28th Street - January 2000 - Vol. 15, No. 1

SUNDANCE CLASS OF 2000 by Jack Baric

CLEA DUVALL - Actress - But I'm A Cheerleader and Committed

When I first met Clea DuVall I thought she had an attitude. She showed up at a group photo and interview session, said hello and went off to a corner -- too cool, I thought, to hang out with us. What I didn't realize was that DuVall can be painfully shy.

"That was my first photo shoot and I was so nervous. I was just nervous and shy and Matthew Lillard and Mary McCormick are just so outgoing and Brad Rowe and everybody else was getting along so well and I was just shy. I was just watching," explains DuVall, before adding, " I feel like I've gotten better and I'm not as in my shell as I used to be. I've gotten better at not making people feel uncomfortable with my shyness."

Although DuVall might be shy and has a girl next door look, don't be totally fooled. At heart it seems the girl is a rocker -- complete with a number of tattoos adorning her body ("I don't really parade around with them and show them off."). When asked if she would ever like to be in a band, DuVall responds, "I've always wanted to, but I'm so not good at it and I respect music way too much to even attempt it." She adds with a laugh, "I'm completely tone-deaf. It's really embarassing and I didn't even realize it until recently."

DuVall goes to this year's Sundance with two films, But I'm A Cheerleader and a small role in Committed. This is her second turn in Park City. DuVall first appeared in the festival two years ago as the lead actress in a film called How To Make The Cruelest Month. DuVall has been quite busy in the time between Sundances, with roles in The Faculty, The Astronaut's Wife and She's All That, among others.

But I'm A Cheerleader is about a very clean-cut high school cheerleader (Natasha Lyonne) with a boyfriend who comes home one day and is confronted by her parents and friends about being a lesbian. Against her objections and denials of being gay they send her to gay rehab. At rehab she realizes that she is gay. After beginning the rehab program she seems to be on the road to "recovery", but then meets a fellow patient (DuVall) and falls in love.

DuVall and co-star Lyonne were already friends before they made the film together. "It was strange at times," DuVall comments about playing a same-sex love interest with a friend. "We had to make out so much that we kind of got over it. I was definitely really nervous and shy at first in front of all those people, especially with my friend." When asked if Lyonne is a good kisser, DuVall replys, "We were both so nervous I don't really remember. It was really awkward."

DuVall, who is good friends with Cheerleader director Jamie Babbit, was already attached to the project when Lyonne came to visit her on the set of another movie in San Francisco. Lyonne saw the script in DuVall's car and began to read it. DuVall recalls, "We went home and read through it, just joking around. She really liked it and it all just kind of fell into place."

I admit to DuVall that this will be my first time attending the festival and ask for advice on what to do. She answers, "Bring warm clothes. It's really cold there." When I press on about the parties, she laughs and says, "Because of the high altitude, you get drunk really fast. So everyone's drunk all the time."