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The Wit and Wisdom of Jennifer Tilly

The less than shy actress speaks openly about THE CAT'S MEOW, working with Woody Allen and the new CHUCKY

By Paul Zimmerman     April 28, 2002


Jennifer Tilly records the voice of Celia for MONSTER'S INC.
© 2001 Disney

Sometimes, for memorable actors, it's all about "The [insert appropriate attribute here]." For Brad Pitt, it's "The Smile." For Barbara Streisand, it's The Nose. For character actress Jennifer Tilly, it's got to be "The Voice." High pitched, frantic, emotional and wacky. Never mind the dark brown eyes, the quick comic timing and abundant curves. Mention her name and most folks will primarily talk about her shivering timber.



Playing legendary newspaper gossip columnist Louella Parsons in the new murder-on-board-a-yacht period drama THE CAT'S MEOW, Tilly portrays a character who helps send modern journalism from high brow peaks into a tabloid ditch.



Jennifer Tilly in BRIDE OF CHUCKY

Based on "the loudest whisper" of what was rumored to have happened in 1924 aboard William Randolph Heart's private yacht, THE CAT'S MEOW concerns stars (like Charlie Chaplin), mistresses (like Marion Davies) and the killing of a guest that was all but ignored by the police and public.



No one is sure as to what really happened, but when she boarded in San Pedro Harbor, Parsons was a struggling Midwest journalist. And when she hit San Diego two days later, she was well on her way to becoming the most powerful columnist in the country. Studios feared her, stars kowtowed to her and careers were made or broken depending on her whims.



Tilly, best known for playing blowsy dames in period pieces like Woody Allen's BULLETS OVER BROADWAY and as the distinct voice of Chucky's love Tiffany in BRIDE OF CHUCKY spoke freely, (and loudly), recently, while promoting THE CAT'S MEOW in Beverly Hills.



ON PLAYING A NOTORIOUS HISTORICAL CHARACTER...



"I know there was some footage of Louella Parsons out there, but I didn't have time to get it. What I did is they sent me over some materials, they sent me over an autobiography that she wrote and it's the most arch, fey thing you ever read. It was interesting because it was all affectation with like, 'I just had the loveliest luncheon with Clark Gable yesterday...' And she was trying to make her life seem like she was the most giddy, fun person ever and reading between the lines you just saw somebody that always overcompensates. And that was after her heyday, after she had quite an inflated idea of herself."



ON LEARNING TO DANCE THE CHARLSTON FOR THE FILM...



Jennifer Tilly stars as a porn star in FAST SOFA

"You know what? I'm a really lazy actress, OK? And I always try to take shortcuts. And I don't mind admitting that. It said in the script that Louella was a really bad dancer and she's also from the Midwest. The Charleston was the new dance that the fast set was doing and I figured what she did is she watched them and she's like a little bit drunk and she gets out on the floor and she's trying to do an approximation of what they're doing.



"And every single day we had this dance instructor that everybody loathed. And they actually fired him eventually because he made everybody so unhappy. Kirsten [Dunst] already knew how to do the Charleston and she would be cutting loose and he would go, 'No! No! No! Right foot! Left foot!'



"So I'd see him coming and I'd say, 'No, no, I told Peter Bogdanovich my plan that Louella is actually a very bad dancer so he said I don't have to go to dance lessons.' And everyone was really mad at me (laughs)"



ON WORKING with WOODY ALLEN...



Jennifer Tilly and Woody Allen in BULLETS OVER BROADWAY

"I loved working with him. He's a little like Peter Bogdanovich [director of THE CAT'S MEOW]; he's very generous. He loves when you adlib or bring things to the scene. He loves when mistakes happen. Like there was this scene (in BULLETS OVER BROADWAY) where I'm talking and talking and can't light my cigarette. And I turn to my boyfriend and go, 'Honey, would you mind?' And then he's like all nervous because it's not in the script and he's looking for his lighter and then he can't light it because he's so nervous and then I turn and to 'sell the moment' I turn to John Cussack and go, 'Huh! No manners.' And he used that and there were so many takes where I got my cigarette lit, but he likes sloppiness. He liked working with me, I think. I mean I haven't worked with him since (laughs)."



ON WHAT THE NEXT CHUCKY WAS ALMOST ABOUT...



"Everyone is asking me about that! Don Mancini, the guy who created CHUCKY, is set to direct it. And I think he's getting the same cinematographer [Peter Pau], the guy who did the first BRIDE OF CHUCKY [and] won an Oscar last year for CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON, and I've got my very large sequel deal in place (laughs). They wrote this really, really good script and it was so funny and I guess the notes were literally, 'It's too funny, it's too gay and there's too much Jennifer Tilly.' And I heard that and thought, 'How can there be too much Jennifer Tilly? (Chuckles) How is that possible?' So they're sort of tweaking it. The script that Don wrote is hysterical but it's more campy-culty. And I think they want a more scary-horror film. I honestly think, CHUCKY's been around forever, he's not scary anymore. I think the way to go is campy-culty. But I'm not running a multimillion dollar studio."



ON WHAT THE NEXT CHUCKY WILL REALLY BE ABOUT...



THE CAT'S MEOW

"Don is convinced and I've had a hand in helping him be convinced he's convinced the reason BRIDE OF CHUCKY did so well because I was there in all my fleshly proportions. So he decided to have in the BRIDE OF CHUCKY sequel, I don't know if I should be saying this, but he decided to put me in as Jennifer Tilly the actress. His original concept is that they were going to make a movie of the CHUCKY story and Tiffany and Chucky are watching TV and they're like, 'Oh, my god that girl sounds just like you Tiffany. She's the only one that can play you in the movie.' But I think we might have moved away from that. But he did put me in the movie as myself and also the doll. I think it will be really fun once we finally get off the ground."



ON PLAYING HERSELF IN THE PAST...



"I played myself in THE MUSE. And it's interesting to see what people think your self is. Like in THE MUSE, I was some two-bit actress trying to date some agent. And I would never go out with an agent! (Laughs) So I'm hitting on an agent and I'm just some kind of babe around town. I get lots of offers to play myself, but I think you can go to that well a few time before you become a self-parody."



Jennifer Tilly records the voice of Celia for MONSTER'S INC.

ON THE COMIC BOOK VERSION OF HERSELF IN IRON MAN...



"I'm going to be in the Marvel comic book IRON MAN. Tony Stark is like a wealthy, jet set industrialist when he's not toddling around in his IRON MAN costume, and they said my names already been in (the comic) where Tony Stark is at a party and someone goes, 'Aren't you usually with Jennifer Tilly?' And I was like, 'Yay!' They've given me a picture of me as a cartoon dating Tony Stark. I used to read Marvel Comic books all the time when I was a kid."

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