There is little doubt that Parker Posey is one of a kind, a completely creation. She has travelled the word, doesn’t own a mobile, wears vintage clothes in a modern, kind of way. She admits to loving whiskey. She eats meat. She thought American Beauty was overrated (“The big transformation is that this guy decides not to sleep with a little girl? I mean, wow!”) She digs Bob Dylan and Patti Smith
Over the past decade, Posey has appeared in 30 or so Indie films, from Dazed and Confused and The Daytrippers to Waiting For Guffman and The House of Yes. With this spree, she earned herself that now infamous royal title (you know the one). Now, sitting back exhausted as she talks about Christopher Guest’s newest doco parody Best in Show, the bored-looking starlet takes great pains at explaining her distaste for the ‘Indie queen’ label that has dogged her recent career. “I’m STILL queen of the Indies”, she says with a bitter sarcasm when asked what it is she is queen of these days. She may not like the term, but if people still see her in such royal terms, then she will live with it. “Look, I don’t care, it’s fine. For a while it was really weird being defined that way and a bit freaky, especially if you’re being asked about it all the time [hint, hint]. It was like in a magazine five years ago, then you do these things [interviews] and in the press world it’s a big deal.” Posey shunned the world of mainstream Hollywood, preferring to concentrate on the independent film scene, because “that’s where I’ve gotten work.”
Now 31, looks a little older, wiser. “I went away for a while,” she says. She left the States after wrapping her first mainstream movie, You’ve Got Mail, in early 1998 (leaving, she insists, was not a commentary on the experience). “I just dropped out. I went all over – Morocco, Australia, Sweden, Finland, France. I was gone for, God, like a year and a half.” She was in a relationship (since ended) and they both liked to travel. There may be more to it, but she’s not saying. Anyway, as abruptly as she left, she returned late in the US summer of 1999, leaving boxes of still-unclaimed books and clothes scattered at friends’ places across Europe. After a swing through Los Angeles for Scream 3, which not only paid some rent but, she insists, “was also a pretty good movie,” Posey was off to Vancouver to shoot Christopher Guest’s mock documentary Best in Show.
The film is an uproarious comedy about a group of people who come together for the Mayflower Dog Show, from various locations around the United States, each with wildly different personalities and dogs to perfectly match them. The pressure is on as the competition begins, and hundreds of people gather around, anxious to watch. Posey plays a ferociously obsessive yuppie and consumer-obsessed woman determined to see her dog win the show. Hers is the most dysfunctional, shallow and anal character in the totally improvised comedy. All she had to go on, was a bear bones outline. “We wanted to take American consumerism to the nth degree. With the Internet, these are lifestyles that people are buying, and we developed the idea that people don’t even have to go outside and do shopping. I thought that was pretty fascinating to do.” Posey elaborates that you in this style of absurdist comedy, you could take that idea “anywhere you want to.”
Posey last teamed up with director Guest in his hilarious Waiting for Guffman, and the actress loves his unique approach to movie making. “Nobody makes these movies like Chris. I feel so lucky to be a part of it.” And anything goes. “Anything can be incorporated. For instance, I had a crown put on my open nerve when I was getting my braces for this, so my whole mouth was sore as hell. I had to eat yams, stuffing and matzo ball soup from an LA deli, all this for the part in the film, not to mention as a result of dental work. So I was able to kind of use ANYTHING to get into this.” It’s part of Posey’s own methodology. “I tend to get really consumed by something which somehow gives me a lot of freedom.” In the case of this film, Posey also loved “forming a character around a dog, and everything revolves around the dog, including his mood swings.”
After filming, Posey yearned to return to New York, and the New York stage, which was miles away from her more established film world. The play in question was Elaine May’s Taller than a Dwarf. Posey’s only previous professional theatre credit is a Los Angeles production of John Patrick Shanley’s Four Dogs and a Bone, which she starred in five years ago. She doesn’t go to plays too often and she’s not a theatre nut but, as she says, “Broadway is still Broadway. Every [actor] dreams about it.” Luckily, the Parker Posey life is a somewhat charmed one. A week after her secret wish, she got a call from Alan Arkin. He’d signed on to direct Taller Than a Dwarf, and after a face-to-face meeting, he cast her as Selma Miller, the female lead, opposite Matthew Broderick. Elaine May, Alan Arkin. “That’s pretty good, you know,” she says. “Maybe this sounds clichéd, but I took this play because I wanted to challenge myself. In the end, it’s just entertainment – but I take [acting] very seriously. I want to be really good.”
Posey has done it all from the legit theatre to that Indie world she knows so well. Now she’s shooting her second big studio film, Josie and the Pussycats. “From dogs to cats, I love a challenge”, she concludes laughingly.