Monday, July 13, 2009

Lesbians And Canadians

Here is a funny interview with Sandra that was originally published in The Advocate in September, 2003.

Canadian scene-stealer Sandra Oh plays lesbian in the new film Under the Tuscan Sun, with helpful hints from out TV writer.

By Chrisanne Eastwood

As Sandra Oh has discovered, it's easy to forget who you are in Hollywood. Sure, she may have won Canada's Genie Award (their Oscar) twice. And OK, she played New York's Public Theater and Los Angeles's Mark Taper Forum while spending seven seasons portraying Rita Wu in HBO's hit comedy Arli$ (for which, full disclosure, I used to write). True, she steals scenes like nobody's business. And yes, when her name's attached to a project up north, the green light blazes.

Meanwhile, here in Hollywood, Sandra's patiently waiting for us to catch her wave. Next up, she costars opposite Oscar nominee Diane Lane in Audrey Wells's (Guinevere) loose adaptation of Frances Mayes's memoir Under the Tuscan Sun. How loose is the adaptation? How about "add lesbian best friend and stir gently"? Writer-director Wells created the role of Patti, buddy of Diane Lane's Frances.

Did Sandra keep it real as the latest lezzie on the block? I dropped by her LA. digs to find out She was pouring chardonnay, prepping for her next role as a wine wrangler in husband Alexander Payne's latest project, Sideways. In the name of the actor's process, we drank up her props as we talked.

Chrisanne Eastwood [sipping daintily]: So you play a lesbian in this flick for the small world at Disney.
Sandra Oh: Yes, and let's hear it for Disney and all their gayness.

Huzzah! And let's hear how Disney felt about Diane Lane's best friend being a dyke — and a pregnant one no less. Your character wasn't in the book, you know.
Duh, I read it! I think Audrey Wells did a superb job adapting what is basically a travelogue into a dramatic work. cally a travelogue into a dramatic work. And. I hope she doesn't mind me saying this — I believe my character, Patti, is based on someone very dear to her.

Now, Patti is a relatively happy film lesbian until she gets dumped.
Yeah, sorry about that. But it mirrors the lead character and the theme of the film.

Dumped All three major women characters get dumped. And all of them get over it and get on with their lives. Is that typical in lesbian films?

This is not a lesbian film. This is a film with a lesbian in it. If it were a lesbian film, your character would have been lost in The Well of Diane Lane-liness. How gay is this movie?
Kate Walsh and I play lesbians. Diane Lane goes on a "Gay and Away" bus tour full of homos, where she hangs with the cute and hilarious Dan Bucatinsky.

Ah, the fag and the hag. But Paul is a lesbian and Frances is straight and they're best friends. We don't see that dynamic often.
No, but it exists [pointing to both of us], hello! I think what we see onscreen is often a reflection of who's in power. So when we see gay people, it's usually men.

So how many times have you played lesbian?
In my mind, numerous times [chuckling]. On-screen, Tuscan Sun. On Arli$ my character, Rita, had offscreen dalliances. And onstage I played pre-lesbian.

Pre-lesbian? Sounds like an intro course at Smith. Where?
In Diana Son's Stop Kiss. The play traced two women falling in love without them knowing what it is to be a lesbian. It was very pre-[Kissing] Jessica Stein.

How did you approach playing this lesbian?
I thought completely in terms of character. I created my own back story for Patti. Frances and I met in college, I was in love with her at one point —

Been there, done that —
— so, if I'm doing my job correctly, in Patti and Frances you will see a very involved friendship, a protectiveness.

Whatever. Now let's make this about me. How did I inspire your lesbian portrayal in this film?
Actually, seeing you fall apart when you got dumped last year really helped.

Gee, thanks. At least I wasn't your inspiration for that kiss. Talk about chaste. I kiss my dog better than that.
It was chaste because the relationship was going to come apart soon. Ever heard of foreshadowing?

Chicken. Speaking of kissing, give me your top three kissable women.
Ooh, OK. I would definitely kiss Jessica Hecht from Stop Kiss again. She's excellent. And I would totally kiss Angelina Jolie —

You and every other dyke with a lip.
She is just filled with fat, juicy pockets, dontcha think? And, oh yeah, Maggie Cheung [In the Mood for Love], because she is one of the most beautiful women ever.

You're Canadian. Is that why you're funny?
You know, I have a very different career in Canada, where I'm considered only a dramatic actor, as opposed to here. But as a person I can be fairly witty.

What do Canadians make fun of?
People from Alberta.

k.d. lang's province?
And the only province that will not accept same-sex marriage.

Boo! Hiss! Alberta sucks! [We drink to that.] So how do you feel about same-sex marriage!
Woo-hoo! Gotta tell you, in one month same-sex marriage and pot being decriminalized? Canada is definitely (he coolest country in the world.

You guys sound too perfect. Don't Canadians have any damage?
[Sipping thoughtfully] Canadians have a natural...disdain for people who are too big for their britches.

You mean Americans.
No, no, just that characteristic. But I think America in general has a sense of entitlement, while Canada lives and dies by the breed of the underdog.

So if a director were to say to you, "Act more Canadian," what would you do?
[Smirking] I would think he was a terrible director.
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