ANNABETH GISH ALWAYS GOOD (May 1999)
Whether she's playing a punk rock bohemian wearing a shocking purple wig and silver Doc Martens or donning a corset for a western, actress Annabeth Gish turns heads. This month you can catch the 28-year-old beauty at the movies in SLC Punk! and at home on Lifetime's original film, "Different."
Gish, born Anne Elizabeth, has acted in numerous features including Mystic Pizza, Wyatt Earp, Beautiful Girls, The Last Supper, and Oliver Stone's Nixon. Placing her career on hold after high school, Gish, the youngest of three to university professor parents, opted to attend Duke University where she earned her degree in English; graduating cum laude.
In her latest project, "Different," Gish plays Hope, who is left mentally disabled after a car accident when she was 11. Her mother, played by Lynn Redgrave, unable to come to terms with her daughter's imperfections sends her away to special schools. After a twenty-year separation, the two are forced to reunite and confront their emotional issues in an attempt to reclaim their lost relationship.
This summer Gish co-stars with Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones in Parmount Pictures' Double Jeopardy, and opposite John Stamos in a CBS movie of the week set for next fall, tentatively titled, "Longfellow Bridge." (**) Hardly an overnight sensation, Gish, who constantly reinvents herself for films, will no doubt keep winning audiences with her dynamic performances.
Venice: What was it like filming SLC Punk! ?
Annabeth: It was wild! It had a great young cast with a very energetic director and producer team. It's strange because you have Sundance so close by which is such an artistic, wonderful place, and Salt Lake City is so bizarre. You see that with so much religious oppression where the punk rock movement comes from; what it's rebelling against.
Venice: Were you ever into punk rock music ?
Annabeth: No. For this movie I rented Penelope Spheeris' Decline of Western Civilization and that was a huge education for me. I grew up in conservative, midwest Iowa. I find when you play a character like this, you have to get into it. You find a lot of compassion and understanding for the real people; not just the icons of punk rock.
Venice: Your look in SLC Punk ! is quite bold. Do you enjoy changing your image for a film ?
Annabeth: Yeah. Especially as I'm getting older I'm wanting desperately to take more risks with my work. It's hard because Hollywood likes to pigeon-hole you. I've done a lot of historical pieces and I find that it's a great way to get into the character. SLC Punk! was fun because I really got to look completely different. The lavendar wig was my favorite.
Venice: "Hope," your character in Lifetime's Different is, as the title suggests, quite different from your punk rock diva role.
Annabeth: That was wonderful because there could be no vanity. Getting ready to go to work everyday, there was no time in the makeup chair trying to look beautiful. That part was such a gift.
Venice: Do you find it easy to turn it on and off from the character you're playing back to Annabeth ?
Annabeth: Turning it on and off I think is very important. It's part of the training and technique of being an actor. It's ironic because so often now people get the part because they are the part, rather than because they can play the part. Hope was very hard to leave at night.
Venice: Was it difficult to have to carry Different ?
Annabeth: Yeah. The stress is a little bit higher. I remember the first couple days of shooting, I hadn't landed Hope and it was stressful and I was tense. On Double Jeopardy I had the luxury of being a supporting actor and Ashley and Tommy did the brunt of the work.
Venice: Did you do any research to prepare for the role of Hope ?
Annabeth: I spent time with the Special Olympics groups, and in Toronto I spent two weeks with a woman and her son who was very similar to Hope and her daughter. I hung out with them and went to their community social dances and really became very touched by them.
Venice: Is that awkward, because, basically, you're watching them? Does it ever feel like you're invading their privacy ?
Annabeth: It is. Especially because you don't want them to feel like they're a specimen. But most people are willing to share their lives, how they get through.
Venice: How different is making a TV movie versus a feature film ?
Annabeth: The pace for anything TV, that's the real distinction between film and TV work, even if it's a cable movie. You just don't have the time or the money, but that's when you have to be really good because you have to work fast.
Venice: Have you ever been intimidated by anyone you've worked with ?
Annabeth: Anthony Hopkins. I was absolutely in awe of him, and Joan Allen, too. Nixon was a very rich experience. You couldn't turn around without seeing star power and skill. Half of the fun of doing these projects is observing, watching to see how people work. I've been doing this for thirteen years. I'm really proud of whom I've worked with.
Venice: After The Last Supper and Mystic Pizza, Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz really took off. Were you bothered that you didn't ?
Annabeth: No, because you know this town. I don't want to say it's a fluke what makes people go so far so fast. In the case with the people that I've worked with, it's been about talent and sex appeal. I have that ability. If you're in a movie with me you'll get really famous (laughs). I've managed to keep an anonymous profile. I'm one of those people who is always getting better. I know that I'm not going to even hit my stride until I'm 32. For some reason, I'm fixated on 32. What the hell is going to happen to me then? The gift of my slow-burn (laughs) is that I've been able to learn and get a good perspective.
Venice: You put your career on hold to attend Duke. Was going to college something you really felt the need to experience ?
Annabeth: I needed it and I wanted it. I don't think I could have come out to Hollywood at 17. I'm still in the process of becoming a strong person. You have to be strong if you want to survive out here.
Venice: What's your next film, Double Jeopardy, about ?
Annabeth: I play Ashley Judd's best friend, who, along with her husband, played by Bruce Greenwood, sets it up like she's killed him. She goes to prison and I run away with her husband and son. And Tommy Lee Jones plays her parole officer after she gets out.
Venice: SLC Punk! is out now, "Different" is airing this month, and Double Jeopardy will be in theaters this summer. What's next ?
Annabeth: Well, I'm unemployed right now (laughs). It's back to the drawing board for me.