"I HAVE SUCH A LOVE STILL, A SOFT SPOT, FOR BRIAN DE PALMA"
Gwen Ihnat interviewed Patricia Clarkson for The A.V. Club's "Random Roles" column, wherein actors are not told beforehand which roles they will be asked about. Thankfully, Ihnat asked Clarkson about her first film role, in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables:
The Untouchables (1987)—“Ness’ wife”
AVC: Your movie debut was in The Untouchables as Kevin Costner’s wife. That seems like quite the get for a debut.
PC: It was my very first movie, yes. I went in and auditioned for the casting director, the great Lynn Stalmaster. Beautiful man. Gave me my biggest break of my life—the first big movie. And he said, “Come back and meet Brian De Palma. But don’t be glamorous. You know, remember this is a Midwestern girl.” I was like, “Okay.” And I came in with a sweet little dress on and no makeup, and there was Brian De Palma. And he read Eliot Ness with me.
And the next thing I knew, like, the next day, they said, “We’re going to fly you to Chicago to meet Kevin.” I said, “Well, I’m in the middle of a play.” I was doing House Of Blue Leaves on Broadway. And they flew me in the morning, like on a Friday morning or something, and then they flew me back to make the show. Thank god Chicago is a quick flight. And I met Kevin Costner, and they told me right then and there in the room that I had it.
And Kevin hugged me, and my agent didn’t believe me at the time. “No, no, no, Patty, they don’t tell you.” He said, “Don’t—don’t get too excited.” I was like, “No, no, no! He told me I got the part!” And it was so sweet and lovely, and I had such a beautiful time. I have such a love still, a soft spot, for Brian De Palma. He gave me the first break of my life. He was very kind to me and added me to the courtroom scene. I was broke, and he added me to the courtroom scene, which meant I had to be paid for a whole month. Which was like, “Oh, my god!” I was like, “Brian, I love you!”
And Kevin was a doll, and I’ve seen him since, of course, and we always hug. He was really involved in post-Katrina in my hometown of New Orleans. He’s beloved there, and he’s a beautiful man, and still beautiful. He was hot then, hot now. [Laughs.]
The Dead Pool (1988)—“Samantha Walker”
AVC: You followed that up with another movie with another icon: Clint Eastwood.
PC: I was in—that’s the last Dirty Harry movie. I kept thinking, “C’mon, Clint, you’ve had all these movies. Do one last Dirty Harry. And bring back the journalist you had a crush on.”
I mean, that was—what a job. My father was beside himself. He couldn’t hang up the phone fast enough to call every single friend of his to tell them that I was doing a movie with Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry—I was going to be in a Dirty Harry movie. Some of my more New York friends were like, “Really?” I was like, “Yes.”
And I was cast off-tape. Clint Eastwood doesn’t meet in person. I just did a tape, sent it in, went into a casting director, and was cast. Showed up in San Francisco. The first time I met him—oh, my god—was in a big restaurant by the Wharf, and the producer and the cinematographer were there, and I got there, and I was waiting, the three of us. And suddenly, I hear screaming. I mean screaming. We’re at the back of the restaurant, and I hear screaming. And I turn around, and there’s Clint Eastwood walking through the restaurant, and it was—you know, the king had arrived. It was crazy. And he sat down, and he was incredibly dry and cordial and lovely.
I had a beautiful time working with him. And he’s very quick. So some of what you see in that movie is one or two takes, I’m not kidding you. He’d be like, “Was that good for you?” And I’d be like, “Wait, it it it—yeah? I think it was good.” “Okay, okay. Moving on! Moving on.” I’d be like, [Exasperated sigh, laughs.] “Yeah.”
Posted May 10 2004
CLARKSON'S VOICE AT ODDS WITH LOOKS
"I THINK DE PALMA LIKED IT"
Seventeen years after her film debut as the wife of Eliot Ness in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, Patricia Clarkson's career is having a resurgence. An interview article at the Washington Post discusses Clarkson's voice, "her most arresting feature." Described by the author as a "throaty" and "husky" voice that harkens back to the screen sirens of the 1930s and 1940s, Clarkson tells how she would walk into auditions "blond, pretty, whatever. But then I'd open my voice and they'd say, 'Hmmm.'" The article then mentions De Palma as "one director who wasn't put off," casting Clarkson in The Untouchables. "I think he liked that I looked a certain way and I had this voice," Clarkson told the Post. "Brian is irreverent and brilliant and funny and I think he just kind of liked it." Clarkson is pictured here with De Palma at the Tribeca Film Festival in May 2002.