For today's installment of Flashback Friday, we have a site exclusive interview with Melora Walters that was conducted in 2000 called "Minutes With Melora" because apparently alliterations are awesome.
Minutes with Melora
After numerous TV appearances in such shows as Roseanne, The Wonder Years & Seinfeld, Melora Walters appeared in supporting roles in the feature films Dead Poet's Society, Ed Wood, Cabin Boy & Eraser. But it's her roles in Paul Thomas Anderson's films that have propelled her into the spotlight. Each of her roles have continued to increase in PTA's films culminating with her starring role in Magnolia. I spoke to Melora about her relationship with Paul, bringing her characters to life & future film projects.
C&RV: How did you first meet PTA & get involved with Hard Eight?
MW: I auditioned for Paul. You know, one of those audition things? I guess Gwyneth Paltrow wasn't going to do the part of Clementine for a while due to a scheduling conflict, so I actually auditioned for that part. I read the script & thought this was the most wonderful script that I'd ever read. Then when I met him, I thought he was amazing.
Anyways, Gwyneth ended up doing it & in the middle of shooting there was this little part & they asked if I wanted to do it & I was like "Yeah!" I wanted to work with Samuel L. Jackson & I wanted to work with Paul & I wanted to be part of that story.
C&RV: So, did he mention the Boogie Nights script to you during or after filming Hard Eight?
MW: No. It came up a few days before he started shooting Boogie Nights. Paul said, I want you to read the script & look at the part of Jessie St. Vincent. I said they'll never let me play that part. Paul said, "Trust me." I told him that I didn't want to read it & fall in love with it & not be able to do it. That would kill me. He said, No. Trust me." Three days later, they were dying my hair that color!
C&RV: What kind of research did you do for your character in Boogie Nights? Were you involved in the infamous porno film visits?
MW: No. I did watch the "Exhausted" documentary & that was very important, but I didn't want it to be about the way porno is now. I felt Jessie St. Vincent was just so much of a misfit among these people. She was very genuine. She didn't take drugs. She was just an actress. She got married, had babies & she was an artist. That was what it was about.
C&RV: Did you have fun doing the commentary track with Paul on the new Boogie Nights DVD?
MW: It sounded kind of crazy with my children in the background. I drove Paul home afterwards & told him that I think we should do it again. He said, no, It was fine." I told him that we should do it again because I thought I was acting like Jessie St. Vincent & the kids were talking.
C&RV: How did you become involved with Michael Penn's "Try" music video?
MW: Paul just said, "Will you come down & be in this video?" I said sure. It was only one day of shooting & was a lot of fun.
C&RV: How flattered were you that after the success of Boogie Nights, Paul specifically wrote the part of Claudia, the center of Magnolia, for you?
MW: It was the most amazing gift in the world. I was completely flattered. It's an opportunity that you dream of.
C&RV: When you first read the Magnolia script & your part, were there any doubts that you could handle the emotional intensity of Claudia?
MW: Not really. I did get scared. I get scared every time I start something new. I told Paul that I will go in my darkest depths as long as he was there to save me if I start drowning. And he was always there.
C&RV: So, did you lean on him heavily for some of the more intense scenes? Did he provide you direction or just let you go?
MW: It guess it was a combination. He created her. It's all there. You just know this person. She's alive on the page. So, then you just follow what he's created & he kind of steers you. It was very intimate & very intense.
C&RV: What sort of research did you do for Claudia?
MW: I started with the script & Aimee Mann's music. I had some friends in New York who had really horrid childhoods. So, I've been around people who have been damaged. I suppose we all have been damaged in one way or another. I don't know how, but she just made sense to me.
C&RV: Was it hard to escape the character & not take it home with you?
MW: It's funny because when I think of it, it was very cathartic & I went home happy because all my demons came out during the day. But my husband did say later, when the film was finished, that he was glad I was done, because I was starting to bring it home. I didn't think I was, so that's kinda of telling right there.
C&RV: Tell me about singing Wise Up?
MW: That was the scariest part, because I can't sing. I was absolutely terrified. I listened to the music a lot. The whole movie set was such a safe, nurturing, intimate environment. That provided a great place where you were safe to do anything.
C&RV: How many times did you have to shoot the last scene?
MW: I can't remember how many, but we did it quite a few times.
C&RV: What's it like working with John C. Reilly?
MW: He's amazing. He's really funny. He's really sweet.
C&RV: How has Paul helped your personal development as an actor?
MW: Paul was the first one who saw how I can change into different characters & he's taken advantage of that. Because his films are so amazing, then people see that, & it's giving me wonderful opportunities.
C&RV: Why is it that virtually everyone that works with PTA devotes themselves to him for the rest of his life? What does he have that no one else does?
MW: I don't say genius lightly. I really think that's what he is. He really taps into something very deep when he creates these stories. Whenever somebody can do that, the people around cannot help but be touched by it. You feel it & then you're just committed to it, because it's rare. It's like Mozart. If you listen to his music, it touches something in you. Paul's films touch something very primal within you & how can you resist that?
C&RV: Paul is so vocal about his respect for actors in general and for specific actors (you included). Does this respect ever lead to expectations that you have found difficult to live up to?
MW: I try not to think of those things. I try to simply focus on the part I'm playing completely & make that person as true & real as I can. I can't worry about the rest or I would go crazy. Paul is always communicating with me & making constant adjustments when necessary. I would do anything for him.
C&RV: Were you disappointed over the lack of recognition you received for Claudia?
MW: No. I just think that the only thing you can do is just try to do really good work. The rest is all gravy. I was disappointed that Paul didn't win because I think in the whole film business, he is one very unique voice. I mean he doesn't make big special effects movies. Although the frogs were a special effect. [Laughs] That made me really mad that he didn't win.
C&RV: Let's talk about your upcoming films. Tell me about Desert Saints with Kiefer Sutherland?
MW: I play an undercover cop. It was really fun. I haven't seen a final cut yet. Kiefer is a bad guy & you get the sense he can kill you at a moment's notice. And you think, don't go with him, but I turn out to be worse than him! So I thought this is gonna be fun!
C&RV: What about Speaking of Sex with James Spader, Jay Mohr & Bill Murray?
MW: I finished that in July & it was so much fun. It's a big comedy farce about marriage, sex, marriage counselors, therapists & divorce lawyers. I'm married to Jay Mohr & he has a problem. In the process of trying to save my marriage, I end up sleeping with my therapist & then all hell breaks loose.
C&RV: Tell me about Rain, which is being executive produced by Martin Scorsese?
MW: I'm getting ready to do that now. It takes place in a very small town with deep, dark secrets. I will be filming this in Iowa.
C&RV: What do you think about Paul working with Adam Sandler?
MW: I think it's great. We talked about me being involved, but I don't think I'm supposed to say anything about it yet. It's top secret! [Laughs] It should be really interesting & fun.
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