Small roles in Martin Scorsese's After Hours and Alan Rudolph's The Moderns led to Fiorentino's critically acclaimed breakthrough as a vicious femme fatale in the noirish indie thriller The Last Seduction (1994). Wasted in a series of negligible studio pictures (e.g., the David Caruso cop drama Jade, the Bill Murray circus comedy Larger Than Life), she eventually hit it big with the bona fide blockbuster Men in Black (1997), admirably holding her own opposite alien-busting buddies Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Most recently, the actress starred in the apocalyptic comedy Dogma, and she had a small role in the extra-terrestrial romance What Planet Are You From?
Fiorentino, 40, spoke about her career and her new movie during a recent interview.
CL: What's the first thing that goes through your mind when you realize you're going to be working with Paul Newman?
LF: The first thing I thought was, "All right, I have a job!" It's true. You know, he's a great actor. People think of him as this great movie star, but he really is a terrific actor. He brings with him an experience and a wealth of information that I'd never seen before. I guess I was supposed to be in awe, but the fact that I wasn't actually made it easier for him. I don't know. My mother was in awe that I was working with him. After 15 years of making movies, she said to me, "Finally, you've made it. You're working with a real movie star!" To me, though, he's just an actor, and I think he appreciated that I didn't bow to him. I couldn't. I had to work with him every day, so we had to be partners.
Is that your attitude toward all actors?
Yeah. I mean, we're not brain surgeons. It's not that difficult a job, so I don't hold anybody in any higher regard. I'm in awe of anyone who can get up at that hour of the morning and work for 18 hours. [Pause.] I'm trying to think of who I'd be in awe of. Maybe if I'd met Albert Einstein, you know?
You left a lasting impression with your performance in The Last Seduction. Do you still struggle with being typecast in those kinds of hard-edged roles?
I'm not the sort of actor who consciously thinks of my image or what I'm going to do next. I just take things as they come and try to do the best I can. I try to take risks, if I have the option to, but let's face it. There are only a handful of actresses out there who can say they want to do this project or that project and then get paid really well to do it. I really just live in the moment. It's like I said, I'm always just happy to have a job. There is no divine plan. You can't really plan a career in this business. There's no such thing.
But after the phenomenal commercial success of something like Men in Black, couldn't you have consciously decided to go after more mainstream studio films?
Just the opposite was true. I didn't cash in on that aspect of it. I mean, the next film I did was Dogma, right? For me, a lot of my job offers come out of Europe, like the Georgia O'Keeffe movie I'm getting ready to shoot [opposite Ben Kingsley as Alfred Stieglitz], which was totally financed overseas. What Men in Black did for me was give a different kind of presence in the international market. It made me more viable to do the films I want to do.
Are you a fan of O'Keeffe's work?
Not really, but what I liked about the script was it's more of a love story than it is a linear biography. If anything, I'm probably more a fan of Stieglitz, because photography is a serious hobby of mine. I love it because it's about capturing a moment instead of living in the moment as an actor. It's me looking at the world instead of the world looking at me.
You don't enjoy your celebrity?
I don't like to have attention paid to me all the time. Not only do I find it strange, I think it's a dangerous way to live your life. Why would anybody want to perpetuate that? If you become so famous you have to take jobs that keep you rich, just so you can afford to hire security and protect yourself, then what's the point? I live relatively obscurely, in a little house with no giant gates or walls, and I like it that way. I can give my money to charity or to my mom, you know? I mean, I don't make that much money, but every little bit helps. I like what fame has afforded me, discounts at certain stores or great seats at a basketball game. I try not to abuse the privilege, but it's not like I have that much to abuse.
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