For years, Jennifer Tilly was blissfully unaware that she had a funny voice. And now? She's blissfully in on the joke. "My career has taken a really strange turn in the last few years," observes the actress, who mouths off as a tone-deaf bovine in the new animated feature Home on the Range. "I played the one-eyed monster with snakey hair in Monsters, Inc., then I played a disembodied head in a bottle in The Haunted Mansion. Now I'm playing a cow, and the next movie I'm doing is a sequel to [Bride of Chucky], where I play a small homicidal doll and also myself, international B-movie actress Jennifer Tilly."
Luckily, the one-time Oscar nominee — a decade ago, for her turn as a starlet whose talents are better displayed in an evening gown than on a stage in Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway — has a sense of humor about her place in the Hollywood pantheon. After all, she'd be quick to point out, it wasn't like she ever got offered the kinds of roles given to master thespians like Gwyneth or Nicole. "When I was younger, in the '80s, I used to always play the bodacious bimbo," recalls the head-turner, who's still pretty damn bodacious at 45. "Now I play the over-the-hill bimbo."
Tilly ain't exaggerating. On next week's Frasier, she has an encounter with Kelsey Grammer that is so typical of the scenes she is usually asked to play that she has, in fact, already played it before. "Seventeen years ago, I was on Cheers and I played a not-very-bright bimbo that [Frasier] picks up in a bar. On Frasier, I play a not-very-bright bimbo that he picks up in a bar. An older one," she adds. "Not wiser, just older.
"It is almost the same script," she continues. "[Both times], he is making do with me because he can't have the girl he wants. [On Cheers], he couldn't have Shelley Long, and he was going to marry me [until] Shelley talks him out of it. 'Thanks, Shelley. I could have been a regular.' Then on Frasier, he's in love with Laura Linney, but his friends convince him that what he needs is [someone] cheap and easy... Enter Jennifer Tilly. He's about to have sex with me and then [Linney] shows up. 'Thanks, Laura'."