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Between Luck and Resilience: Parker Posey on ‘Irrational Man’ and Working with Woody Allen

Parker Posey: 'An actor’s career relies on a lot of luck'

Many of Woody Allen’s female characters tend to be defined
by a certain neurosis fueled by their rightful eagerness to be fulfilled. They
want to live without restrains. This subtle frenzy translates into thorny
relationships and emotional distress. They are never one-dimensional, and
regardless of how small the part is, his muses always get the chance to play
intricate roles deserving of their talent. It’s because of this that it’s
surprising how long it took for actress Parker Posey to get on Allen’s radar.

Posey has had a more than extensive career on film and TV
since the early 90s, but has rarely been given projects that could transform
her from a fantastic hidden gem into a household name. However, she might be just
fine with smaller audiences as long as her work is appreciated. In “Irrational Man” she plays Rita, a science professor who
finds the possibility of escape and a new beginning in Joaquin Phoenix
character. She is disillusioned with her current marital situation and
fantasizes with a romanticized existence overseas. She craves not a carnal
passion, but a reason to be passionate about life.

When talking to Parker Posey one can sense the vulnerability
of a sensitive artist and the gratitude of a person who doesn’t take anything
for granted. She attributes her successes to a large portion of luck served by the
universe and the conscious decision to be resilient. Luck usually finds those
who don’t give up. In Allen’s latest work, Posey gets a chance to turn a few
scenes into memorable snippets of melancholic humor as if written just for her.
As she puts it, her career has happened between luck and resilience, though
it’s really talent that has filled the gaps and granted her longevity in this cutthroat
endeavor. Here’s hoping working under Woody Allen’s wing turns her occasional good
fortune into a constant stream of meaningful parts.

Aguilar: Besides the fact that this is a Woody Allen film, why did you feel attracted to play this woman looking for something new and refreshing in her life?

Parker Posey: She
was my age [Laughs]. She is a real woman and she is a teacher. I’ve had some
great teachers and I always wanted to play a teacher. They have a way of
commanding the classroom and being influential in their students’ lives. I had
some really cool teachers, so that was one of the attractions to the role. Also
working with this kind of writing, even in the 20 pages that I received, which is
natural and complex. I play I complicated woman at a certain point in her life
where she is not sure that she is living to her full capacity. Her desires
aren’t being met and she feels flat. She is catering to this fantasy, which we
all sometimes do. Her fantasy to escape is almost met, and she tethers on it.
She is conscious that it could happen but it might not.

Aguilar: She
desperately wants to go to Spain with Joaquin Phoenix

Parker Posey:  That’s right [Laughs].

Aguilar: In terms of
Woody Allen, who writes very interesting women in all his films,
how was the experience of working with him?

Parker Posey: It
was exciting, scary, exhilarating. He is a great independent filmmaker and a
well-oiled machine. He is geared to be very subtle and very perceptive. He creates an
energy and a focus on set that I like. I love working with people like him.

Aguilar: Where you
intimidated or anxious about working with a legendary filmmaker like Woody Allen?

Parker Posey: Absolutely!
I was totally intimidated and nervous. There was lots of sweating and it was
summertime [Laughs]. That’s sort of part of it. I always have this dialogue on
how this movie would be my last, how I’m not very good, and how I don’t know
how to do it anymore. It’s tough. It’s always a relief when something seems to
translate. I don’t really know what that is or how, but I’m relieved. I never
like looking at myself on screen. I blink really fast or hum if I have to sit through a
screening, but I love this movie and I’m so happy that I’m part of it.

Aguilar: You also
worked with Joaquin Phoenix who has such a big personality on and off screen. How
was the experience of playing one of his complex love interests?

Parker Posey: Amazing!
I had always wanted to work with him. I feel a kinship with him. He is very
true to his own nature, his own sensitivity, his creativity, and to his own
waters. He is such an artist. When you work with someone who’s got a lot
going on, you just jump in with him, focus on him, and swim in the same pool.
[Laughs]. We moved very fast and with the right tonal quality. I just trusted
Woody that I was hitting the right notes.

Aguilar: What’s your process like when creating a character like Rita? She is in the film only in a few scenes but she definitely makes an impression by being so uniquely intriguing.

Parker Posey: I
probably make things even more complicated than they have to be. I have images and memories of teachers from my past that made an
impression on me. Rita is a science professor. It’s a field where there are
mostly men and I like playing strong women like her. We see her just so briefly
throughout the film. She dips in and out and I shot for 7 days over 7 weeks.
For that time I was just walking around with Rita in my mind in Newport to dig
into the film and her life. That was my work.

Aguilar: You’ve also worked extensively in television, what’s different for you between working on feature films and working on episodic content?

Parker Posey:  Well there are so many different
styles now. Comparing “Louis” to “The Good Wife,” I think they are very
different and they are both television. There is a pace to TV and an intensity
to it now. Working with Louis C.K was more on the vein of working with Woody
for me, and I like that realism.

Aguilar: Is there a
particular director you’d love to work with? You’ve worked with Woody Allen now, so
the sky is the limit.

Parker Posey: Working
with directors you have to be right for their world. It’s tougher now more than
ever for directors to get their movies made that are not blockbusters. It’s
hard even for the auteurs to get financing for their films. Having said that, I’d love to
work with David Lynch, Steven Soderbergh, and all the great directors that you
would think that I would want to work with [Laughs.] You just go along and hope
to get lucky. I don’t really have much control over my career and whether or
not I’m right for a story. Being right for “Irrational Man” was pure luck.

Aguilar: There has recently been a
lot of discussion about women being unfairly underpaid in comparison to their
male co-stars. Whats; your take on this issues?

Parker Posey: It’
always been like that. It’s so strange that there is still inequality. Sadly
it’s still a man’s world, but hopefully we’ll see that change.

Aguilar: Do you hope that with new distribution platforms emerging in the entertainment industry there will be more for room for diverse content and more interesting roles for women?

Parker Posey: I hope that with these new distribution models, with
companies like Amazon, there is a new type of movie or TV viewing experience
with long-form dramas or novels that are turn into miniseries. I hope we see a
shift because studio movies are mostly pleasing a world market, but there are
lots of people who would love to see quieter more intimate stories.

Aguilar: Now that “Irrational Man” is out  and this cycle is almost over, what are you
working on next?

Parker Posey: I’m
in Woody’s next movie. I’m in the new movie that Tim Roth, Uma Thurman,
and Steven Fry are in called “The Brits Are Coming.”

Aguilar: Seems like
it’s a very productive year.

Parker Posey: Lucky.
An actor’s career relies on a lot of luck. Being in the right place at the
right time. I was at the Krakow Film Festival in Poland when I met Juliet Taylor, Woody’s casting director. That’s how I got cast in the film.

Aguilar: I’m sure it
involves luck, but also lots of resilience in such a competitive world.

Parker Posey: Oh
my God! Yes! It really is. It’s interesting to talk to the press. They see my career from the
outside and it’s lasting, but it’s definitely been a struggle
especially in the culture where we are seeing the attention of viewers moving
towards video games and social media. But I think there are still stories to be
made and new platforms for material that I can work in. I have faith in that.

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