Actress Parker Posey has been such a staple on the New York indie film scene over the past few decades, it’s surprising how long it’s taken for New York’s premier filmmaker Woody Allen to come a-calling.
He did so by giving Posey a key role in last year’s “Irrational Man” then casting her again in his new period comedy “Café Society,” now in theaters.
Set in the New York and Hollywood of the ’30s, Posey, 47, plays Rad Taylor, the head of a modeling agency who hobnobs with the stars and introduces Jesse Eisenberg’s nebbishy Bobby Dorfman to a young socialite (Blake Lively), whom he courts after getting out of a messy love triangle between him, Kristen Stewart and Steve Carell.
Besides making her second Woody Allen movie, Posey recently reunited with the improvisational ensemble from Christopher Guest’s “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind” for their fifth movie together, “Mascots,” which will stream on Netflix later this year.
Woody Allen makes a movie a year and rarely works with the same cast, but you’re one of at least four returning actors for “Cafe Society.” Is it easier second time around?
It’s more like being a part of the family. You just kind of show up for work, and there’s not a lot of communication beforehand about your character. He knows that you can talk in the cadence he wants, that you have the right energy or essence for the part. The familiarity is great, so I was able to see some of the people I saw on set the first time and be more comfortable. I feel really lucky to have worked with him twice — I hope to get to No. 3.
I imagine there’s a mystique about how he works as a director when you first work with him. Is that still true the second time?
He’s a great director obviously, and he knows how to direct individual actors to get a performance out of them that he wants, and he’s very specific. He likes improv and the live moment of when a scene works; he likes to capture that chemistry, that lightness and energy. In a way, he’s creating the ambience for a looseness and a creativity and an energy. You never feel like anything’s too heavy, and he carries that in his personality. He himself is a performer, writer, director and as an actor he’s so good, he’s able to encompass so many things at once.
Did Allen tell you much about your character Rad and who she was based upon?
You do that on your own. A journalist in San Francisco gave me a book by M.F.K. Fisher, “The Gastronomical Me,” that was written in this time frame in the mid ’30s. She was a really elegant woman and gifted writer, and I read Eve Babitz’s “Eve’s Hollywood” which talks about the ’30s and ’40s and thought about women during that time, coming from Texas to Hollywood, but she goes to New York and has this modeling agency. It’s fun to play someone from that period, because I think women were really interesting during that time and they acted their age. That was fun, too, playing an experienced woman.
You switched from brunette to blonde for the role. How did that come about?
I dyed my hair blonde for the Cannes Film Festival, because I wore a dress my friend designed and she talked me into going blonde. I didn’t know [Woody] was doing a period film and I think the blonde hair had something to do with me playing this part, Rad Taylor, because a lot of women of that time were bottle blondes, that was the look. I maintained that for a while, and it was funny to do something so Hollywood archetypal “dye your hair blonde and you’ll get more work” and it kind of felt like I did.
What’s it been like reuniting with Christopher Guest and that cast again for “Mascots,” having been so long since the last time?
We finished that last November, and it was great. That’s such a family, too, and a different way of working and preparing, and I just love those people. Twenty years after “Waiting for Guffman,” here I am playing a mascot. Chris created his own form — you go to set and you just start talking and the scene comes to life, and you have to trust your other actors and they can be so generous. I don’t feel like I’m as funny as those improvisers like [Michael] Hitchcock, Jane Lynch and [Jennifer] Coolidge — I’m not a Groundling — so I just approach it from a place of finding the character and you just trust that the scene will play itself out and be funny, hopefully.