The ChickStars Interview: Clea Duvall
by Sarah Gold
Twenty-two-year-old actress Clea Duvall isn't even remotely related to veteran screen star Robert Duvall. No, this Los Angeles native is a rising star in her own right, thank you very much. A self-described teenage troublemaker who hated school, Clea was just fifteen when she got into L.A.'s prestigious High School of the Performing Arts. There, she discovered her true calling--acting--and after graduation, quickly scored an agent, manager, and a string of appearances on TV shows like E.R. and the short-lived Dangerous Minds.
Since her first movie break in How to Make the Cruelest Month (an indie film that showed at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival), Clea has moved on to feature roles in big-budget films like She's All That, The Astronaut's Wife, and most notably The Faculty. Though she's now busy enjoying the fabulous success of her new movie, Girl, Interrupted, we caught up to Clea and learned that stardom hasn't kept her from being a regular girl. Like the rest of us, she still calls her Dad when she's upset, and dreams of being a rock star.
CHICKSTARS: So, has your phone been ringing off the hook since Girl, Interrupted released?
CLEA: (Laughing) Oh, no. Not yet, anyway.
CHICKSTARS: In the film you play Georgina, a pathological liar. Do you ever lie in real life?
CLEA: When I was in my early teens, I was a big liar. I lied about everything! It got me into a lot of trouble—a lot of people got really pissed off at me. But I'm not like that anymore.
CHICKSTARS: I've heard that the script for the film actually went through a ton of changes before it was finalized. Was that hard for you?
CLEA: Definitely. The first time I ever read the script was about three years ago, and back then my character was supposed to have Tourette's Syndrome. But then Jim [Director James Mangold] decided that Tourette's would be too distracting, so he rewrote the part altogether. For a while it was kind of scary, because my whole character was up in the air—no one knew what I supposed to be. But I tried not to get too hung up on that. After all, real people with real mental disorders don't think about how they're supposed to behave—they just are that way.
CHICKSTARS: There are a lot of really emotionally charged scenes between you and the other characters in the film. Off-camera, did any of that angst between you carry over?
CLEA: No, actually I think it helped us bond. I made some really close friends on the set, especially Gillian Arminante and Angelina Jolie. At some point it started to feel like we were a family.
CHICKSTARS: Is it still daunting to work with stars as huge as Winona Ryder and Whoopi Goldberg?
CLEA: It's always weird at first, before you approach them, you're thinking, "Oh my God, there's that person I've known about since I was ten years old!" But then you get over it. I got over it with everybody except Whoopi—she's just so big.
CHICKSTARS: Did working on Girl, Interrupted teach you anything about yourself? Or about acting?
CLEA: It made me reaffirm something I already knew: When you're on set, you should never forget why you're there. You're there to tell a story, and you need to be committed to it—to doing the best job you can. You can't let yourself get distracted.
CHICKSTARS: You have a reputation for being something of a rebel…you were once kicked out of high school, and you have lots of tattoos…is it easier for you to identify with "bad girl" roles than "good girl" roles?
CLEA: I don't feel like a rebel! I mean, I have two cats and I stay at home a lot…I make my car payments on time. It's pretty boring, actually!
CHICKSTARS: I've read that your father has been a really supportive presence in your life. Can you tell me about that?
CLEA: Early in my career, it used to be that before I did something I'd have to spend a lot of time talking about it first—I was really insecure, I needed a lot of reassurance. My Dad was always there for me when I needed that. It's funny, though—I find I need that sort of reassurance less and less. Now when something makes me freak out, I can usually figure out how to deal with it myself. I guess I'm a grown-up now!
CHICKSTARS: What's your dream role?
CLEA: There are two plays I would love to be in…one's called The Dreamer Examines the Pillow, by John Patrick Chandley, and the other is Night, Mother. Oh, and I want to play a rock star. I want to be a rock star!
CHICKSTARS: You should start a band!
CLEA: I can't sing to save my life. Maybe someday, though. I just love the whole rock star life—I've dated a lot of musicians, I'm really into music…I especially like this L.A.-based band called Patsy, and Kim Deal. And P.J. Harvey—she's awesome.
CHICKSTARS: So what's next for you—any new projects on the horizon?
CLEA: In a couple months I'll start working on a new film called The Sisters—it's a modern-day adaptation of a famous Anton Chekov story.
CHICKSTARS: Do you plan to do any more television work? I know you've appeared in Buffy The Vampire Slayer…
CLEA: I really, really want to be on The X Files before the show goes off the air.
CHICKSTARS: You should!
CLEA: I've tried! They won't have me! The thing is, I did an audition for the show like three years ago, and it was the worst audition I've ever done. I was so nervous, I wanted it so bad, I just screwed up all over the place. They must have thought I was really out there. (Sigh) Oh, well…I'm sure my time will come!