More Single White Female than mere girl-next-door, Jennifer Jason Leigh has always felt drawn to playing dark, troubled women. Consider her off-kilter, yet often brilliant portrayals in such flicks as Rush, Georgia and Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. Now, she's co-starring with Alan Cumming in The Anniversary Party opening today in New York and L.A. as one half of a tragicomic Hollywood couple.
What drives Leigh to personify such angsty ladies? "They're just better parts," she tells TV Guide Online. "They're more dynamic and more challenging, and I care about [these women] more because their lives are so hard. And sometimes they make their lives hard and you certainly wouldn't want that for yourself if you could choose it but there's something very vulnerable and naked and daring about them that intrigues me."
In Party an emotional rollercoaster she co-wrote and directed with Cumming Leigh is an aging actress (at least by Tinseltown standards) all set to play herself in a film. That is, until irony strikes when her husband hands the role to a younger star, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. As she closes in on the big 40 in real life, can Leigh relate to her character's insecurity?
"I'm not 40 quite yet," she sasses, adopting her favorite vintage Kate Hepburn lilt. "I still have a couple more months. Let's count them, shall we?" Turning serious, Leigh asserts: "I've never lied about my age because I think it's so insignificant. I refuse to live by a stigma that I don't believe in. So that's why I can poke fun at it so easily, because I'm not threatened by it.
"It is a true thing about women aging in Hollywood, that suddenly there aren't parts," she continues. "So we're not only satirizing Hollywood, we're also indicting it in a certain way. But the thing that's so great about this movie is that there's lots of great women's parts."
Indeed, besides herself and Paltrow, Leigh says she hooked the likes of Kevin Kline
, Parker Posey
, Jennifer Beals
and Phoebe Cates
with "no money. It's an act of friendship and real belief, all these people coming together to make this movie for nothing. It's just kind of a lovely feeling." Waxing philosophical and uncharacteristically cheery she adds, "Luckily, even though a lot of my movies have not made a fortune, I do have a career that I'm actually proud of."