Lili Taylor in Teen Voices

The first time I saw Lili Taylor she was singing, "Joe Lied," a mournful song about a loser boyfriend, to her boy buddy Lloyd Dobbler in the 1980s flick Say Anything. I still laugh at that scene and can (unfortunately) relate to her character's obsession with that old flame. That feisty uniqueness that Lili Taylor is known for is also apparent in her lead role in small films like Dog Fight with River Phoenix, Household Saints with Tracey Ullman, and supporting roles in better known films like Mystic Pizza. She appeared in the film Girls Town in 1996 (see the back cover of Volume 5.2) in which she played a working class mom in her late teens who learns how to stand up to her baby's irresponsible and abusive father.

Lili Taylor grew up in Chicago. When she was in high school she was diagnosed as being manic depressive (having extreme mood swings that are caused in part by brain chemicals). "I was unhappy as a teenager and I got real isolated by my sophomore, junior, senior years," Taylor told Teen Voices. "I just wanted to get out. I didn't really have any friends. I was just unhappy."

After surviving high school, Taylor enrolled De Paul University's School for Drama where she was expelled for having "creative differences." This didn't stop her from stepping out on her own to be offered numerous roles on stage and in films.

Taylor speaks out when it comes to how women are portrayed in Hollywood films. "I feel really strongly about [the dangers of] denying a woman her full potential, which I see over and over again. It's denying someone their full humanity. It doesn't do anybody any good, and I refuse to continue that lie," Taylor said in her trademark husky voice. She refuses to take roles she believes portray women in a negative light, which means sacrificing larger fame and fortune. "It's been a big struggle, but I don't mind that it has been. I've been real clear about everything, and that's helped a lot cause it gives me a lot more freedom and choice. And there's no resentment or feeling victimized, which is important. I feel very strongly about what I do."

Girls Town follows three young women as they deal with their friend's suicide and the shocking discovery that she was sexually assaulted. This revelation prompts them to examine their own experiences with sexual assault and become conscious of their power to fight back.

When I first started watching Girls Town it felt like an after-school special and I wondered how real it was to have women in their twenties playing teenage women. But as the movie went on, the characters grew on me, and I enjoyed watching them become more open with each other and fight back against the guys who abused them.

Girls Town is not just another revenge movie. Instead it focuses on the great conversations girls and women have with each other; the rich emotions that occur in so many woman-to-woman or girl-to-girl friendships.

Back to Lili Taylor. Although Girls Town was directed by a guy, and he wrote the original screenplay, all three women actors in Girls Town were involved in writing and shaping the story through months of improvisation (acting in character without a script and responding to different situations.) Taylor's character Patti Lucci is a tough girl with a soft side. Patti seems the least likely to go to college or even finish high school compared to her friends Emma (Anna Grace) and Angela (Bruklin Harris). When asked about where Patti came from, Taylor responded, "I modeled her after a bunch of different people, and I don't know who they are, but I know unconsciously, like through osmosis, you know. Just from walking the streets. I know people like that, and I suppose I combined them all together, and somehow she came about."

Taylor hopes that girls will see the film and realize: "Number one, that [movies that represent who you are do] exist Number two, that there are a lot more possibilities than [you] may think-- there are different ways of seeing a situation."

For all you aspiring young actors reading Teen Voices, listen to Lili: "Do it your own way. And [don't] listen to what anybody says. I really think that's the best thing to do. [You] really have to listen to what [your] truth is, and stand by it."

Anasatasia Goodstein wrote this article. She started as a volunteer at Teen Voices. She is now the Associate Publisher and works to raise money to publish the magazine. She's originally from Nashville, Tennessee.

The original version of this article is here.
The homepage for the magazine Teen Voices can be found here.

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