Interview with Lili Taylor
by James Ryan (a West Coast contributor to Details magazine)

November 1993 page 116



Details: Describe Glencoe, Illinois, where you grew up.

Lili: One of the richest suburbs in America, values completely skewed. We had a big house but we didn't have a lot of money.

Details: Growing up in such a classy neighborhood -- is that why you take so many blue-collar roles?

Lili: It's more because I'm not considered for the glamorous roles, which is fine with me. The roles I get are more interesting.

Details: Didn't you ever want to trade places with Julia Roberts, with whom you made your film debut in Mystic Pizza?

Lili: Nope. I wouldn’t want the responsibility of playing that archetype. Going to the tip-top. Where else is there to go!

Details: If you had to be trapped in a Manhattan landmark overnight, would you prefer the Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or F.A.O Schwarz?

Lili: The Met. I would feel free to stare at a painting for hours.

Details: What was the worst review you ever got?

Lili: John Simon said I was cast because of my "consummate unsightliness."

Details: What does that mean?

Lili: I guess he found me extremely hard to look at. I had to look up the word "consummate."

Details: Why did you leave college after one year?

Lili: They had a rule you couldn't work professionally. But I needed money and one teacher wouldn't let me do this job for a TV movie. We started arguing. He said, "We don't like your attitude." I said, "I don't like yours. Fuck you." Boom. Then I fell into a two-month depression.

Details: Was that the lowest period of your life?

Lili: No. At one point I was diagnosed as manic-depressive. All through high school I was very depressed. My life has only started to get good in the last two years.

Details: What do manic-depressives do to get diagnosed as such?

Lili: In high school I missed a semester because I couldn't get up. I was insomniac, lethargic, thought about suicide.

Details: Was there a suicide attempt?

Lili: Kind of. But I didn't see it as that. I saw it as this poetic thing. It might seem corny or like I'm in denial to make it out as something romantic, but it really felt like that. Now I like my life. I have hope.

Details: What's the most important thing you've learned in therapy?

Lili: The idea that the ego is a mayor of a big village. It's helped me handle all the different voices within me because I can say, "Well, I can't talk to you now, but maybe in a month or so."

Lili on a Shroom
Details: You're twenty-six. What do you want to accomplish by the time you're thirty?

Lili: I want to read Proust--Remembrance of Things Past. I'm already on page 500 of the first volume.

Details: Do you remember your first kiss?

Lili: It was a guy I went out with in seventh grade. We were playing seven-up. I went into the closet while someone played a drum for ten beats.

Details: Your favorite movie?

Lili: Do we have to? (pauses) Wings of Desire and It's a Wonderful Life.

Details: Favorite food?

Lili: Ice-cream cake.

Details: Favorite singer?

Lili: Nina Simone.

Details: What animal are you?

Lili: A monkey.

Details: What country?

Lili: Yugoslavia before the war.

Details: Who was the last person who publicly embarrassed you?

Lili: The guy who wrote the fuckin’ book about nude women in the movies. He's worked it out: Go to that spot to see Jodie Foster's tits. I'm in it, too. I'm still mad. I'd love to do something to him.

Details: What movie was that?

Lili: Bright Angel.

Details: With Dermot Mulroney. For a while that film seemed to have been dropped from your bio.

Lili: It turned out to be a fucking disaster. They wanted Lolita, a vampy, sexy, spread-for-anything kind of girl, and they tried to fire me ten days into shooting. It's hard to act in front of people you know hate you. They wanted Drew Barrymore. And I made her pensive.

Details: What part of your body would Drew be envious of?

Lili: My biceps. I like being strong.

Details: Faye Dunaway, Lily Tomlin, and Tracey Ullman have all played your mother on film. Who would you like as a real mom?

Lili: Lily Tomlin. I listened to her record when I was a little kid: "One ringy-din- gy, two ringy-dingies." I just loved her.

Details: What sort of relationship do you have with her character in Short Cuts?

Lili: She's an alcoholic. It's the classic daughter-mothering-the-mother. It's not a comedy. People are going to leave feeling like they've traveled somewhere.

Details: Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Lili: Yes, absolutely.

Details: A lot of women your age are uncomfortable with that word.

Lili: It's a word... I'm around a bunch guys, I utter it, and suddenly I'm alone. It's a word I had to whisper fear of ostracism and not being heard.

Details: Is it uncomfortable playing a kind of antifeminist character like you did in the play Aven U Boys?

Lili: No. There are women, like the type who read Cosmopolitan, who are misogynists, who disrespect themselves. I have met these women. I'm in no place to say "Come over to my side."

Details: What are your vices?

Lili: Smoking, coffee, and speeding.

Details: Speeding?

Lili: I have a lead foot. In Arizona, I got ten speeding tickets in a month. I went to the judge and said, "I'm sorry, I have a problem." And he let me go.

Details: If you were arrested for speeding again, which of your costars could you rely on to bail you out? Vincent D'Onofrio, Johnny Depp, or River Phoenix?

Lili: Johnny, because I've bailed him out. We've been through a lot together. We were doing this crazy film, Arizona Dreams, for nine months, and I think this whole criminal bond thing is there.

Details: What was Johnny in jail for?

Lili: Going 120 in a 50-mile zone.

Details: Tell me something about your character in Nancy Savoca's Household Saints.

Lili: From a young age she was attracted to religion. She tries to make herself as small and empty as possible so God could come in.

Details: Do you always go without makeup?

Lili: Yeah.

Details: And you don't shave your armpits.

Lili: I like that it challenges men's image of the perfect woman.


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