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June 2004
De-Lovely : An Interview with Ashley Judd

By Wilson Morales

De-Lovely : An Interview with Ashley Judd

It's sometimes funny watching Ashley Judd play roles that calls for her character to be in a weak and peril situation as in the case of her last few films (Twisted, High Crimes) when she's such a strong actress. That may change with her latest role. In "De-Lovely", Ashley plays Linda Lee Porter, the wife of American Composer Cole Porter. She's the strong rock that held him together when he was injured and when he needed inspiration. Her performance was dazzling to say the least. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Ms. Judd spoke about identifying with her character, working with Kevin Kline, and declining the role of Catwoman.

Was this a role you really wanted? The last few films you've done always have you in distress.

AJ: I've done a lot of movies and it's a little irritating that, in a weird way, they are the ones that people pay the most attention to. No one ever asks about "Someone Like You" and I worked really hard on that movie and although it didn't go exactly the way we thought it would go, but I'm certainly proud of the work I did as well as "Ya Ya", so I think it's a balanced mix.

Did you fight to get this character?

AJ: I didn't have to fight. I was fortunate enough. Irwin liked me for it after I met him and it was a very pleasant experience because it was already well under way and I didn't have to wait that long before it started. They had already talked to Mr. Armani about the clothes, the locations were settled; so it was really nice. I just came in and off we went.

Could you identify with the character?

AJ: I could identify with a lot in the character and in particular something that I did not found in a screenplay or in a book and that is I've the privilege of being close to a lot of talented people. Either rubbing elbows with or marrying someone who had an exceedingly special and very rare talent and I just love that about it. It's a very comfortable place for me to be.

Was there any talk why do any of the songs that are in the film?

AJ: They had already cast all of the songs. Now I want her to do them for me.

Did you like the idea of relocating to Scotland?

AJ: I can't talk about where we live. If I sat one thing, however general, it's taken out of context and reporters show up at my mother and father-in-law's door.

How do the Scottish media react to you?

AJ: They overreact.

How different is the media there from here?

AJ: I think the problem with the media there in addition to everyone being consumed by this unfortunate modern crisis of excess interest of public people private lives, there are so many newspapers and they're all dailies, so all of the tabloids that we have that operate on a weekly basis operate there on a basis plus there are 3 and 4 times the number so they need a lot of cover their shit sheets.

What's the worst encounter you've ever had with paparazzi?

AJ: I don't want to even talk about it because I don't want to give any of that any energy. I don't read it. I don't listen to it and I don't let anyone talk about it in front of me.

What about the music elements of the film? How daunting was it to do those sequences?

AJ: When I did Diana Krall's song, I wasn't worried about the singing because it was very modest and it wasn't a big incredible energetic performance like Robbie (Williams)'s for example. When it came down to doing it, I had a crisis of confidence and found it very difficult.

Is there any more research you did besides what you had been given on Linda Porter?

AJ: Yeah, there's a lot more; it's not substantially different, it's just more detailed. I read quite a lot about her taste and her style and the way she lived in Paris the seven years before she met Cole. She had a mirrored ballroom, a minimalist room with a piano and all kinds of stuff. She was a very interesting and really an independent self designated woman. Sometimes people are asking me if she gave so much and make no mistake; she was doing exactly what she wanted every day of her. Once she was able to divorce her first husband, who was so abusive to her, she was a woman of independent means who lived exactly the way she wanted to.

The way she tolerated Cole's adventures, do you think it was good during that era?

AJ: I think it was very unique to them. Everyone has their own reasons for it. Cole said it was not a marriage of convenience. Those are his words as is much of the dialogue, directed lifted from Cole's own words. I think it was a relief to be with someone who wasn't interested in having sex with her because she had such hideous experiences in her first marriage. They had a lot that was nurturing and sustaining between them and sex is such an overemphasized and tawdry part of pop culture that people are finding it surprising to even consider that there can be a profound long lasting relationship that doesn't have sex as its cornerstone.

Were you a fan of Cole Porter's music before you became involved with this movie?

AJ: Absolutely. I liked all the music of the American song book as I call them. I am a big fan of the jazz age in general so any artifact of that era is interesting to me.

It looks like you guys had a lot of fun on set. Can you talk about it a little?

AJ: Sometimes. Shooting party scenes is not a party. It's one of the unfortunate contradictions of movie making. You can obviously enjoy everyone who's there but it's kind of boring the movie making mechanics; dealing with all the extras and lighting is such a large space. All time is time consuming and it could be much more technical than it ultimately appears. That's movie making.

How was working with Kevin?

AJ: Kevin is lovely.

What surprised you about him? What were you expecting?

AJ: I think I was expecting pretty much what I got. When we finished shooting in Luxemburg, which doubled for Venice, we cleaned up after our final day which blissfully hadn't been particularly long and went to this hotel bar and everybody had a congratulatory drink and Kevin showed up and I was like, "Where's Cole Porter?" and I realized that I hadn't made a movie with Kevin Kline, I made a movie with Cole Porter. He so consummately portrayed this other person that his hair was shampooed and he just became this guy from New York who's married and has a couple of kids and was passing through the room.

Do your roles stay inside of you for awhile?

AJ: I will see residuals in my own behavior, hear residuals in my voice, but I'm a lot lazier than Kevin.

What would you have done if you were around the Cole Porter era?

AJ: That whole lack of under clothing would have worked well for me; busting out of x number of centuries of clothing. You just think about it; the women and how the mother lets the children run. The reason women fainted at dances is because they were so corseted, they couldn't breathe deeply enough into their lungs. It was preposterous!

Is there a certain lesson you want the audience to understand from this movie?

AJ: That melody is a dying art and that this music is an incredibly important part of our collective cultural conscientiousness. It's not about meeting someone and being attracted and having hot monogamous sex for the rest of your life. It's about stuff that is a lot more subtle than very powerful.

Does living outside the states keep you grounded?

AJ: We don't live here. We live in Tennessee which is great and I like being there because it's where my husband is from and I'm one of those people who has taken on what's really important to her partner. I'm happy for him. I can see him come alive in a different way. He just so enjoys running into people that he has known his whole life. That means the world to him and I like all of that and plus it's a beautiful and interesting place.

So does it make you more selective in the work you choose?

AJ: Absolutely! I'm not interested in working a lot. I'm not one of those people who has to chronically work for work sake.

Do you ever want to do a TV series again?

AJ: No. "Sisters" was a very good experience.

What are you working on next?

AJ: My agent is very happy that I'm finally reading scripts again. Because I did the play for so long, I didn't need to read. I wasn't looking for a job for ages. I've read a few things that I like and I'm consistent. When I like something, I don't want to read anything else.

You were long considered for the role of Catwoman, which is coming out this summer starring Halle Berry? Were you ever offered the part?

AJ: Yeah, I was attached to the material for a while and it's just of those coincidences that Bill Kenwright, who produced Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, had booked a theater on Broadway very far in advance, as one must, and the script came together and Warner Bros. was so excited that they could finally and confidentially green light a movie with the right script and the right director and it was a conflict. There was a slight overlap of the dates and I didn't sweat it. I really wanted to do that play and I knew that it required a lot of preparation. I had to get to New York quite early for our first preview and it was a no-brainer.

Have you seen the trailer for Catwoman?

AJ: I have not. I haven't been to the movies for in long. I'm not really excited by anything that's playing right now.

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