Parker Posey Writes Her Own Myth In 'You're On An Airplane' | Texas Public Radio

Parker Posey Writes Her Own Myth In 'You're On An Airplane'

Jul 25, 2018
Originally published on July 25, 2018 6:56 pm

Parker Posey is not the kind of movie star who seems distant and unapproachable. Instead, people shout her most famous lines at her when they pass her on the street. "I've gotten 'Air raid!' for, you know, 25 years," she says, referencing 1993's Dazed and Confused. "And Busy Bee, you know — 'Where's my Busy Bee?' From Best in Show," one of five semi-improvised documentary spoof films she's made with the director Christopher Guest.

There's also a couple Woody Allen films, a new Netflix reboot of Lost in Space, some soap opera work as a teenager, and "Josie and the Pussycats — yeah it's mainly Josie and the Pussycats," Posey says, and it's usually younger fans who shout out her role as the Pussycats' villainous record label executive.

Now, the actress once called the "queen of independent film" has a new book out. It's called You're on an Airplane, and the entire narrative is written as though Posey is speaking to someone sitting next to her on a long flight. It's sprinkled with collages, cocktail recipes, and stories from her life — in no particular order. She calls it "a self-mythologizing memoir." Every memoir is self-mythologizing, Posey says, "but, since you read the book, you know that I'm pronouncing it 'me-moir.' It's so dumb," she laughs.


Interview Highlights

On the meaning of "self-mythologizing."

It was a certain attention that I wanted to give to these stories that kind of repeat themselves in images ... I think actors can kind of tap into this kind of archetypal thing, I think that's what the job is, you know. Just like whether it's a queen or a princess or a fool, or a Medusa, an Iago, the old Greek mythology, the stories ... and we keep, you know, Rubik's Cube-ing them. And there were things in my childhood that I remember that were animated, and for me that were like characters, like the Morton's Salt girl, or the devil on the deviled ham. And growing up as a Catholic, a Southern Catholic, and so there's a relationship to the father, and to God ... This book — and as far as being inventive, you know, I come from a family of characters. I wish you could have met Nonnie and Granny, and of course my own parents, they're entertaining people.

On the first photo her mother took of her — as a baby, wearing false eyelashes

No one took a picture of me in the incubator during the six weeks I was in it — the false eyelashes to me is such a moment. It was just something that was so natural for my family to self-dramatize, to entertain each other, and to expect entertainment from everyone else. It's a Southern thing. Now, underneath all that, of course, is a lot of pain and a lot of drama, because you create that humor out of, I think, a brokenness, or like, "I need to make myself laugh at this."

On #MeToo and whether harassment was part of her experience in Hollywood

Not so much. I feel very unusual — I never really thought of myself as, you know, a babe. Because I'm more of a funny person, I'm more of a character actor. When the veil was lifted, and I was reminded of all the indignities as a whole, it was heartbreaking to me. And you're just like, "I know some of you guys had good moms, and great relationships with your sisters — why is this still happening?" And then, in the way that the press is dealing with it too and the way actresses are supposed to position themselves as politicians — please don't make me do that! I start to sweat, it's not me, I ramble. I want to be truthful.

On the flip side of fame and the expectation that you'll use your spotlight

Yeah, and then it ends up being, you're just on the spot. And I mean, I think we really like that right now, Ari. I think it's callout culture that has upstaged storytelling, auteurs, great artists, and it makes me incredibly sad, because I think stories and the screen of movies, television, these things that we hold in our hands can make us feel connected, entertain us, and make us nicer, more compassionate, more interested in each other.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Parker Posey is not the kind of movie star who seems distant and unapproachable. Instead, people shout her most famous lines at her when they pass her on the street.

PARKER POSEY: I've gotten air raid for, you know, 25 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DAZED AND CONFUSED")

POSEY: (As Darla, shouting) Air raid. That was pathetic.

SHAPIRO: That's from "Dazed And Confused," 1993.

POSEY: And busy bee - you know, where's my busy bee?

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BEST IN SHOW")

MICHAEL HITCHCOCK: (As Hamilton Swan) You want your busy bee. You get your busy bee.

POSEY: (As Meg Swan) You get the busy bee. I need to trim her whiskers. It's in the crate.

HITCHCOCK: (As Hamilton Swan) Where is it?

POSEY: (As Meg Swan) It's in the crate.

SHAPIRO: "Best In Show," 2000 - 1 of 5 semi-improvised documentary-spoof films she's made with the director Christopher Guest. There's also a couple Woody Allen films, a new Netflix reboot of "Lost In Space," some soap opera work as a teenager.

POSEY: And "Josie And The Pussycats." Yeah, it's mainly "Josie And The Pussycats."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS")

POSEY: (As Fiona) I was too late. They were already taking off the ears.

SHAPIRO: "Josie And The Pussycats," 2001. She gets that from her younger fans. Now, the actress once called the queen of independent film has a new book. It's called "You're On An Airplane." The entire narrative is written as though Parker Posey is speaking to someone sitting next to her on a long flight. It's sprinkled with collages, cocktail recipes and stories from her life, in no particular order. She calls it a self-mythologizing memoir.

POSEY: Every memoir is self-mythologizing. But since you read the book, you know that I'm pronouncing it me-moir (ph).

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) Yes.

POSEY: (Laughter) It's so dumb.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: It makes me think of somebody referring to their grandmother as Me-Maw (ph).

POSEY: Yes. Did you have a Me-Maw?

SHAPIRO: No, I'm Jewish. Jews don't have Me-Maw's.

POSEY: Oh.

SHAPIRO: But what does self-mythologizing mean in this book?

POSEY: It was a certain attention that I wanted to give to these stories that kind of repeat themselves in images, you know, really a part of me. I think actors can tap into this kind of archetypal thing. I think that's what the job is, you know.

SHAPIRO: What do you mean by that?

POSEY: Just like whether it's a queen or princess or a fool or a Medusa, an Iago, a - the old Greek mythology and...

SHAPIRO: The roles that keep coming back again and again...

POSEY: The stories were just...

SHAPIRO: ...To tell us something about ourselves.

POSEY: Exactly. And we keep, you know, Rubik's Cubing (ph) them. And there were things in my childhood that I remember that were animated and, for me, that were like characters, like the Morton salt girl or the devil on the deviled ham, and growing up as a, you know, as a Catholic, a southern Catholic, and so there's a relationship to the father and to God.

SHAPIRO: But when I think of the roles that you play, I don't think of the Medea character or the Lady Macbeth or the archetypal figures. I think of the figures who seem so unique and like they've been invented for the first time.

POSEY: Oh, that's really - that's nice of you to say. Thank you. I think Dr. Smith is a total Medusa, though.

SHAPIRO: This is in "Lost In Space."

POSEY: Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOST IN SPACE")

IGNACIO SERRICCHIO: (As Don West) What about the rest of your family?

POSEY: (As June Harris/Dr. Smith) They won't be coming.

SERRICCHIO: (As Don West) Oh, sorry, Miss...

POSEY: (As June Harris/Dr. Smith) Doctor - Dr. Smith.

You know, she can carry that. It's those big, kind of epic roles that you usually see in theater that you see on shows like "Game Of Thrones" now, or "Star Wars" where these actors are encompassing all this energy, you know, that are like those old Greek plays. But, yeah, this book - and as far as being inventive, you know, I come from a family of characters. I wish you could have met Nonnie and Granny and, of course, my own parents. They're entertaining people.

SHAPIRO: The first photo your mother took of you, or at least the first photo you have, your mother put fake eyelashes on your face.

POSEY: No one took a picture of me in the incubator during the six weeks I was in it. The false eyelashes to me is like - it was such a moment, right? It was just something that was so natural for my family to self-dramatize, to entertain each other and to expect entertainment from everyone else. Now, underneath all that is, of course, a lot of pain and a lot of drama because you create that humor out of I think a, you know, a brokenness or, like, I need to make myself laugh at this.

SHAPIRO: In this book, you write about interactions with people who have been caught up in #MeToo controversies. There's Woody Allen. There's Louis C.K. But you don't write a lot about sexual harassment, per se, or the way women generally can be mistreated in Hollywood. Was that ever part of your experience?

POSEY: Not so much. I feel very unusual, you know? I never really thought of myself as, like, you know, a babe because I'm more of a funny person. I'm more of a character actor. You know, when the veil was lifted and I was reminded of all the indignities as a whole, it was heartbreaking to me. And you're just like, I know some of you guys had good moms and great relationships with your sisters. Like, why is this still happening, you know? And then in the way that the press is dealing with it, too, and how actresses are supposed to position themselves as politicians - please, don't make me do that. I get - I start to sweat. It's not me. I ramble. I want to be truthful.

SHAPIRO: But this is also part of the flip side of fame that you were talking about, that with fame comes an expectation that you have a spotlight on you; you'll use the spotlight in a particular way.

POSEY: Yeah. And then it ends up being you're just on the spot, you know? And, I mean, I think we really like that right now, all right? I think it's call-out culture that is upstaged storytelling auteurs, great artists, and it makes me incredibly sad because I think stories in the screen of movies, television, these things that we hold in our hands, can make us feel connected, entertain us and make us nicer, more compassionate and more interested in each other.

SHAPIRO: Let's talk about something a little less serious.

POSEY: OK - on to brighter things.

SHAPIRO: It seems like you've lived so many lives as an actress from your youth doing soap operas and independent films to the whole Christopher Guest oeuvre to now being on the Netflix show "Lost In Space" and creating films with Woody Allen. At one point in the book, you say that Shirley MacLaine inspired the kind of woman you wanted to become.

POSEY: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: So I'm wondering who your inspiration is for the kind of woman you want to be next?

POSEY: I have a lot of different parts that I think of that I create for myself. You know, I'd like to do something with food.

SHAPIRO: Like a cooking show?

POSEY: Not a cooking show but just, like, making cheese or growing mushrooms.

SHAPIRO: Get away from acting altogether.

POSEY: Oh, yeah. And then I could write about that.

SHAPIRO: Are you saying that this memoir is not just Parker Posey celebrity memoir, but this is the beginning of a new chapter where Parker Posey expands into all kinds of other fields that we don't associate with you?

POSEY: I think so. Is that too weird?

SHAPIRO: I'm excited to see where it leads.

POSEY: Will I be in your victory garden?

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) You will have a place of pride in my victory garden, Parker Posey.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: Thank you so much for talking with us today.

POSEY: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Her new book is "You're On An Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing Memoir."

(SOUNDBITE OF MEDESKI, MARTIN AND WOOD'S "UNINVISIBLE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.