The refreshingly frank actor on staying employed in her sixth decade, what should be done with Ghostbusters critics and why her new film is Hollywoods worst nightmare
There is something unshakably mischievous about Patricia Clarkson. Its as if she has a hipflask stashed in her handbag her preferred method of self-help, she says, is bourbon or a joint sneaked behind her ear. Maybe its the biker jacket, or the deep rasp made yet boomier by a cold (My voice is usually below sea level, but now its just beyond) or perhaps its the laugh a long, hard cackle.
Clarkson does not do formal audiences. She is far more casual conspiratorial, even. She perches on a sofa in a London hotel, tiny atop a great stack of cushions, discussing her new film, dishing out relationship advice (Cant you just be available? Isnt that sexy and fun?), bitching about Hollywood inequality and the passage of time. Id play your mother in a movie, she says. Kill me now!
Yet, in her modest but charming new comedy, Learning to Drive, Clarkson is not just playing the mum. At 56, she takes the lead a woman with a busy job and a prolific sex life alongside her 72-year-old co-star Ben Kingsley.
Its two middle-aged people in a car; its Hollywoods worst nightmare, she says. I actually had a producer once say, Patricia, I love the script and I love you, but do you have to have all these scenes in the car?
Thats underselling it, but its true; a lot of the key moments in the film adapted from a New Yorker article and directed by Isabel Coixet do unfold in the ropey motor where Kingsleys Sikh driving instructor teaches Clarksons workaholic literary critic the rules of the road. Despite the relative star power, it took eight years to get off the ground: a passion project for Clarkson who finally lands a leading role rather than being relegated to the sidelines, or even the scrapheap. Clarkson concedes that she is fortunate to be working at all.
She refers to it as the vanishing act something that has afflicted many of her colleagues, while she has somehow remained ever-present, elevating standard-issue mum roles in Easy A, Friends with Benefits, Pieces of April and One Day; working with Woody Allen on Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Whatever Works; popping up in a franchise (as the villain in the Maze Runner saga), and perfecting the art of the sitcom cameo in Broad City and Parks and Recreation.