Male Parts, Female Parts—Parts for Everyone

Not only in Lady Chatterley, but also in Lake's and Polley's latest. (And even a role for tiny me.)

Polley is the Canadian actor (The Sweet Hereafter) and director (she's done five shorts) who's skeptical of fame and would rather do the kind of movies she'd like to see, regardless of what color jelly beans you get in your trailer. In fact, she backed out of the lead in Almost Famousand as a result is almost famous.

Can she live with her image as an integrity-laden firebrand? (I know I could.) "There are worse ways to be interpreted, so that image is fine with me," she told me, calmly. "But I don't actually think I am particularly firebrandy or rebellious. I feel like I have normal human responses to things that maybe other people have learned not to have."

Was turning down Almost Famous a normal response? "I was interested in independent film at the time," she said. "And it was hard for me to make a hero out of someone who was following around a rock band." Even with lettuce and mayonnaise. Most of all, she didn't crave the attending hoopla of mainstream stardom. "I didn't want the kind of life whoever played that part was going to have," she admitted. "It was my worst nightmare." "But you'd be dating OWEN WILSON right now!" I shrieked. "If I have any regrets, that's it," she said, cracking up.

Even with the electric shock and the stomach-pumping, Almost Famouswould have easily been one of her lighter films. Away From Her is so far from Legally Blondethat, as Polley admitted, some incorrect joking on the set was required to elevate the mood. (They must have all gathered 'round and sang "Try to Remember.") "I find on the saddest films it's the most fun atmosphere," she told me. Well, it must have been a regular riot on The Secret Life of Words, in which Polley's deaf factory-worker character helped care for a blind burn victim. (Maybe they should have both visited the mute male patient.)

Upping the joie this time was getting legendary JULIE CHRISTIE to play the ailing wife, which she does with typical grace and class. "It's great to be in love with the person who's the lead of your film," said Polley—who's delectable, by the way. Alas, at their first meeting, Christie looked way too young and gorgeous, so they jazzed her down to make her look a little older and gorgeous.

Speaking of jazzing down: I just looked in a mirror. How curious. It's tiny now! (Wait, that's my worst segue ever.)

musto@villagevoice.com

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