Parker Posey for “Superman Returns”

An eccentric, dark-haired actress best known for her work in 1990s independent films, Parker Posey trained at SUNY Purchase before spending over a year (1991-92) playing Tess Shelby, a bratty teen on the long-running CBS daytime soap “As the World Turns”. Named after 50s model Suzy Parker, she entered features in 1993 with “Joey Breaker”, a low-rent version of “The Player”, and followed with small roles in “Coneheads”, based on early “SNL” sketches, and “Dazed and Confused” (both 1993), Richard Linklater’s personal ode to youth. In the latter, Posey embodied every freshman girl’s nightmare: the fascistic senior.

Posey subsequently appeared briefly in the acclaimed PBS miniseries “Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City” (1994), as a ditsy friend of heroine Laura Linney. Her career accelerated that year and she has since earned the sobriquet ‘Queen of the Indies’ for her appearances in non-studio features like “Sleep With Me” (1994), Hal Hartley’s “Amateur” (1995) and most especially in “Party Girl” (1995). In the latter, as Mary, the title character who evolves into a librarian, she demonstrated her ability to carry a film. The busy actress made memorable appearances in “Frisk” (1996), as psychotic murderess, and in Christopher Guest’s comedy “Waiting for Guffman” (also 1996), as a Dairy Queen worker with showbiz aspirations. That same year, she lent her quirky presence to “Basquiat” (portraying gallery owner Mary Boone), “The Daytrippers” (as Hope Davis’ younger sister) and Linklater’s “subUrbia” (as a press agent). She continued her winning streak in 1997 with an award-winning turn as a woman with an unhealthy identification with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in “The House of Yes” and nearly stole Hartley’s “Henry Fool” as a sexy and sarcastic woman who eventually marries the title character.

Over the next five years, Posey took on several characteristically unique roles in both independent and big-budget films. In 2000’s “Best in Show” Posey played a yuppie wife with braces and a high-strung attachment to her dog and husband. She again played an uptight wife in the Jennifer Jason Leigh directed film “Anniversary Party” (2001) but this time she loosened up after taking extacy.

2002 found Posey taking a different turn in her career by taking on the lead role in the dramatic mystery “The Event” (lensed 2002) and co-starring with Kyra Sedwick and Fairuz Balk in “Personal Velocity”. She did not abandon her comedic roots though, and was working again with Christopher Guest on his latest semi-improvised mockumentary “A Mighty Wind” (lensed 2002), playing one of a large ensemble of “family” folk singers. She next appeared opposite Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore in the romantic comedy “Laws of Attraction” (2004), playing a famous woman locked in a bitter divorce battle with her rock star husband.

A couple of uncharacteristic roles in the horror genre found their way onto Parker’s resume. She played Detective Carson O’Connor in a modern rendition of “Frankenstein” (USA Network, 2004), a backdoor pilot originally penned by Dean Koontz. Posey then appeared as the vampire Danica in “Blade: Trinity” (2004), the third installment in the trilogy. Not typically cast for such roles, Posey relied on her camp sensibilities, making her character a sassy punk annoyed with the whole undead thing–a choice that pleased writer-director David Goyer. Next, Posey performed in a successful off-Broadway run with Ethan Hawke in David Rabe’s cocaine- and alcohol-fueled morality tale about show business, Hurlyburly. (biography courtesy of

Now, Posey plays Kitty Koslowski, the sexy sidekick of evil genius Lex Luthor in director Bryan Singer’s revival of the original comic book superhero franchise “Superman Returns”. Posey, having finished for the night and slipped into a comfy casual tracksuit, sat with us to talk about her work:

Question: What is it that you like in these films, because you keep doing them?

Posey: That’s so funny. Everyone thinks that you actually choose what you do, but it actually chooses you. To play kind of the darker parts in Hollywood movies, that I like. I had heard they were interested in me for ‘Superman,’ but you hear it and you wait for a couple of months, and I was doing ‘Hurley Burley’ in New York and I was, ‘Am I going to get that part or not? Can I read the script?’ ‘No. You can’t read it. It’s top secret.’ ‘OK.’ Then I heard that I’d got cast and they flew the script out with a man who gave it to me to read in a coffee shop in the East Village and I read it one sitting and I felt like I was in a Tom Cruise movie, like ‘Minority Report’ or something, because it was just so secret and all this type of stuff. So I read it and I got the job and was really hoping to love it because I loved the original movie so much and I read it and I was so pleased that it kept the emotional life of Lois and Clark.

And Kitty Kowalski’s kind of where it is a cartoon a lot of doing movies like this there’s a graphic element in choosing the wardrobe and choosing the way they behave, it’s slightly exaggerated. This movie seems to have a tone of kind of old Hollywood. It’s very grand in that way. It’s very warm. And when I read it, it didn’t assault me with action. I was moved by the, I guess, the things that moved me when I watched ‘Superman’ as a kid, was the boy who came from another planet who didn’t know who his parent’s were and it’s still a journey to the father. And there’s a mother in the story now, Lois Lane, and Kitty is kind of a mother too with the Pomeranian at the Vanderworth Mansion. And that’s all I’ll talk about [Laughs]. So there’s like some really kind of great dynamics going on between Lois and Clark and Lex and Kitty. They have the same relationship that we saw in the Gene Hackman / Valerie Perrine part where she is not really a villain as much as she is a romantic who’s made mistakes. So that’s kind of what Kitty is to me. But also as an actor presenting a character in a movie like this and is kind of in that ’40’s tone. The humor in it is sophisticated I think in that there’s some pure humor that is sweet and I think that, today, makes it sophisticated. I’m just kind of rambling. I haven’t really talked a lot about it because there’s only been a couple of journalists on set and I’m not working today.

Question: Do you have snappy patter in the movie?

Posey: Snappy patter? I don’t think so. Smart writing. Oh, God. How to describe her? We talked about in the beginning as Lex as someone who can go under disguise and can be anyone he wants to be. He has his wigs and his things. So Kitty is kind of like that too. She’s the female who can go out and go under cover like in the original movie, but what would happen if – it’s the backbone of the original, but it’s just kind of spread out more. She’s just as smart as he is if not maybe smarter. Although, she doesn’t really… her cards are really close to her chest. That’s where the humor is. She says something really obvious and itt might sound a little dumb, but she’s actually correct and he’s an ego maniac.

Question: Were you excited about working on this with Kevin Spacey?

Posey: Well, what’s so weird is when I was doing ‘Hurley Burley,’ that’s how he got his start. He was the understudy in ‘Hurley Burley’ and then he got discovered when he was doing that play. So I was almost going into this one like, ‘Do you want to run lines for this play?’ Cause that’s a three and a half hour play. That’s a lot of parts to understudy and I know from doing the play that I’d heard stories about how crazy it was. So he’s someone who’s had a really full career in theater and film. He’s very talented. So you never know what to expect when you work with talented and successful people.

Question: And you’re working with another pomeranian?

Posey: Yeah. Her name is Molly.

Question: Aren’t you not supposed to work with kids and dogs?

Posey: Oh, because upstage. Molly really can find the camera. She’s very special. She’s pretty funny.

Question: Did you let the previous films influence you at all?

Posey: Yeah, I think so. I took a lot from Valerie Perrine, though. Just my impression of her when I saw her in the movie. She’s not really a villain. She just making some bad choices. She’s not mean. She’s really open hearted. I don’t know. There’s a lot to her. It was an idea… wouldn’t it be great if Kitty was really a German spy from the ’60’s all of a sudden and she showed up in some kind of thing. Cause this movie kind of has a feeling that it’s an homage to movies. Bryan Singer is such a fan of movies that he brings a lot of intelligence to his filmmaking.

Question: I’m sure doing a big Hollywood movie you get asked by journalists all the time about being the indie queen.

Posey: Oh, other people ask me about that too.

Question: Is there as much to create with a bigger movie as there might be in a smaller film, like in, say “Personal Velocity”?

Posey: Well, it’s like it has to be… it’s on such a grand scale, I think it’s kind of hard to kind ground of yourself with a little character where the sets cost more than countries. It’s kind of trying to figure out the scale of it, going to the Fortress of Solitude or these different locations where there’s a lot of green screen around so you have to use your imagination and figure out what your place is in it. Sometimes I felt like I was in ‘Scooby-Doo’ and I didn’t really have a reference to it. I didn’t know what the tone was and the set or how big it is. But I watched some dailies and saw some of the footage and there’s a kind of majestic feel to it. There’s a weight to it. And then you do the independent movies and there’s not a lot of that at all because it’s more intimate on a personal level and not in an art department, props, character, costume. It’s like the movie could be drawn and sold as a comic. It has that kind of aesthetic to it which is very different than the Chris Guest movies.

Question: Is there a correlation between working with green screen where there’s nothing there and improvising where you don’t have anything to follow?

Posey: You’re just like, ‘Where am I and what is this?’ You just have to picture it. There’s not a real correlation there cause you’re waiting around all day for everybody to light this green screen and there are these lights on the ceiling that are heating up the room and you just kind of… you could very easily walk around set and go, ‘Which way do I look?’ because you’ve been waiting around. So you can’t really get to that point and that’s a lot of the work on these big movies, keeping grounded and focused and keeping the story really close to you in your head and in your heart and what you want to come through.

Question: Do you have a preference between studio films and indies?

Posey: No. It’s all the same. It’s not all the same, but it’s just different. It’s just different. I mean, I’ve come in for six weeks, six or seven weeks of shooting and they’ve been shooting since January. There’s already dynamics of people. There’s already little families and dynamics going on. Sets have been built. Characters have already been developed. So you have to acclimate yourself very quickly and feel at home very quickly.

Question: What surprised you the most in reading the script that you might not have expected in a movie like this?

Posey: Like I said before it kept the backbone of what the ‘Superman’ movie was, but it just deepened it with more myth. Why is Superman important now? Why do we need Superman now? I met Christopher Reeve when he came to see a play that he had done on Broadway, ‘The Fifth of July,’ which was like the first gay kiss on Broadway. It was this scandal in the early ’80’s. He came to see the play a couple of years ago and he was just such an amazing man. What happened as an American in our country, for someone like that to die and the stem cell research and how he handled it with such grace was powerful. So I’m glad for that reason alone that it’s coming out right now and it’s dedicated to him. It’s intelligent. I mean, I’m not an action movie fan. I didn’t see ‘X-Men.’ Although, my friend saw it and said it was great. [Laughs]

Question: Have you seen any of Bryan’s other films?

Posey: Oh, yeah. The Usual Suspects.

Question: What is it about Bryan that you enjoy and what has he asked you to do with Kitty?

Posey: I don’t know. Some directors, a lot of directors… sometimes I feel like Kitty is Bryan or Lex Luthor, there’s a part of Bryan in that. I like to work from the director. So his humor is… he’s got a good sense of humor. But wasn’t any, ‘This is what I want from Kitty.’ We started with wardrobe with an outline of what kind of woman she’s going to be. We have Kitty in kind of a white dress, and well, I don’t want to say anything that reveals too much, but she can be a lot of people. She’s like an actor in that way. So it’s a lot of different layers. It’s been interesting.

Question: Are you in any action sequences that you’re excited about? Were you in a car crash scene?

Posey: No. That was my body double in the car crash. I haven’t seen it yet. I know there is a… What can you talk about here? There’s stuff that you see that I think is going to be so real seeming and then you’ll have Superman come in and say that Superman thing that’s so charming and honest and truthful. It’s neat to kind of watch Superman in the eyes of Lois and Clark. I like it.

Question: Were you at all worried about doing another film after doing “Blade: Trinity” which I heard was crazy at times with actors choking directors and Hell’s Angels on set?

Posey: Where was I? [Laughs] I don’t know how much you had to deal with that craziness on that film… It was kind of weird. You’d walk in and it’s early in the morning and the first thing that you see is a bunch of guys going [Fighting Noises] and you’re like, ‘Oh, God. This is not fun.’ But I had a good time on that. That wasn’t too painful. It was interesting. Any time you get a big kind of vampire movie, a ‘Superman’ movie, there’s going to be weird stuff going on. I wasn’t doing that much. Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds did a lot of the action.

Question: I just heard that it wasn’t a pleasant experience for a lot of people.

Posey: Why? What? That’s their problem. Next question! I don’t know. I loved David Goyer and Peter and all of those people.

Question: Did you like superheroes when you were a kid?

Posey: I liked Isis. Do you remember Isis? “Oh Zephyr Winds which blow on high, lift me now so I can fly!” She was just like a biology teacher by day. It was a kid’s show and you could always see like the strings connecting her. It was really bad. She was like a hot biology teacher. There was that crow in the office and the sets were really bad. It was just the same set over and over again and you could see the walls turning.

Question: If they did an “Isis” movie, would you like to do that?

Posey: I’m working on that right now. Why do you think that I’m here talking about it? It’s gonna happen! It’d be a big comedy. And then there’s Shields and Yarnell. They’re not really superheroes, but I really liked them a lot.

Question: Have you enjoyed Australia?

Posey: I traveled through here like seven or eight years ago for about a month. I spent all day at the Botanical Gardens yesterday and went back there today to see the Cockatoos and the magpies and the bats. They’re just amazing. Australia is the same population as L.A. and it’s an amazing country surrounded by water [Laughs]. There are more birds here and animals and insects. There’s like a billion insects that haven’t even been named. There are spiders and snakes that can kill you. And the birds will come right up to you. They’re not really scared. This is their planet. It’s not like New York or America. You can really feel the nature here I think. I read this in the paper on Sunday – from 1996 till now the population of people who’ve become Buddhist has doubled in Australia. I’ve been doing a lot of yoga.

Question: So you’ve enjoyed your time here?

Posey: Oh, yeah totally. One of my best friends from San Francisco is here with me. He gets to walk around the city and he doesn’t have a license and he doesn’t drive so he’s a walker. So he goes on walkabout and tells me all the stories. I’ve been watching a lot of Australian ‘Big Brother.’

Question: Who is going to get kicked out?

Posey: I don’t know. I think that Beth is going to win.

Question: Do you have anything coming up?

Posey: The next Chris Guest movie – ‘For Your Consideration.’ It’s a low budget movie that’s being shot in L.A. about the only Jewish family living in the south in the ’40’s.

Question: Will it be a lot of the same faces?

Posey: Yeah. Chris is playing the director.

Question: Are you handed a lot of scripts with not as much dialogue for you to create that dialogue?

Posey: They never write women’s parts very well or complicated. So you do end up going, ‘Can we do something more to this?’ It’s an interesting time right now with these reality shows and what people are seeing and these big budget superhero movies. I don’t know where the two shall meet or how it’s going to affect entertainment or DVD sales.

Question: Were they expecting the Frankenstein film to turn into a TV series?

Posey: Yeah. I don’t know. I just do the jobs and then see what happens. I don’t attach myself to the success of something.

Question: Do you want to get into TV?

Posey: I mean, again, I make a living like everybody else. You take the jobs and see where it takes you. They’re gonna send you somewhere, you take the ticket and go. I’m a freelancer.