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Emily Mortimer on Martin Scorsese, Being a Horrible Driver, and Her ‘Depressing’ Hair

Working with Martin Scorsese on two films (Shutter Island and the upcoming 3-D Hugo Cabret) seems to have had some benefits for Emily Mortimer (beyond getting to work with Martin Scorsese twice). Last night at the Tribeca Grand, she and Vera Farmiga co-hosted a Gucci- and Cinema Society–sponsored screening of the newly restored print of one of Scorsese’s all-time favorite movies, Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. (As Scorsese described La Dolce Vita in his introduction, with glee: “It’s a three-hour film! It has no plot!”) Before the movie, the always charming Mortimer talked to Vulture about her relationship with Scorsese, playing a car in Cars 2 despite being a horrible driver, and why her mother may soon get arrested in Central Park.

What do you and Marty bond over?
He’s just someone who’s so easy to talk to. It’s never awkward with him, which is rare for a genius, I think. It’s often awkward chatting with geniuses. But with him it’s the least awkward thing because he loves to talk and he loves to talk about movies. I mean, I guess the reason we’re all in movies is because we all love movies. It makes the conversation easy and you don’t want to tear yourself away. I mean, I would get into trouble! On Shutter Island, I remember having a conversation with him about The Red Shoes, and my dad knew Moira Shearer, the dancer that is in The Red Shoes, and I remembered her as a little girl coming to lunch at my parents’ house in the country, and we were just having this conversation all about The Red Shoes and Moira Shearer. And I was so engaged, as was he, in the conversation that I found myself almost getting into the car with him! And it was at that point that this whole entourage and a million people sort of came up and sort of remind you that you shouldn’t be getting into Marty Scorsese’s limo. So, yeah, he’s TOO easy to talk to.

A few other women we interviewed today said this movie taught them how to be women. Did you take any seduction tips from La Dolce Vita?
No. I wish some of it had rubbed off on my seduction technique. I don’t think Italian is my métier. If anything, mine is more French, and that’s being very generous to my seduction technique: less voluptuous and sort of overt and a bit more subtle and crap. But cigarettes are involved. I mean, just because I smoke. They’re always involved with everything.

Have you gotten into trouble with the new smoking laws?
Well, no, because I don’t smoke enough. I mean, it’s kind of hard to find the time to have them because I have a tiny 16-month-old baby, and so I tend to do it at odd moments when it’s legal, annoyingly. But my mother has already flouted the rules and smoked blatantly in Central Park three days after this law came into effect. She’s English and she just couldn’t believe that it was possible that you were not allowed to smoke outside in a park. It just seemed so weird to her that she just had to do it. It was like Queen Victoria being told about lesbians. She just refused to acknowledge that it was true. But nothing happened to her.

You’re in Cars 2. But I remember years ago you told me that you are the world’s worst driver.
And I’m a terrible driver. How did I get the part? I don’t know. It’s a bad fit. I’m just happy to be a film where for once I don’t have to worry about my hair, because my managers are always complaining about my hair looking depressing in my movies. Which is true. I mean, it’s true. She tells me for the right reasons, which is to try and get me to do something about my hair.

It needs more body?
It’s just depressing. It’s just blehhh. But I don’t have hair as a car. I’m really glamorous. My car is really glamorous. So I’m psyched about that.

[Editor's note: On the subject of cars, we dug up the interview, from the July 2008 screening of Transsiberian, and she sounds like a spectacularly awful driver!]

Your husband, Alessandro Nivola, told me I have to ask about your driving skills.
Oh, terrible! I borrowed my friend’s car the other day in an attempt to persuade my husband that we needed a car and literally this is true, in the first day of borrowing the car, I got three tickets and I rear-ended it. I got two tickets at once for being on my mobile phone and for not wearing my seatbelt and the other for being parked outside a restaurant for too long. And then I reversed into another person’s car and the bumper came off. So I’ve been banned. I’ve been banned.

By your husband or by the State of New York?
Both. No, actually the State of New York was very forgiving and just told me I had to pay 180 bucks and I was free to go. But my husband has now banned me from ever getting a car.

What kind of car?
It was an old BMW from the eighties. The saving grace was that it was already falling apart, so our dear friends who own it didn’t really notice that one of the bumpers was gone.

Could you blame the fact that you’re British?
No, but my British accent definitely came into play. “I’m so sorry, officer. My mother was calling. From London! I had to talk to her.” The weird thing was right before I got in it, literally seconds before I got into the car, Alessandro was saying, “Fucking put your seatbelt on and don’t get on your phone!” And I was in the car without my seatbelt on, on my phone, and three minutes later I got stopped. It was horrible.

Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images