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Springboard: ‘Inherent Vice’ Breakout Katherine Waterston Is Still Having Her ‘Pinch Me’ Moment

Springboard: 'Inherent Vice' Breakout Katherine Waterston Is Still Having Her 'Pinch Me' Moment

Friday’s Indiewire Springboard column profiles up-and-comers who made a mark in the indie film world and are deserving of your attention.

Katherine Waterston’s been a working actress for close to a decade, but chances are you’ve never heard of her, despite appearances in “Michael Clayton,” “Robot & Frank,” this fall’s “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” and a stint on HBO’s now defunct drama “Boardwalk Empire.” Her anonymity is soon to be a thing of the past however, thanks to Paul Thomas Anderson. The auteur is back in theaters this holiday season with “Inherent Vice,” his hugely anticipated follow-up to “The Master” — and Waterston features prominently in the loopy comedy, opposite Joaquin Phoenix who plays her ex-boyfriend. In a film full of nutty turns from the likes of Phoenix, James Brolin and Martin Short, it’s Waterston who grounds the proceedings with a raw, memorable performance that drew raves upon the film’s unveiling at the New York Film Festival last month.

READ MORE: Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Inherent Vice’ is a Faithful and Endearing Thomas Pynchon Adaptation

Before “Inherent Vice” opens, Waterston can be seen in Tom O’Brien’s winning romantic dramedy “Manhattan Romance,” which is having its New York premiere at the Big Apple Film Festival this weekend. In addition to screening the film, which co-stars Gaby Hoffman and netted the Audience Choice Award at the 2014 New Hampshire Film Festival, Waterston will be awarded with the event’s Emerging Talent Award. For screening times go here.

Indiewire called Waterston recently to discuss the two projects and her milestone year. “Inherent Vice” opens December 12.

When you’re exposed to acting at such an early age, it’s hard to know what those initial attractions were, how they happened. I can’t remember not wanting to do it. Also, I come from, on both sides of my family, a very creative family. Maybe it was appealing because of what I was exposed to with my father [Sam Waterston]. Perhaps there was some kind of genetic wiring for it? It’s so hard to know. It’s one of my earliest memories, really. Thinking about it and wanting to do it.

I find life so shocking, in general. Everything about it surprises me.

I think there’s an assumption when you have a parent in the business that you’re given some kind of a cheat sheet at an early age. Some kind of upper hand or some kind of advanced understanding of how the whole thing functions — maybe how to operate within it. I never felt I received that cheat sheet and grew up pretty removed from the business.

When you have a parent in the business or a parent that’s been as lucky and successful as my father — by the time I was conscious of what he did for a living, he was having a good time! He was working a lot. I didn’t see the years that came before — the struggle and the stress of it all.

I didn’t feel a specific pressure to prove myself because I had an actor in the family. I didn’t feel that pressure to fill some big shoes, or anything. Perhaps it’s more of an overwhelming concern if you’re the same sex as your parent in the business.
I think Gaby [Hoffman] is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met in my life. It was very enjoyable to come to work and get to work with her and get to play those few scenes together [in “Manhattan Romance”]. It made it easier because I really did kind of fall in love with her while we were working on that. We’re very close friends know. Sometimes you meet people and you somehow feel like you’ve known them your whole life. That’s how I feel about Gaby.
I feel very devoted to Joaquin [Phoenix] and Paul Thomas Anderson, and so grateful as well, of course. Every now and then you get lucky enough to work with some people you feel like you would take a bullet for. I would say Joaquin, Paul, Gaby — definitely.

I don’t think Paul Thomas Anderson has a standard approach to anything. For every scene he shoots and every character he casts, he probably functions in a slightly different way. I’ve certainly heard stories about how other people got cast that were very different from the process I went through. So, I think it’s pretty individual, but that’s just a guess, really. I’ve never talked to him about how he approaches casting.

I was an enormous fan of Paul’s. He’s the director whose movies I go to on opening night. I never watch a trailer before seeing one or read a single word about it. I love the work so much I plug my ears if something had seen something before I had. I just didn’t want to know anything going in.

I feel like I could spend my whole career working on adaptations of [Thomas] Pynchon novels if someone as brilliant as Paul was writing the adaptation. His dialogue — maybe it’s dense — but it’s so rich and it’s so honest. I guess it’s all that you hope for as an actor, to have something that challenges you, and have something that’s complex. And not understand everything about a scene the first time you read it.

I didn’t find it difficult to live in the “Inherent Vice” world or play those scenes, because they just seemed so real. It’s just a kind of incredibly efficient writing where I felt like I knew so much about my character from just those first two pages of the novel — of what is said and what isn’t said. It’s just so damned smart.

It’s very difficult to talk about Thomas Pynchon and Paul Thomas Anderson — these people I admire so much, it’s very difficult to express the admiration because I feel kind of overwhelmed by it. And when I hear myself giving an interview, talking about it, I’m like, “I’m talking about these masters in their fields and I cannot believe the fortune I’ve had to get to this place.”

It’s strange to have a ‘pinch me’ moment a year after you’ve made a movie, but it’s still quite amazing to me. That I got to be in “Inherent Vice,” a part of the film. It’s really pretty much the best thing that’s ever happened to me!

READ MORE: Paul Thomas Anderson is Back With First ‘Inherent Vice’ Trailer

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