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I Dream of Gina

Actress Gina Gershon uses drive and dreams to forge her varied and sometimes risqué career.
Paul Chutkow
From the Print Edition:
Gina Gershon, Sep/Oct 98

(continued from page 4)

"I've played so many different sorts of parts," Gershon says. "If there has been any sort of premeditated path, it's that I know I want to play a wide range of roles so I never get pigeonholed. I know that if I play A one time, the next I'll want to do B or maybe Z. I don't want to keep doing A, A, A; I'll get bored and I don't think I'll grow. Certain people might be happy doing A their entire life. But that's not me. I've never gone by strategy. Strategy has always been secondary. Bound I really loved on a gut level. I thought, 'Oh my God, I love this character.' On the other hand, I thought: This is fantastic. It's 180 degrees away from Showgirls; that's great." Bound never found a mainstream audience, but some critics put it on their Top 10 lists for 1997.

Seeing their child play such roles in Showgirls and Bound might have stretched the tolerance of some moms, but Gina's mother, Mickey, took it all in stride.

"My mother's amazing," she says with a laugh. "Can you imagine going home and telling your mother, 'Hi, I'm going to be in a movie called Showgirls'? I said, 'Mom, I got this great part.' She said, 'Oh, let me write it down, so I can tell my friends.' And I said, 'Just so you know, uh, I'm kind of dancing around naked in it.' And she said, 'Oh, you used to do that all the time when you were little.' I said, 'Oh, really? Well, I'm also sort of kissing another woman in it and maybe having sex.' And she said, 'Oh'--you know, trying to be very supportive--and she said, "Well, is she a nice girl?' I said, 'Yes, she's a very nice girl.' And Mom said, 'Oh, that's nice then.' "

Gershon's siblings took her Showgirls role in stride as well. "I think they know how hard I've worked. It's not like this has happened overnight. So I think people who know me are just happy and relieved that I'm actually starting to get the sort of work I've worked so hard to get. To me, I feel I have so much further to go; I've taken one leap and now I need the next leap and the next leap. I'm really close to my brother and sister and I think they're really happy for me."

Last year Gershon costarred in John Woo's Face/Off, and the experience turned out to be a delight, especially working with Nicolas Cage and John Travolta. "John is one of the nicest men I've worked with. Really generous of spirit. His spirit is huge. I don't know if it has anything to do with Scientology or anything, but all I can say is that Tom Cruise and John Travolta both have that real generosity of spirit. They have a very similar sort of energy. I don't know if it's just coincidence, I don't know anything about Scientology, but if that's what it gave them, then I'll give it a point for that."

Gershon is now regularly getting roles with depth and texture. In Legalese, scheduled to air October 4 on TNT, she plays an actress accused of murder. The movie costars James Garner, Kathleen Turner and Mary Louise Parker. Gershon also has finished production on Paul Auster's Lulu on the Bridge, which also stars Harvey Keitel and Mira Sorvino. Over the summer, she was scheduled to shoot a small role in a Michael Mann movie starring Al Pacino.

One of her most challenging projects is Prague Duet, which she stars in opposite Rade Serbedzija, a Serbo-Croatian folk singer and cult hero. Serbedzija plays a dissident writer in the Czech Republic who becomes minister of culture, only to become ensnared in a political scandal generated by his romance with Gershon's Dr. Lauren Graham, an American child psychologist. Gershon gives a quiet, subtle performance of a woman swept up by love and the haunting revelation that her own Czech heritage, via a favorite Jewish grandfather, might not be what she was led to believe. Prague Duet is slated to air on the Romance Classics channel in December.

"I love being incredibly vulnerable on the screen, and in Prague Duet I was allowed to do that," Gershon says. "There's something special in that and I think for me it's a good thing to do. Hopefully you'll touch a nerve in someone's unconscious and that, at the end of the day, is why you're doing it. That's the healthier, altruistic side of why you want to do acting. To touch someone."

One aspect of Gershon's kaleidoscopic talents that has not come forth in recent years is romantic comedy. "That's really who I am," she says. "I want to do a romantic comedy, but a really smart one. Like Woody Allen. Or Albert Brooks. I just have to start finding my own projects. That's why I want to get to the next level, so a studio will say, 'Fine, Gina. We'll buy whatever property you want and we'll make it.'"

With so many high-quality movies coming out in the months ahead, Gershon understandably feels she is on the brink of a major career breakthrough. "I feel that. I feel like in the next year or two it's going to go. I think it's ready to flip. I'm happy with the work I'm doing this year."

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