by Dennis Hensley
told I was going to be talking to Amanda Peet, the guy at my video store gushed,
"Now there's an actress who's not only hot babe but you actually
believe she went to college. "I suspect his declaration was brought on by
the fact that he had recently rented me The World Is Not Enough in which
Denise Richards plays a nuclear physicist who opines about the dangers of
plutonium while wearing hot pants and a belly shirt.
In any event, when I pass the comment onto Peet, who at the moment, is
curled up on the sofa of her social worker mother's Prince Street apartment, she
roars with laughter. "It's funny you should say that," says the 30
year-old star of such films as The Whole Nine Yards, Whipped and Saving
Silverman, "because whenever I audition to play anyone who has to have
any kind of intellectual authority, like a lawyer or a police officer, my voice
goes into this weird low place. "The native New Yorker--who, in fact, did
graduate from Columbia University with a degree in American History--drops her
chin to her chest and demonstrates, tossing out a few improvised lines about
dopamine injections and blood levels. "I don't know what happens to
me," she confesses afterwards. "I turn into the worst actress
Though we may not see Amanda Peet wheeling a gurney on ER anytime soon,
she seems to be everywhere else. The star of the 1999-2001 series Jack and
Jill and former Skittles pitchwoman has three new films set for release in
the coming months. In the domestic comedy Igby Goes Down, she turns up as
"Jeff Goldblum's pretentious pseudo-artist heroin addict mistress.
"Then there's the suspense yarn Changing Lanes in which Peet plays
Ben Affleck's conniving wife. "In our first scene, I had to be topless
under the covers," the actress reveals. Well, Ben wanted to share that
awkwardness so he went bottomless. In between takes, he got up and walked
I'm reminded of that giant clock in London, Big Ben," I tell her.
reminded of it too," she replies, cackling. "No, actually, I didn't
see anything. He had a towel. "Blushing a bit, Peet adds, "Okay, I
just saw the backside. It's good."
were a different kind of chummy on the set of High Crimes, a thriller in
which Peet plays Ashley Judd's pain-in-the-ass little sister. "She was very
protective and sisterly," Peet says of Judd.
bet you learned a new word every day," I say. "I've interviewed her
once and needed a pocket dictionary to keep up."
intellectually insatiable," Peet confirms. "One day, between takes,
she was quoting the William Wordsworth poem 'Daffodils,' which is my mom's
favorite. I asked her why she knew it so
well and she said, 'Every year on my birthday, I memorize a poem.
That's what I do for my birthday'." Peet
admits to feeling like a bit of a slacker in comparison.
"I mean, for my birthday, I get a manicure-pedicure," she says
with a laugh.
course, it's hard to begrudge Peet a little pampering, for in era of
fresh-scrubbed overnight sensations, she's one starlet whose paid her dues to
the show business gods, with years of auditions, off-Broadway plays and indie
films that never saw the inside of a multiplex. "When
I'm here in New York, I walk past all the places where I used to audition and I
remember how scared I was," says Peet, who moved to Los Angeles nearly
three years ago for Jack and Jill. "That's
why I don't trust anyone who didn't have to audition for like three years before
they became famous." It's not just
casting offices that bring back memories of hungrier days.
"I got fired from this restaurant just around the corner from here
called Portofino," confesses Peet. "I
didn't have any waitressing experience so I made up this fake resume.
One night, someone asked me to warm their bread and I put the basket in
the oven with the bread. I got fired
immediately. To this day, every time I
walk by, it literally makes my stomach turn."
few hot-button addresses aside, Peet has nothing but affection for the city she
grew up in. For starters, she figures the
men are a tad more together that their west coast counterparts.
"The guys in New York are more like girls," muses Peet who is
newly single after splitting from her boyfriend of several years, Whipped
co-star Brian Van Holt. "They've
been therapized and have cultivated a lot of different parts of themselves.
You need someone who is reflective."
And what doesn't she need? "Stodginess
and curmudgeonliness," she says emphatically.
"I don't like somebody who doesn't take risks, never dances at a
party, doesn't try new food. If you can't
put your armor down, then what's the point?"
the sun setting outside, I ask the Peek give us a blow by blow of her perfect
New York day. "Brunch at Bubby's in
Tribeca," she begins while gazing out the window, "then stroll through
Soho, then head to Beselkas on 2nd Avenue and 9th street and get half a chicken
salad sandwich with pea soup. Then I'd
walk by my old high school, Friends Seminary, and look at the Quaker Meeting
House. Then see a movie, not at the
Angelica because it's annoying and pretentious, but somewhere else.
Then go to Barney's where I would hopefully have a lot of money to buy
things with. Finally, I would go to
dinner with all my girlfriends at someplace new and wonderful."
no auditions?" I ask.
no," she scoffs. "Although,
looking back, I wish I had had more confidence so I could have enjoyed that time
more. It's only just recently that I've
seen flickers of how I felt when I was a 13-year old in improv class and I
thought, 'Wow, I was really good.' Now,
even when the stakes are very high, I'm beginning to have more fun."