Up & Comer: Meet Vera Farmiga
Interviewed by: Kevin Maynard
Source: USA Weekend
She romanced Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Departed,” and she may be the next Meryl Streep.
“I’m terrified,” says Vera Farmiga, when told she has been called the next Meryl Streep. “Besides, isn’t Cate Blanchett the next Meryl Streep?”
Sitting cross-legged on a shag rug at a Beverly Hills hotel poolside lounge, Farmiga, 33, admits she is recognized more often these days — but says fans often think she’s someone else: “The baristas at Starbucks think I’m Patricia Arquette. I don’t think we look anything alike. It’s just a coffee conspiracy.”
Perhaps. But there’s definitely a caffeinated buzz surrounding this actress. A decade into her career, Farmiga is finally getting her due. In 2004, she won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance for her portrayal of a coke-addicted mother in “Down to the Bone.” Then came “The Departed,” for which she received rave reviews (and even Oscar buzz) as the sole female in a macho crime thriller.
Playing with the boys didn’t intimidate the petite star. “Marty [Scorsese], Matt and Leo and I, we just clicked,” she says confidently. “They didn’t make me feel weird in this sea of testosterone.”
Now, the actress has a supporting role in “Breaking and Entering,” a drama starring Jude Law in which she plays a blunt Romanian hooker who befriends Law’s buttoned-up architect. As filming began, Farmiga shocked her co-star by baring all. “I didn’t tell Jude or the director,” she says with a sly smile. “It was just improvised. You can see Jude’s real reaction on camera — he’s smiling, but he’s totally freaked out. We could only get that once.”
“I was astonished by her lack of inhibition,” says Anthony Minghella, who directed “Entering.” “She’s very modest and unassuming in person. Then, there she was wearing heels and this horrible, ratty fur coat, with nothing underneath. And she was just a hoot.”
Farmiga has no problem with nude scenes, if the role calls for it: “I don’t feel like I’m exposing myself. It’s not my body, it’s the character’s body I’m exposing. If it feels gratuitous, I won’t do it. I’ve put my foot down before.”
She fought against sexing up one of her first roles, a Celtic warrior on the short-lived TV series “Roar.” “It makes me cringe, thinking about it,” Farmiga says. “They wanted me to be a scantily clad Xena; I just wanted to look rough and ride horses.” Still, she met her (now ex-) husband while doing the role and also co-starred with an 18-year-old Heath Ledger.
Farmiga is also refreshingly honest about the roles that got away: the lead in “Million Dollar Baby,” the latest Bond girl in “Casino Royale.” “I did a screen test in London for it,” she says of the latter. “I loved things about the script, but I probably sabotaged myself. I just didn’t feel it in my gut.”
Off the clock, Farmiga eschews Hollywood by living on a goat farm in rural Upstate New York. “In another life, I was a shepherdess,” she says. “I like being off the grid. I want to be self-sufficient and live off the land.”
Not that she is all alone; Farmiga lives with her boyfriend of three years, Renn Hawkey, keyboardist for the band Deadsy. The couple met through a friend. “We locked eyes, and I knew my life would change,” she says. “We’re totally co-dependent.”
They are also optimistic about the future. Farmiga wears a chain around her neck with three charms: One is a snake curled around a staff, which is a symbol of good health; another is St. Christopher, who is the patron saint of travelers; and the third she got in Morocco. “It’s from a soothsayer,” she says. “It is supposed to stand for ‘luck in career.’ I think it’s working.”