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Parker Posey Speaks!
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rossiter Drake*

Posey makes uncomfortable bedfellows
in Personal Velocity.

(Courtesy of The Oakland Tribune)

With a rabid fan base and a resume stuffed with critically acclaimed performances, the actress so famously crowned "Queen of the Indies" by Time magazine back in 1997 ought to be satisfied. Right?

Well, maybe not. An obvious question remains: What good is her regal status if the Queen -- Parker Posey to you -- has to struggle to break into the mainstream?

Posey winces at the question, sinking deeper into the chair in which she is lazily sprawled at San Francisco's Four Seasons. She takes a long drag on an American Spirit, exhaling a thick cloud of smoke that casts an almost palpable pall over the room. After a few moments of silence, she responds, her voice building from a pained, barely audible whisper to a booming bark.

"Who knows? You would be shocked by the parts I read," she says, rolling her eyes with a touch of tongue-in-cheek melodrama. "It's humiliating. It's because we're in a different system now. Studios want the highest visibility they can get, so it really helps if you're in a hit TV show seen by millions of people. It doesn't matter if you're right for the part if you can get audiences in on opening weekend."

Posey, of course, has earned accolades for her work in films including Christopher Guest's Waiting for Guffman (1996) and Hal Hartley's Henry Fool (1997). And she's hardly hurting for exposure. Since her big-screen breakthrough in Richard Linklater's 1993 teen flick, Dazed and Confused, the 34-year-old Baltimore native (who grew up in Laurel, Mississippi, and roomed with ER's Sherry Stringfield at the State University of New York at Purchase) has appeared in more than 30 feature films, with supporting roles in big-budget hits (You've Got Mail, Scream 3) and larger ones in art-house favorites (Basquiat, The House of Yes). Along the way, she has acquired a passionate cultish following, comprised mostly of indie film buffs and fans of the movie that has become her career signature, 1995's Party Girl.

Yet for all the Internet shrines erected in her name, and all the praise ("Gen X's answer to Katherine Hepburn") heaped upon her by those who pay tribute there, her reputation as the hippest indie star in the land has yet to do much more than pay the rent.

"Being Queen of the Indies never got me a job," she says. "It never got me a part. People think, Oh, the Indie Queen will be receiving scripts in her Indie Apartment, but it didn't add up. It doesn't pay. After all this time, I still live in the same apartment I was in after graduating from college.

"A couple of years ago, I began to wonder why I always get offered these crappy parts. I can do comedy, but I'm always thrown into the same roles -- the girl who's about the have a nervous breakdown. People ask me if the studios are becoming more open to casting me in studio films. More open? Did they now know I was a working actor? That I need to make a living? The independent films don't pay. They really don't."

Still, though Posey auditioned unsuccessfully for lead roles in eventual blockbusters like the Keanu Reeves vehicle Speed (Sandra Bullock got the part) and Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire (Renee Zellweger built a career on that one), she hasn't abandoned the indie scene, nor does she judge scripts based exclusively on their marketability.

"I'm just trying to work," she says. "I don't care if it's Studiowood or Indiewood. I want to do something. Build a house. Chop some wood and build a bench. I just live in a state of longing for a part to express myself in."

Posey has found such a role in Rebecca Miller's Personal Velocity, in which she plays Greta, an ambitious, adulterous, twentysomething editor whose career is taking off just as her marriage is falling apart. As luck would have it, the film landed right in Posey's lap.

"Rebecca Miller came to me and offered me the part. She offered all the actresses their parts, which is really good because we didn't have to audition," she says, flashing a sly smile. "I met with her and we talked about what it was like in your late 20s when you're not fully conscious of certain aspects of your life -- whether or not you're flirting, for instance, which is one of Greta's problems.

"It's the psychology of the character that I loved. It's so hard to find parts that have complexity of character. Greta keeps all these narratives separate in her mind. She's someone who's talking, but who's editing as she's speaking. Plus, she's got a lot going on. She's cheating on her boyfriend, her husband. She's ashamed that she's Jewish, and she's denying her mother's past. She's not exactly fulfilled in her marriage. And she's chosen her husband as a direct reaction to her father.

"I'm sure I've sabotaged my way out of parts that I didn't really want, that I didn't really believe in, because I do have an attitude, and I always have. But I love the psychology of Greta. She's a really dark part. And I'm only going to play parts I'm right for. I tend to think that they come to me as little gifts. So when they do come to me, I'm thrilled." -- Rossiter Drake

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