

Selma Blair sat down with Hunger TV for this awesome video interview while doing a photoshoot with Rankin for April’s issue of Hunger Magazine. Selma talks about Storytelling, Anger Management, her film career and her love for fashion and photography.

This is the best interview I’ve seen in years.
Watch here and enjoy!

HUNGER TV: SELMA BLAIR from Hunger TV on Vimeo.

Selma Blair Rankin Shoot For Hunger Magazine 3Selma Blair Rankin Shoot For Hunger Magazine 1Selma Blair Rankin Shoot For Hunger Magazine 2

Selma Blair Chides Paparazzi

Selma Blair chats with ET about good friend and photographer, Brian Bowen Smith, and also her feelings about the relentless presence of paparazzi outside of her home.

Watch video here:

Selma Blair Scheduled To Appear On The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson

Don’t miss Selma Blair on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson this week! Selma is scheduled to appear Tuesday, April 16th, 2013!

Be sure to tune-in 12:35/11:35c on CBS.

The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson - Selma Blair April 16 2013

Selma Blair’s Hilarious #TweetOut! Interview With Geek Nation

March 5, 2013

Selma Blair stopped by Geek Nation soundstage recently to answer YOUR questions on #TweetOut! Check out her hilarious interview here! She is SO incredibly funny and gives the best interviews. Love!

Thank you for taking our questions Selma!!

@SelmaBlair Tweet Out With Geek Nation

Selma Blair Geek Nation Interview Selma Blair Style


IAR Interview – Selma Blair Talks ‘IN THEIR SKIN’, ‘Anger Management’ And ‘Hellboy III’

I Am ROGUE Interview With Selma Blair:

Actress Selma Blair began her career in the late ‘90s with small parts in such films as In & Out, Scream 2, and Can’t Hardly Wait, but it was her career-making role opposite Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions that made her a household name.

Since then Blair has appeared in such popular films as Legally Blonde, In Good Company, and The Fog, but her greatest success has probably come from playing Liz Sherman in director Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, which were both based on the popular comic book anti-hero. In addition, the actress is currently starring opposite Hollywood bad-boy Charlie Sheen on FX’s hit comedy Anger Management, which has been renewed for a second season. But now, Blair can be seen once again on the big screen in the new thriller In Their Skin, which opens in theaters on November 9th and also stars James D’Arcy (Cloud Atlas).

In the film, which marks Jeremy Power Regimbal’s directorial debut, Blair plays Mary Hughes, a women slowly coming to terms with the recent death of her young daughter. Along with her husband Mark (the film’s screenwriter Joshua Close) and son Brendon (Quinn Lord), they travel to a remote cottage for a brief vacation. However, the evening is violently interrupted when a murderous family led by the homicidal Bobby (D’Arcy) and Jane (Rachel Miner) invade the cottage looking to steal the Hughes’ identity in search of the “perfect” life.

IAR’s managing editor Jami Philbrick recently had a chance to speak with Selma Blair about her work on In Their Skin, as well as season two of Anger Management and the status of Hellboy III. The talented actress discussed her new film, its dark tone, preparing emotionally for the role, facing her personal fears, performing while pregnant, acting opposite the film’s screenwriter, working with a first time director, James D’Arcy’s frightening performance, what it was like having children on set, returning for season two of Anger Management, and the possibility of reuniting with Guillermo Del Toro for Hellboy III.

Here is what she had to say:

IAR: To begin with, this is a very creepy and disturbing movie. Is that the type of film you were hoping to achieve with this project?

Selma Blair:

Yes, I think so. I mean it’s not a balled-out gory movie so I think it definitely has creepy and disturbing in its corner. It’s a creepy family drama.

What was the mood and tone like on set while you were shooting? Since the script was so dark, did you have to keep it light and fun on set in order to maintain your sanity, or did the material require you to stay in a dark place throughout production?


You can’t help but be like painted a little bit by knowing you’re going to be doing a rape scene next. We were up all night because we were shooting a lot of nights and the vibe does get a little bit down. But we really liked each other and there was that adorable boy Quinn Lord, who played my son, so you’re kind of telling jokes to keep a little bit light so it’s not too spooky. But I had a baby in my belly because I was just pregnant, so I was probably a little emotional already and it might’ve been a little dark.

You mentioned what I would imagine was one of the tougher scenes in the film for you to shoot, which was the rape scene. As an actress, how do you prepare emotionally and mentally to film a sequence like that?


I just try not to prepare for that too much. I was just there when they yelled action and hoped that I could throw it away when they said cut. Some of those scenes were very disturbing and frightening. That’s my biggest fear, that someone will also be in my house and I wouldn’t be able to protect my son. It’s scary.

Since the film deals with what you just admitted is your biggest fear, was making this movie an opportunity for you as an actress to really face what scares you most as a human being?


Yeah, it was a little bit. It was like, okay, this is scary so lets just live it so I never have to again. I’m one of these people who’s a worrier unfortunately so I figure, as a lot of worriers do, if I worry about it enough then I actually lived it so I’ll never have to really live it. Which is stupid because then if you worry about something you live it twice if it happens. I think that was kind of my rationalization. If I get this out of my system then maybe I’ll learn how to protect myself from this type of person.

Actor Joshua Close also wrote the movie, so does it help or hinder you when your co-star is also the film’s screenwriter?


No, it’s great because if there’s something that’s just going on forever, he’s right there and he can see if it’s working or not with you. He’ll say, “Lets change this scene.” So I think it’s really helpful when the co-star is a writer, although you can’t go, oh, this one’s crap. He was so open. He had no ego.

The film marks Jeremy Power Regimbal’s directorial debut, so what was it like working with him? As a first time director, did he hit the ground running or did he have a learning curve to overcome?


He was great. He was really patient. We got to rehearse a little bit and work through some stuff right when we got there for a week. He was totally open when I’d have a meltdown, and also because I was pregnant I was definitely a little emotional and a little tired. He was always right there and would say, “Okay, what can we do?” I thought he had a great vision for the movie and I thought the film looked great. I think he did a beautiful job.

Since you mentioned it, does being pregnant affect you as an actress? I would imagine you’re emotionally all over the place when you’re pregnant, and since acting is the art of expressing your emotions, does being pregnant make it more difficult for you to act?


Yeah it does! I don’t know how people work pregnant. For one, I couldn’t stop eating. So they literally had to feed me every two hours. They were so amazing with having someone prepare me food after every take. I couldn’t stop eating or else I’d pass out. But other than that, this character has so much grief overwhelming her all the time because of losing her child in the beginning of the movie, I think that helped, being pregnant and not having a child. It made me much more open and much more vulnerable. I feel like I can do anything now. Playing that character pregnant added an extra dimension and depth for me for sure.

Actor James D’Arcy gives an extremely frightening performance in the film, what was it like for you working with him?


Oh my God, I love him. I love his so much. He’s one of the closest people in the world to me now. He’s just a wonderful person and a great actor. So I pray that I will get to work with him again because I love being with him and I think he’s a huge talent. He was spooky and he was trying to have a little bit of fun with his character. I just think he’s great in everything he does. I’m so happy for him.

You mentioned that the two of you became friends, was that important for you considering some of the horrible things that his character has to do to you in the film and did he stay in character on set or break character after every scene?


No, but because he’s British I think he kept his American accent the whole time. That was the only thing he didn’t break, but God forbid no, he did not stay in character. He was my best friend when we weren’t shooting and he would’ve not been my best friend if he stayed in character. There is that rape scene, that sex simulated scene, and I would not have been able to do that with him unless he was quick to give me a robe afterwards and give me a kiss on the cheek to say it’s okay.

The film features two young actors (Quinn Lord and Alex Ferris), how did they handle the movie’s dark and adult themes?


Quinn, oh my God, he had a great sense of humor. He was funny and he’s so precocious. He wasn’t scared at all. He totally got it. His mom was there so it was a totally safe environment for him. He was hanging out with us big kids and I didn’t always watch my mouth. He was up to the task. He was like a real grown up kid.

Congratulations on Anger Management getting picked up for a second season, will you be retuning to the show?


Yes, I’m in it. We’re shooting it now. We’ve just shot another six episodes, and they’re getting even better. We’re under a really crazy schedule because we shoot two episodes a week, which I don’t know if people understand that. Normally you shoot one episode in ten days or seven days but we shoot an episode in two days. So it was really quick and you don’t even get a chance to learn your lines. The first time we say our lines is in front of the camera, but I think Charlie (Sheen) always does such a great job. I’m definitely catching on. I’m building a much better character than I did the first season because it all went so quickly. I’m learning. I think the writing is amazing and it’s a sitcom, which is something I’m learning. It’s definitely a learning curve for me, but luckily the writing’s so good, and it’s just getting better and better.

Finally, director Guillermo Del Toro stated in July that he is “trying to make Hellboy III a reality.” Have you spoken to Del Toro about the third film and would you want to reprise your role if the series continues?


I pray it’s not over till it’s over or until we’re all dead. I know the movies were set up to have a third. It all culminates with that kind of apocalypse and what Liz and Hellboy’s babies are going to do with the world and what was the prophecy is for her. So I’m praying that it does go again. I know Ron (Perlman) wants to do another one and I think Guillermo’s heart and soul is in it. It’s my dream to work with Guillermo again. I love him more than anything. I love him almost as much as my baby. I just adore him. So to work with him again … I’m just praying it happens. But there is no start date yet.


In Their Skin opens in theaters on November 9th.

Anger Management season two is currently in production.

Hellboy III is currently in development.


ANTHEM Q&A With Selma Blair

Check out the latest Selma Blair Q&A with ANTHEM.

This is why we love Selma Blair. Absolutely fabulous.

In Their Skin is now available on IFC Midnight VOD and opens in select theaters November 9th.

When did you first decide to give acting a try? Was there a decisive moment?

I think the first time I decided to give it a try was while I was at Cranbrook, the boarding school that I went to. I was involved in a production of T.S. Elliot’s Murder in the Cathedral. Everyone left during the intermission because it was terrible… [Laughs] But my English teacher, Mr. Toner, told me not to give up. He told me to keep trying and thought I should be an actress. That was the first time I thought I could do this even though I don’t know what made him say that.

Do you remember your first professional gig?

It was a movie called Strong Island Boys, a tiny independent project where I played the lead. It only showed at the Hamptons Film Festival, but Alec Baldwin gave it an amazing review. He said I was a cross between Debra Winger and Marlene Dietrich, which was the best review I’ve ever received.

What did you take away from that first experience?

I learned that there’s a lot of waiting around and a lot of nights without sleep. I learned that I loved being on set and being around other people who love what they’re doing.

What has surprised you along the way do you think?

I just didn’t think I’d ever get to make a living out of doing something like this. I was hoping to score a commercial to promote bubblegum or something even though I don’t have a commercial look to begin with. [Laughs] When I booked Cruel Intentions, I remember driving to the soundstage one morning and crying. I couldn’t believe I was in California actually getting to do this. I was with Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Michelle Gellar, two actresses that I thought were so talented, young and beautiful. I just couldn’t believe my good fortune in getting to work with them both.



Cruel Intentions was a cultural force when it came out and you’ve continued to make interesting choices in roles. What was attractive about In Their Skin?

I was in New York working on Dark Horse, Todd Solondz’s movie and I had just found out that I was pregnant. I met with Josh [Close], the writer, and one of the producers of the film who happened to be a friend of a friend. I thought it would be a great little movie to fit in while I was in the early stages of pregnancy. It seemed like a small, beautiful and manageable movie to do at the time.



Are you a big fan of horror?

I’m terrified of horror films. I’m really not good with gore. But I appreciate them and… No. They terrify me. [Laughs]

You were the one taunting Sarah Michelle Gellar on the phone in Scream 2, weren’t you?

I was the voice on the telephone! Before I did Cruel Intentions, my agent sent me out to do this small voiceover audition and Wes Craven was there. He’s even there to oversee the small things like that. When I booked it, I went into the studio the next day. I was so excited to get to say, “Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill… Die, die, die, die, die…”

Are you ever hesitant about working with a first time director like on In Their Skin?

In my career, I’ve worked with big directors, first time directors, on little movies… I think it’s so rewarding to help people get their start in the industry or become a part of it. I still feel like I’m always on the verge of getting a big break. I just never have it even though I’m not a girl anymore and I’m a woman. I like to work with other people like me—the underdogs.

What are you looking for nowadays when it comes to roles?

Everything has dramatically changed since I became a mom. I no longer have the luxury of doing a movie for $500. I need to make a living and save up money for my baby. I can’t always go off and do movies with first time directors. If I take on a role, it has to pay the mortgage or at least show off my acting chops. I have to be a little pickier these days because I’m at home with my baby every night right now. I would love to do a period piece. I would love to work with Wes Anderson. There are so many directors that I would love to work with before this is all over for me.

Hellboy was a big break for you.

Hellboy was huge for me. When Guillermo [del Toro] offered me that role, I couldn’t believe I was being allowed to work with such an amazing man. The chance to walk into his imagination… He’s the greatest at the kind of things he does. That was a gift. We shot the first one in Prague and the second one in Budapest. I hope we’ll do a third one, but I know it’s not happening yet.

How did you get involved with the Hellboy franchise?

Guillermo actually asked me to do it and I didn’t have to audition for it. He had seen Storytelling and saw a quality, a certain sadness, that Liz has in Hellboy. I was invited and beyond thrilled.

Are you very structured in your process when you build a character?

I used to be. I went so far as to make journals and create entire histories of my characters. I went overboard with the preparation. I was always worse when I did something like that. I already have a quality of being disaffected, which works great for characters like Liz in Hellboy. [Laughs]. Now I really play a game of pretend. I say the lines and pretend to be that person.

Do you get very critical when you watch yourself onscreen?

I don’t so much anymore. Sometimes I can see that I’m totally not there and get apologetic because I didn’t hit the marks for a character. For the most part though, I don’t feel that way because there are so many people involved in putting a film together. Once we finish shooting, it’s no longer my responsibility. I don’t get worked up when I watch myself.

Actors often talk about the downtime on set, which is out of their control. How do you deal with something like that?

In the past on set when I was waiting around for hours at a time in the middle of the night, I thanked god that I loved books. My mom taught me to have a book everywhere I went. Whether you’re waiting at the carwash or waiting for a scene, a great book is a must. Sometimes I’ll exercise or take a nap, but usually, I read a good book or meditate.

What are some misconceptions about the film industry?

One big misconception is that we’re all billionaires. I’ve heard people say, “Why would you ever want to be away from your baby? Haven’t you saved up enough money? Can you stay at home and take care of your baby?” I’m sure there are actors that are grossly overpaid, but I don’t begrudge them because everyone deserves a great paycheck. I’m a working actress. I think people often look at you like you don’t deserve anything because you supposedly make all this money and live this charmed life. There are wonderful perks for sure, but for most of us, we live paycheck to paycheck. That keeps me going for a few months, and like every other single mom out there, I have a mortgage and a nanny to pay. Life is life. I think people think actors don’t have the same worries that other people have. I think most actors, except for the top 1%, are regular working people.

Do you look at your career from project to project?

That’s pretty much it. I look at what I’m offered or what I know isn’t right for me. I’m constantly asking myself, “Am I right for this?” Plays don’t pay so I don’t get to do it all the time. I really do go project to project. Now with my baby, I’m trying to stay in town for a couple of years, which is why I’m doing a TV show right now. It’s all about being in the moment and figuring out what will work.

With TV, the issue becomes the time commitment.

Movies are great because you can jump in and jump out. You could end up shooting a lot of nights where you’re taken away from a baby that sleeps with you. Some of those things aren’t workable with TV shows, but if it’s a hit show, it does become a big commitment if it’s on for a long time. With TV, you’re usually not shooting nights and you’re home by ten o’clock. It’s doable. You have to commit to shows, but it’s so few and far between that something stays on the air for seven years.

What can you tell us about Four Saints?

Four Saints seems like a beautiful movie. I don’t know what’s happening with it to be honest. I think it’s still in pre-production. I would love to do a period piece like that. Right now, I think they’re trying to figure out some things about it. I actually went to make In Their Skin instead of Four Saints. It was supposed to shoot and then sort of took a break.

I saw your name next to Melanie Lynskey’s and got really excited. I hope everything comes together for this project.

I would love to work with Melanie. So many people throughout my little career said I should work with her. I’ve loved her ever since Heavenly Creatures.