While the world waits with bated breath for Carrie Bradshaw and Co. to return to the big screen in May, Kim Cattrall is making the rounds in support of an indie flick in which she plays a woman who’s just about the polar opposite of Samantha Jones. In Meet Monica Velour (which premiered yesterday at Tribeca), Cattrall goes anti-glam as the muffin-topped, washed-up porn star at the center of Keith Bearden’s sad, funny story of a geeky teen’s obsession with tracking down the star of his favorite seventies skin flicks. Cattrall phoned in from London after the curtain fell on last night’s West End performance of Private Lives to dish about fantasy crushes, going ugly for a role, and her reaction to seeing Brian Dennehy’s balls on the big screen.
[Writer-director] Keith Bearden initially thought you were too pretty to play Monica Velour, right?
He was very adamant about me gaining a lot of weight. He wanted me to gain like 35 pounds! Really, just for health reasons I couldn’t do that. I also didn’t have enough time to do it safely with a doctor’s care. But what I did was I put on fifteen pounds, and that was comfortable. I could do that. I just didn’t exercise at all.
How else did you prepare for the role?
Keith and I really worked quite closely together developing the character — particularly the deep voice and the consciousness she had about the way the world was. She was very, very popular for a short period of time and then she was used up. She’s as low as she’s possibly been in her life when we meet her. I actually spent some time with the specific person who Keith had in mind when he wrote the film, and also with this amazing stripper in New York named Julie Atlas Muse, who did a lot of burlesque and things. And I really used my imagination as well. I watched a lot of documentaries about porn in the seventies and how it came to be, which was quite fascinating and incredibly upsetting, really. I remember in one documentary this particularly disgusting individual was putting ads in small-town newspapers asking for models of a particular weight and size, and all of these very overweight women showed up with this dream of wanting to be a model and he would basically set up a camera and fondle them. So, you know, it was an unseemly world that I knew I was entering.
What was it like to see yourself onscreen like that?
Oh, terrifying, really. Most of the time as an actress, you want to look desirable, you want to be pretty, you want to be sexy, you want to be lit properly — whereas here there were days when I didn’t even have any makeup on. There were days when they actually changed the light to make me look harder and more overweight or just more fucked up. I didn’t see the dailies on it because I thought, You know, I’ve made a stand here that I’m gonna do this in a very truthful way, and if I look at them they might scare me. [Laughs.] But I felt the movie was very truthful, especially the strip scene: She’s not in her body. When I first saw the film I was in a bit of a shock because I didn’t see myself. I couldn’t find my spirit. Mine. Kim’s. I felt it was so totally someone else, and a lot of it was really scary to look at.
And then a geeky teen comes along who’s innocent and worshipful, and it makes her cry; it’s almost like it’s the first time anyone’s shown her any kindness.
Yes. No one has ever made her breakfast before. She’s very lonely, very isolated, living in a trailer park with, you know, six cats. And this creature appears, who wants to exchange something with her, which is kindness, which is in some ways love, and she takes him by the hand and introduces him to not so much sex, but to the reality of life.
Do you think the average woman relates more to a character like this one, or with a character like Samantha Jones?
There are a lot of things that make up a woman, a person. I have days when I’m very lonely and depressed. I mean, this is a story about a woman who’s in dire straits, really, and can’t find a way out. Our stakes are not that high. We’re not just surviving. We’re prospering. We live in the world. She lives outside of the world. She’s like a castaway. You look at someone like [late adult-film star] Marilyn Chambers — what happened to these people?
Did you ever have a schoolgirl fantasy crush like the kid in the movie does?
My mom had a big thing for Erroll Flynn, but I never really did. I liked going to the theater a lot, but there was never one particular actor I had the hots for. I like more reality-based people. I’ve always been an actor so I know what actors are about, so I don’t have any kind of starry-eyed fantasy about what an actor is. I find it quite humorous when men that I know, without naming names, are put on these pedestals … [laughs]. Because I know who they really are! I quite enjoy it. Women too! I just think, Wow, you know, that’s really fascinating because that’s the perception … Here’s the reality.
Speaking of which … what did you think when you watched the scene in Velour when Brian Dennehy, well, bends over naked and shows his balls from behind?
Ha! That was a little … too much information for me.