There is no questioning Claire Danes' talent as an actress. From her breakout performance as Angela Chase in the short-lived My So Called Life to her portrayal of William Shakespere's classic character Juliet in the modern interpretation of Romeo + Juliet, to her turns in The Hours, Shopgirl, and the more action-oriented Terminator 3, there is little doubt that Danes is one of this generation's most talented young actresses. Even in films that have failed to spark the box office flame, one can always expect a certain quality level from the New York native. She stays out of the tabloids and gossip sites and lets the work speak for itself.
This summer she appears in two features, the drama Evening, which opened to mixed reviews this past June, and now Stardust, a family-oriented fantasy tale based on the work of acclaimed writer Neil Gaiman, which opens Friday, August 10 from Paramount Pictures. I recently had the chance to speak with Claire via telephone from Toronto where she stopped as part of the film's publicity tour.
Mark McLeod: Obviously you're a fan of writer Neil Gaiman, having been involved with Princess Mononoke and writing the forward on one of his novels. Did you jump at the chance to work with him on another feature project?
Claire Danes: Yeah I did. I loved the script -- it was so smart and imaginative and so obviously superior to even a lot of other dramatic scripts. It's funny, and I loved how it crossed so many other genres as well.
MM: In Stardust, you display impeccable comic timing as well as a real screen magic. How were you able to bring forth such an interesting and magical performance?
CD: Again, so much of it was already in the material. The dialogue was really clever and everything from the characters down had a nice sensibility to it. So I think that helped create the magical aspect into my performance.
MM: You make a really cool entrance in the film. Could you talk a bit about that?
CD: It's sort of a classic entry in the romantic comedy genre, as she falls literally from the sky. She's a fallen star, and ends up on earth in a crater, and it's a great gag which really sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
MM: Now Stardust is coming at the end of a summer filled wtih third entries in big sequel-oriented franchises. Why do you think audience members should seek out something unique and fresh like Stardust when they otherwise might be tired of going to the movies?
CD: Well like you said, I think it is sort of a fresh approach to the genre and very beautiful and surprisingly family-oriented.
MM: The cast in the film, from yourself to Robert De Niro and everyone in between, is just so excellent. What was it like being a part of the cast in the film?
CD: I just felt so spoiled and also, as I was preparing for the role (I was) watching all these British comedies to get the dialect down, and was so delighted by all of them as they were such good actors in the series. And then when almost all of them were cast in the movie, I just felt it was really cool that I could work with them.
MM: You tend to be very selective about projects, often going a long time between screen appearances, yet this summer you're appearing in two movies released within weeks of each other.
CD: I don't know if that's good, bad, or in-between, but yeah, it's just sort of a coincidence that they both came out that close together.
MM: What do you look for in a project?
CD: Three critical elements: the script, the director, and the actors, and ideally they are all very strong. Usually, one is stronger than another and even when they are all incredibly strong, you shouldn't take that for granted when working on the project.
MM: Well Claire, we're out of time, but it was a pleasure talking to you. Best of luck with Stardust and your upcoming stage debut on Broadway in the new production of Pygmalion.
CD: Thank you. Thanks for talking to me.
Mark McLeod has always loved film. In addition to his roles with ShowbizMonkeys.com, Mark also works on many film promotion projects in Vancouver, BC, through his company, Mark McLeod PR.