Women We Love: Vera Farmiga
Interviewed by: Stephen Garrett
The Departed garnered four Academy Awards. She’s got four movies coming out this year. But instead of sitting poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel or eating Caesar salad at Chateau Marmont, she spends her days herding goats. Is it any wonder Vera Farmiga is a Woman We Love?
Two Nubian goats battle with a pair of Angoras to eat sunflower seeds out of Vera Farmiga’s hand. She coos their names — Zoshya and Fruzia — hearty Ukrainian names that recall her own Slavic heritage. “We want to breed them,” she explains. “They’re so horny. You can see it in their eyes. They dilate.”
Her own eyes, piercing blue, sparkle as she leads her quartet single file through her snow-covered farm in upstate New York and bemoans the fact that the brood can’t be housebroken. “I wish we could wrap Pampers on them,” she says.
This coming from a thirty-three-year-old whose last film, The Departed, walked away with four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Her five-five frame, wrapped in a thin, tan sweater dress, is planted firmly in duck boots as she looks over her handful of acres, right next to a dairy farmer with a pine-tree forest and rolling cornfields. “I’m part wood nymph,” she says. “I require mountains and warm, dense patches of moss to thrive.”
Farmiga had three films released last year (Running Scared, Breaking and Entering, and The Departed), two more at Sundance in January (Joshua, Never Forever), and has two others slated for screens before the end of 2007 (In Tranzit, Quid pro Quo). “It’s an arsenal,” she admits. “But some of them will probably never get seen.” Down to the Bone, her 2004 tour de force as a working-class drug addict desperately trying to kick the habit, won her prizes at Sundance and from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association but barely made a theatrical burp.
Fox Searchlight won’t let that happen this summer with Joshua, a satiric thriller about a precocious eight-year-old Manhattanite who also happens to be a psychopath. Farmiga plays his mother, a woman wrestling with postpartum depression triggered by a newborn second child. The part cut close to home: Farmiga’s sister, misdiagnosed at the time with Lyme disease, was going through a steroid-induced psychosis. “In between scenes,” she remembers, “I was on the phone talking her into a reason to live.”
Farmiga’s characters are rarely saints: a Romanian hooker in Breaking and Entering, a therapist who sleeps with her patient in The Departed, a woman who commits adultery to save her marriage in Never Forever. And in the upcoming Quid pro Quo, she leads a handicapped journalist into the extreme subculture of people desperate to become paralyzed. “I just can’t feel lukewarm about a character,” she says. “I either despise her, admire her, or don’t understand her and want to understand her.”
A goat nibbles at her coat. “Stop it!” she says, waving it away. Raised in New Jersey, Farmiga is the second of seven children. She’s got farming in her blood: Her parents raised rabbits and chickens and even bought her a sheep freshman year in high school. “I loved that sheep,” she says. “But I overfed it and it popped. My mother salvaged the wool. I still have enough to make a sweater.” She may yet. Her boyfriend, musician Renn Hawkey, got her a portable spinning wheel to take on sets.
Her oval face is placid, but her eyes remain ablaze with the same intensity she brings to so many of her characters — even when all she’s doing is watching a costar. “That’s my favorite part,” she says. “That’s what I look for in scripts — not so much what people say but what they perceive.” She looks at the snow. “In the quiet moments, the discoveries are made.”