|Although certainly as pretty in person as she is on screen,had Catherine McCormack not been standing with a Warner Bros. publicist,I think I might have walked right past her. |
A willowy, bespectacled gal with soft, unassuming featuresand a modified shag hairstyle, she looks nothing like the curvy, radiantbeauty who married Mel Gibson, then quickly met a horrible fate in "Braveheart."
But when she smiles, I recognize the razzle she mines forher first starring role as a 16th Century Venice prostitute and poet in"Dangerous Beauty," the romanticized biography ofa courtesan who influenced Venetian politics and rebuffed the Inquisition.
In San Francisco last month to relax for a few days aftera globetrotting publicity tour for the film, she said she's more than happyto not be recognized at this point.
"I'm so glad this is the last day of these thing,"she sighed. "I get so tired of listening to my own voice."
And, I offered, answering the same questions over and overagain.
She took a sip of her coffee and gave a large nod. Wantingto avoid any topics that might send her into interview auto-pilot, I askedwhat question she is the most sick of hearing.
"In my entire career? 'What's it like to kiss MelGibson?'," she huffed jokingly, rolling her eyes.
In "Dangerous Beauty" she stars opposite RufusSewell (also being seen now in "Dark City"), so I teasingly said,"What's it like to kiss Rufus Sewell?"
She laughed (which came as a relief because it was a bitof a stupid question) and said "Oh, they're all fantastic."
"I read something Rufus said the other day in a magazinewhich was very amusing. He said 'I was terrified when it came to kissingCatherine McCormack. Not because I was kissing her, but because she hadkissed Mel Gibson!'"
He had nothing to worry about. "He's a grand kisser,"McCormack said coyly. "And he's dead sexy."
With the small talk out of the way, we settled into anenveloping leather couch in the lounge of the city's Prescott Hotel andtalk about Veronica Franco, the period prostitute she plays in the filmand how much of the movie's slightly fantastic story is true.
"Well, it's highly romanticized," she admitsimmediately. "But a lot of the events are true. She was a famous courtesan,a famous poetess, and she did stand up to the inquisition.
"The events with Henry III happened (Veronica seducedthe king of France to win his military favor). Obviously the way it happened...,"she trails off knowingly then sums up, "Liberties were taken."
Marshall Herskovitz, the film's director, was in SanFrancisco the same day and defended the changes as a way to make an accessiblestory from a somewhat academic biography called "The Honest Courtesan."
"We were really remarkably faithful to the facts ofher life. We were not faithful to the texture of the time," he said.
Venice was the pinnacle of 1500's civilization, Herskovitzexplained, "But when we look at the details of their lives, we arestruck by the fact that the didn't bathe, their clothes were filthy, theyhad skin diseases, they wore a half-inch of makeup, and their furniturewas ugly and uncomfortable."
Part of his job as a filmmaker, he stated, is to help amodern audience see Venice as the people of the time did, "so thereis a sense in which the film is intentionally glamorized or beautifiedor even abstracted from real life because I wanted to give an experienceto an audience."
Herskovitz said casting McCormack was one of the keys tothat experience.
"I met with over 120 actresses for the part of Veronica,and it was very difficult to find someone who had all the qualities thiswoman had. But that's what we saw in Cath," he said. "We dida screen test, showed it to the studio, and no one ever looked back."
McCormack, now 26, got her first acting role 10 years agoin a small English stage production of a play called "Mother."
"I played the mother, who was about 60 years old.It took place in 1916 Russia and with all these Lenin, Stalinist, Trotskyistideas I had to put across in this monologue...it was well out of my reach,"she laughed.
Nevertheless she caught the acting bug and attended dramaschool in London. With a little luck and a good agent, she was cast herin first film, the low-budget Australian horror-drama "Loaded,"just before graduation.
She made another low-budget film the next year before beingcast in "Braveheart," which garnered her so much attention thatshe has been inundated with film offers ever since. So why is "DangerousBeauty" her first project in the three years since holding her ownopposite Mel Gibson three years ago?
"I read very few scripts I'm passionate about,"she said. "Maybe one in every twenty or thirty."
Three projects caught her eye last year, so she certainlywon't be disappearing again after "Dangerous Beauty." In Mayshe will be seen in "Land Girls," a World War II drama aboutwives who went to work on British farms while the men were away at war.Then at Christmas she will star opposite Meryl Streep and Billy Crudupin "Dancing at Lughnasa," an Irish family drama set in the 1930sand based on a Tony-winning play.