THE HOUSE OF MIRTH written and directed by Terence Davies, based on the book by Edith Wharton, produced by Olivia Stewart, with Gillian Anderson, Eric Stoltz, Laura Linney, Dan Aykroyd, Terry Kinney and Anthony LaPaglia. A Showtime Networks Inc./Granada production. 145 minutes. Opens Friday (April 6). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 97. Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
i've been waiting half the after-noon to interview Eric Stoltz at the Toronto International Film Festival. He needs to have lunch first, his publicists explain.
I see him milling about with co-star Laura Linney in the hotel lobby. They're in no rush. To pass the time, I ask my photographer, who's worked with Stoltz before, what to expect. He says Stoltz will be chatty about the film but deflect all personal questions.
But no, Stoltz is disarmingly candid when we finally get under way. He claims he's a pawn in the publicity game, but he's smoother than peanut butter at it. He's promoted House Of Mirth (see mini-review, page 97) in the absence of its star, Gillian Anderson.
"My role is the traditionally cliched girlfriend role," he says humbly. "It's a film about a woman's journey, and I'm the love interest who comes and goes. We kiss a little bit and then I disappear for a while."
Did he mind playing second fiddle?
"Not at all," he smiles. He seems to have built a career on being the least calculating actor in Hollywood, having gone from Pulp Fiction to guest- starring on Hercules and back to film again without any loss of face.
"That's a pretty obscure credit to pull up," he remarks, laughing. Then he explains his career philosophy, something about taking the winding country roads instead of the superhighways of life. It's a nice metaphor. But he said the exact same thing two years ago to one of my colleagues.
Recycling quotes is something Stoltz does unabashedly. It's a calculated myth that he's uncalculating, a line he later tells me he plans to use in future interviews.
To be fair, actors who've been in the business as long as Stoltz has -- 20 years and counting -- must eventually find ways to deal with the trappings of the job. Like the fame thing.
He says it was really cool at the beginning, but since then he's had to fight to keep his head on straight.
"When you're asked what you think about things, it's hard not to believe you're just the most interesting, fascinating person around."
But the fact that celebrity status is relative comforts him. "I've worked with Cher, Gillian, Robert Mitchum. I mean, those are people who cannot walk down a street. That's famous. What I've got is not really intrusive at all. I'm at the Sutton and I can go around the corner and do my laundry. I'm not bugged."
He moved to New Mexico 10 years ago to get further away from the fame game, but some aspects must retain their appeal. All his long-term girlfriends have been actresses: Ally Sheedy, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bridget Fonda and most recently Rachel Griffiths.
"I've dated women who aren't actresses," he says mock-defensively. "It's just that the press doesn't care about that. If you look at my CV, it looks like I only date actresses, but the reality is that nobody cares when you're dating a real woman."
2000 The House Of Mirth 1997 Anaconda; Mr. Jealousy 1995 Rob Roy; Kicking And Screaming 1994 Sleep With Me; Pulp Fiction; Little Women 1993 Bodies, Rest & Motion 1992 Singles; The Waterdance 1989 The Fly II 1987 Some Kind Of Wonderful
1985 Mask 1982 Fast Times At Ridgemont High