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Gretchen Mol Indulges in “An American Affair”

Gretchen Mol Indulges in “An American Affair” (photo)

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When model-turned-actress Gretchen Mol first arrived on the scene in noteworthy ’90s films like “The Funeral” and “Rounders,” lazy journalists started whistling “It girl,” that hyperbolic phrase given to all ingénues who fulfill three criteria: (1) they’re pretty, (2) they’re charming and (3) they have multiple projects being released around the same time. Some actresses don’t survive the overhype machine and burn out as the next hot thing comes along, but Mol persevered, worked with directors like Woody Allen, Neil LaBute and James Mangold, and found further success with starring roles in “The Notorious Bettie Page” and TV’s new hit “Life on Mars.” Her latest film is director William Sten Olsson’s 1963-set “An American Affair,” an unusual hybridization of the sexual coming-of-age tale (enter “Birth” star Cameron Bright) and the JFK conspiracy thriller, in which Mol stars as a Washington D.C. bombshell, abstract painter and Kennedy paramour who gets in over her head on both the federal and neighborhood fronts. By phone, Mol chatted with me about the film, motherhood, Abel Ferrara and life after being the “It girl.”

You seem to have had a proclivity for period pieces in recent years, if you count the 1970s-set “Life on Mars.” Is this more than just coincidence?

Not on my end. I feel like I’ve actually done it most of my career. One time, I was in the future, and most of the time, I’m in the past. [laughs] It’s certainly not anything that I do consciously. When reading a script, you’re looking for things that you [hook you]. You fall in love with the story, the character, or both, or the director. There has to be some element there. Working in period is fun and exciting because it’s that much more of a departure from me, myself, and I when I’m looking in the mirror in the morning. By the time you go through the wardrobe, hair and makeup, you do your work, you get your history lesson on what was going on at that time, it just removes you that much further from yourself.

So what was the standout element in the “An American Affair” screenplay for you?

It was really the character of Catherine Caswell. There’s something fun for actors to play broken people who are going to be a struggle to sympathize with, and try to find something about them that you can love. You have to overcome judging them, and there’s a lot with this character to judge. [laughs] There’s just a lot to her. She was different from the way I often get cast, which is as the sometimes sweet, sometimes naïve person, like Bettie Page or in the Neil LaBute play [“The Shape of Things”]. This woman who’s often blind to other people’s feelings and going forward in her own way, she was smart and creative, but frustrated and made a lot of bad choices.

02262009_AmericanAffair.jpgEven though you say there’s a certain demeanor to the roles you’re regularly offered, is it at least nice to no longer be the new girl in the room?

Yeah, absolutely. That’s a moment when you can hopefully pass through and survive. The whole idea is to work for a long time, and it’s hard in this business to do that. So I’m happy still finding fun, interesting parts to play at this point, and I think about the future — but of course, who knows? You’re always one role away from feeling like, “Oh, I’m going to work steadily for the rest of my life. I have nothing to worry about,” but I don’t know if you ever really feel like you can sit back and relax.

Are there new paths you’d like to take, maybe a role that subverts the “sweet” characters?

No, I don’t know. I feel like I’ve been able to play a variety of different people so far. I did a musical on Broadway [“Chicago”] for a while. I would like to go back and revisit that in film because I love singing and dancing. Those are things that I studied, so I often feel like it’s a part of myself that I don’t get to tap into that often. As rigorous as the whole Broadway schedule was, it was a challenge and I had such a great time doing that. But as far as kinds of roles, whatever it is that you have to offer different characters and parts, it’s hard to get too far away from “that thing.” I feel like I have to finally admit that. Actors think, “I can do anything!” [laughs]

Besides the singing and dancing, what do you enjoy about theater that film doesn’t offer you?

For me, it’s the start to finish. You’re on your own as an actor there. You get to play out a whole journey in one fell swoop, and you get to feel the energy from the audience in a way that you don’t with film. With film and television, you’re just shooting pieces, often out of order, and so you don’t get that sense of a beginning, middle and end, and the satisfaction that that brings. You have a sense of control, too. No one can edit that performance.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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