Ashley Judd is not one to care about the media’s perception of her image. Arriving close to an hour late for her scheduled round of her interviews promoting her role in musical biopic De-Lovely, Judd is unapologetic, and having told a previous group of reporters that she had been bathing her dogs.
As we begin, Judd is confronted by a large piece of chocolate cake, ready to eagerly devour far more enthusiastically than answering reporters’ questions. “I bake so much at home, so I try to eat junk every other day. It’s kinda my thing.” Judd begins our interview somewhat defensively when it is suggested that the role of Linda Porter in De-Lovely, is such a far cry from the more woman-in-danger character we have seen her play far too often.
Judd is clearly snappy by that initial line of questioning. “It’s a little irritating, in a weird way, that they’re the movies that people pay the most attention too, while no one ever asks me about Someone Like You which I think I worked really hard in, even though it didn’t turn out exactly the way we thought it would. I’m certainly very proud of what I did as well as Where the Heart Is and all that stuff, so I think there’s actually a really balanced mix there.”
Yet whether she likes it or not, the movie business remains one of perception, and the commercial thrillers in which she starred maintained her relatively high profile. With that in mind, there is an assumption that Judd needed to have fought to play Linda Porter, a complex, evolving character, but Judd says there was no fighting involved. “I didn’t have to fight for it but was fortunate in that the director liked me for it after I met him. It was a very pleasant experience because it was already well under way so I didn’t have to wait all that long before it started. They’d already talked to Mr Armani about the clothes and had all their locations settled, so it was really nice. I just kind of came in and everything was prepared and off we went,” she said smilingly.
Judd says she was always a fan of Cole Porter, and his music era in general. “I like all the music of the ‘American Songbook’, as I call it, and I’m a big fan of the jazz age in general, so any artefact of that era is interesting to me.” Judd says that she would have been more than happy growing up throughout the Porter era. “That whole lack of underclothing thing would have worked well for me, you know, busting out of x number of centuries of clothes. You just think about Little Women and how the mother lets her children run and the whole reason women used to faint at dances and stuff was because they were so corseted they couldn’t breathe deeply enough into their lungs. It’s so preposterous.”
In this day and age of special effects and comic strips-turned-movies, Judd says there is a lesson to be drawn seeing De-Lovely. “That melody is a dying art and that this music is an incredibly important part of our collective cultural consciousness. Also, it’s not just about meeting someone, being attracted and having hot monogamous sex for the rest of your life, but it’s about stuff that’s a lot more subtle and very powerful.”
Judd says that she also found it easy to identify with Linda Porter without being overly specific. “Something that I’ve not found elsewhere, in a screen play or in a book, is that I’ve had the privilege of being close to a lot of really talented people, either being at the knee of or rubbing elbows with, or marrying someone who had an exceedingly special and very rare kind of talent and I just loved that about it. It’s a very comfortable place for me to be,” Judd admits.
That comfort zone she refers to is further exemplified through her marriage to racing car driver Dario Franchitti. The couple essentially calls Scotland home, and Judd says she had no problems making that decision. “Whether thou goest, I shall follow,” is Judd’s response. Ferociously guarded about her privacy, the actress won’t divulge in which part of Scotland they live. “I can’t actually talk about where we live. It’s bad enough over there that if I say one thing, however general, it is extrapolated and reporters show up at my mother and father-in-law’s,” she says, with vehement bitterness, claiming the Scottish media overreacts to the couple.
“I think the problem with the media there, in addition to everyone being consumed by this unfortunate modern crisis of excess interest in public people’s private lives, is that there are so many newspapers, and they’re all dailies so all the tabloids that we have that operate on a weekly basis operate there on a daily basis, plus there are three or four times the number, so they just need a lot of stuff to fill their shit sheets.” Judd becomes more visibly annoyed when asked about her worst paparazzi experience. “I don’t even want to talk about it because I don’t want to give that any energy. I don’t read it, listen to it, nor do I let other people talk about it in front of me, and I just don’t want to, so forget it.”
Judd, who was also seen in the critically maligned thriller Twisted earlier this year, is more than happy spending her non-acting days either in Tennessee, or more importantly, with her husband in Scotland, emphasising her need of her own personal reality which is not Hollywood. “We live in Tennessee which is great and I just like being there because it’s where my husband’s from. “I’m one of those people who have really taken on what’s important to her partner, I’m happy for him, and can see him, come alive in a different way. There, he just so enjoys running into people that he has known all his life, which just means the world to him, plus it’s a very beautiful and interesting place.”
That ethic means Judd has become more selective in the roles that she takes on. “I’m not interested in working a lot, and one of those people who has to chronically work for work’s sake.” Judd even turned down the lead role in Catwoman to play another type of cat: Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway. The actress makes it clear there was no other reason for not doing that high profile film. “I was attached to the material for a while and it was just one of those coincidences that Beau Kenright, who produced Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, had booked a theatre on Broadway, very far in advance, as one must. Then the scripts came together and Warner Brothers was so excited that they could finally confidently green-light a movie with the right script and the right director and it was a conflict. There was a slight overlap of the dates, but, I didn’t sweat it. I wanted to do that play and knew it required a lot of preparation, I had to get to New York quite early for our first preview, so it was a no-brainer.”
As selective as she is these days, Judd says that is still itching to do something. “My agent is very happy, as I’m finally reading scripts again because I did the play for so long I just didn’t really need to read, I wasn’t looking for a job for ages and I’ve read a few things that I like and I’m consistent. The ones I like I’m just holding close to me now and I don’t want to read anything else.”