F E S ‘l’ I V A L — film/PREVIEW
utside the interview room. one journo is priming another on what topics to avoid. Personal questions. it seems. are off limits. Known to be interview-shy. Ms Arquette is here on serious business.
I haven‘t come to ask about how embarrassed she was when the Toto song named in her honour inexplicably became an international hit. or about her well advertised relationship with the more discreet Peter Gabriel. whose Bath home is one ofthe places she returns to when she‘s not working. She has reluctantly sacrificed a visit to Edinburgh to meet the Press — that‘s punishment enough.
The work she is in Glasgow to do is a co-production between BBC Scotland and the prestigious American drama series American Playhouse. It‘s a television play called Separation, written by Tom Kempinski, best known for his earlier Duet For One. Originally a stage play, Separation is at heart a simple love story. complicated by the characters‘ disabilities. The two protagonists are Joe, a lumpen, agoraphobic writer living in London. and Sarah. a crippled young American actress. who is trying to get one ofJoe‘s plays produced off-off-Broadway. During a series of telephone conversations, business mingles with pleasure. and a cautious love affair begins, culminating in Sarah‘s visit to Joe’s house. ostensibly to collaborate on a new play. As their relationship begins to blossom, however, Joe‘s neuroses cause problems. and he eventually drives her away. Finally. there is hope for a reunion. based on the possibility of a deep acceptance and understanding ofeach other— ‘in the marrow and in the bone”.
Given that Kempinski is himself an agoraphobic who has not left his home in ten years, it’s not surprising to learn that the play is at least partly autobiographical.
Stunning Arquette can look on the screen. in Separation (and in the ﬂesh) she is mousily pretty. vulnerable and capricious. But she could not fail to be more glamorous than her co-star, David Suchet, who previously played Joe at Hampstead Theatre in 1987. Normally trim and dapper-looking. Suchet is given unﬂattering treatment by the make-up department. ‘Once they‘ve got him,‘ says Arquette. ‘he looks disgusting!’ And suddenly she launches into a high-pitched gust of laughter, a vocal flourish which frequently escapes from among her rapid conversational rhythms.
In more serious spirits, she expresses great admiration for Suchet. ‘He‘s great — he‘s taught me a lot. We come from completely different schools, and we have totally different ways of approaching our work. I approach my work very naturalistically and I want to have the moment spontaneous and alive and fresh; and he comes from the technical school and every moment is thought out and worked on. For me it‘s been a wonderful education, because I‘ve had to put myself into another world. I hate rehearsal. but I had two weeks of hard core rehearsal and I found it very valuable. I‘d like to take that and put it into my work.‘
The intense schedule in the BBC‘s studios — including a week of twelve-hour days spent shooting —- has produced highly admirable results.
Kempinski‘s script is witty, perceptive, gutsy and
cruelly honest (Joe is certainly a less sympathetic 1 character than Sarah). Both actors give deeply felt. completely believable performances ofan emotionally demanding script. and ifthe differences between their respective working techniques are noticeable. they only serve to underline one ofthe play‘s themes — the distance. physical. psychological and cultural between these two socially isolated characters. The play is enthralling, moving and life-affirming.
Following her experience of British theatrical techniques. Arquette has aspirations to explore other avenues besides film roles. perhaps even stage work. ‘That‘s what I want to do.‘ she says. ‘I‘d like to start from scratch and learn how the English are taught. I want to see if I can pull it off. I think film is its own medium. and for me there are a lot of actors in America that I wouldn‘t want to see on stage. When you really get down to it. for me the British are much better trained.‘
On the other hand. I suggest. some British actors may lack the emotional resources to which American actors have access. ‘It does seem that in this country people are used to keeping their emotion down.‘ Arquette agrees. ‘so that might be part ofthe culture. Personally. if I‘m upset. I‘m upset. I don‘t hold it in and say. “would you like a cup of tea'.""
Now in a strong position to try her hand at whatever takes her fancy. Arquette retains a healthy cynicism about the Hollywood star system. as much of her work since the blockbuster Desperately Seeking Susan would suggest. ‘I get a lot ofscripts that I don‘t want to do.‘ she says. ‘In America. you‘re hot for fifteen minutes. It‘s like here today. gone tomorrow. I don‘t want a career like that. I’ve been working for twelve years, and I have work. ldosmall movies. Ido work.
‘In the very beginning, I did television guest stars and anything I could get my hands on. but I‘ve always been very choosy. People love to categorise. to stereotype. and I resent that.‘
The acclaim surrounding the recently released Black Rainbow (screening at the Film Festival this week). and the abundance of forthcoming releases (including John Milius‘ Flight ()f The Intruder. and Sweet Revenge. which she describes as ‘a fluffy. light comedy') seem to justify her stubbornness. ‘l‘m not interested in becoming a big movie star.‘ she declares. then pauses. ‘Although the only thing about being a big movie star is you can write your own ticket. But then. I do anyway.‘ Another waterfall of laughter gushes out. ‘I just always did.‘
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‘Separation ' screens (m .33 xi ug.
The List 17 ‘23 August 19909