Kim Cattrall has been a regular on our TV screens for many years, mostly renowned for playing the sex-obsessed Samantha in Sex and the City. Having transferred to the cinema screen for two films, and with a third under discussion, she spoke to View’s Matthew Turner about her latest project, Meet Monica Velour, in which she plays an ageing porn star and stripper, who has lost custody of her daughter.
What attracted you to the script and how did you get involved?
It was a first time director, writer. First of all, it was a great role and I liked the story. I did some research on [Keith Bearden] and he used to be an interviewer, like yourself, for a film magazine and I thought he was very bright. And then I met with him and we met a few times and it scared me, to play this role, it was a big departure for me.
But I felt like I was in good hands because he was smart and talented. I mean, the fact that he wrote a great role for a woman in her 50s makes him stand out in my mind, to begin with! But this was just something that just kept coming back in my head and wouldn't kind of go away. And I think that fear really propelled me into saying yes.
And then I approached it like I would a role in a play, I rehearsed it and we got together and really built this character from the bottom up. And he allowed me to have some input, which was very important to me, because I felt that it was a story about, yes, a porn star, yes, a woman who was stripping, yes, a woman who was in these extenuating circumstances, but also, what she was, was a mother fighting for the custody of her daughter and it didn't matter what she did, it didn't matter what society felt about her, how marginalised she was, she had a right to get what she wanted, what she needed. And that was her daughter.
And also, working with [co-star] Dustin Ingram was terrific. Young guy, first big movie, so open, so light and funny and talented. It was just a dream job.
It didn't matter what she did, what society felt about her, how marginalised she was, she had a right to get what she wanted...
The relationship you have on screen with Dustin is really lovely. You mentioned a rehearsal period – did you also rehearse with Dustin?
Very little, rehearsed with Dustin. Dustin's playing a character, but it's closer to who he is. For me, it's really a huge departure. But what Keith asked me to do was to be distant with him, because he didn't want Dusty and I to be too comfortable. So it was very difficult to do that, because he's a home-schooled Christian - at the time he was sort of a born-again Christian, he's since changed. But he was just a sweetheart, and he wants to be loved, too. To pull away from him was very difficult, but I'm so glad I did, because he's a young actor and he had to respond organically to how I was dealing with him. It made his burden lighter to just deal with me in the sense of who I was and how I was treating him, which was with this cool attitude, which Monica does.
You're not single-handedly responsible for leading him away from born-again Christianity are you?
[Laughs] No, no, no, no. He is solely responsible for that.
What was Keith like as a director on set? Was there room for improvisation or was the script set in stone?
He's very open. Sometimes the crew had an idea and if he thought it was good, we would try it. We didn't have a lot of time to try many different things. Some of the shots that you see there were one-offs. And some of them were big scenes. We would shoot four or five pages in a morning and I'm so glad for that rehearsal period because I don't think I could have – I don't think any of us could have really done that. They were so organised.
He was also very smart because as he realised early on that as a first-time director, he wasn't going to have the control and his producers were on the set, so he would just order one set-up for one scene and do one or two takes and then that was it, so there was no way anybody could touch it because it was one shot. He did that so cleverly after Monica's ex-husband leaves and she comes into the trailer and Tobe's made her breakfast and she cries – he did that in one shot, of me crying. Just one shot, the whole thing. A tiny little bit at the end he cut with another shot. And that was kind of it.
He didn't exhaust us, he knew exactly what he wanted. He already had the music in his head of what was going to be playing behind it. He was incredibly supportive of my idea of making this woman just real, whether that was unlikeable or not. Because to have what people would put in quotes as “a hooker with a heart of gold” was not interesting to either one of us to hear that story.