Paper: Girl Interrupted -Tomboy starlet Clea DuVall is Hollywood's anti-cheeleader.
By Peter Davis
Unlike a few of the characters she's played on film, emerging starlet Clea DuVall is hardly a rebellious, fast-talking, tough-as-nails broad. "When I was 19, I did The Faculty, which everyone saw," she says, referring to the campy teen horror flick written by Kevin Williamson. "I was fresh out of that angst phase. But I'm 22 years old now. I'm not a kid anymore. I don't have all that angst in me."
Still, sitting at a Los Angeles coffeehouse, wearing a tat-tered hooded sweatshirt, jeans and shit-kicker boots, her blond streaks revealing dark roots, DuVall certainly looks like a "don't mess with me" kind of chick. She says her favorite pastime is boxing and claims to throw a pretty mean punch. Yet when DuVall speaks, her voice is a whis-pery hush. She shyly avoids eye contact. Her trusty safety blanket-a Lucky Strike cigarette-is always close at hand.
"I don't feel that pressure that I have to go out and meet people and schmooze," DuVall continues. "I don't go to Skybar or anything like that." Actually, the best place to catch her in action these days is the big screen. After nabbing the role of Stokely, the sexy high school outcast who grabs the heart of a jock (Shawn Hatosy) in The Faculty, she played Georgina, an emotionally unstable mental patient in Girl, Interrupted. Luckily, DuVall wasn't typecast. "I thought that they were going to want me for Brittany Murphy's part (Daisy, the daddy's girl), because it was meaner and harder and not so soft," she moans. "No one is very creative in this town."
One rookie director who tapped into DuVall's vulnerable side is Jamie Babbit, who cast her in the lead opposite Natasha Lyonne in But I'm a Cheerleader, opening July 7 in New York, L.A. and San Francisco. Babbit, who met DuVall five years ago through friends, first directed her in the short Sleeping Beauties, about girls in love. In Cheerleader, DuVall plays Graham, a lesbian high school student whose rich par-ents send her to be deprogrammed at True Directions, a sicko, candy-colored summer camp. During the heteroizing, chain-smoking Graham busts ail the rules and falls in love with Megan (Lyonne), a sweet cheerleader. "I want to work for Jamie the rest of my life," DuVall enthuses, but says that acting opposite a good friend can be challenging. "It was sometimes hard, working with Natasha, because she was my friend. The lines got very blurred. You want to deal with someone in a personal way because you think it's easier, but it's not. It really needs to be a professional relationship."
Growing up in "the shitty parts of Hollywood" until she was 12, DuVall bailed out of home when she was only 16. "I was done being at home," she says. "I was unhappy there, so I left. I was very much an individual and independent at a young age. It was the natural thing for me to do." Working at Buzz Coffee on Sunset Boulevard while attending the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, DuVall had to juggle passing classes and paying rent. "I had to be responsible," she recalls. "It was good for me. I wouldn't have had it any other way." Her Fame-like high school was not a typical academic institution. "There were no sports," she says with a chuckle of relief. "The people who are popular aren't cheerleaders and football players. Everybody's kind of a sissy because they're all artists and they don't want to hurt themselves."
DuVall just wrapped the title role in See Jane Run, the first feature from writer-director Sarah Thorp. The low-budget indie trails a semi-suicidal woman through Los Angeles on a petty crime spree that consists of stealing pinñatas and pet supplies. DuVall is slated for more screen and stage work this fail, but hopes something else happens between now and then "because I'm going kind of crazy."
Torching up another Lucky Strike, DuVall confesses that she usually feels insecure when she first sees one of her films. "I think I'm horrible," she says, rolling her eyes. I think, what's wrong with me? Why can't I make a movie? Then I learn from it and see how I can get better."
Even more trying for DuVall is exposing her other pas-sion to public scrutiny: writing fiction. "It's hard, because I can only write at certain times," she explains. "I get big bursts and then I don't write for three months. I write mostly when I'm sad and don't want to be around people. The whole life I lead in my head is the story I'm writing. That's all I want to think about." She has barely shown the beginnings of her first novel to anyone. "It's really scary to me," she admits, diverting her eyes to the traffic speeding by on Beverly Boulevard. "It's very personal. It's more personal than anything else I've ever done."