In "Sliding Doors," written and directed by Peter Howitt, Gwyneth Paltrow takes a trip through the looking glass--playing a woman who lives two parallel versions of the same event. In one scenario, she catches a London underground train, allowing her to arrive home and find her boyfriend in flagrante delicto; in the other, she misses the train and remains ignorant of his infidelity.
The whimsical look of the film, which opens Friday, at fate and choices we make struck a chord with Paltrow--the star of "Emma" and "Seven" whose life had no shortage of turns since the end of her engagement to Brad Pitt. She's been seeing actor Ben Affleck ("Good Will Hunting") and tackling film projects both adventurous and commercially savvy.
Over breakfast at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, the swan-like, 25-year-old daughter of actress Blythe Danner and producer Bruce Paltrow seemed relaxed, happy and confident about what career doors are opening for her.
Question: "Sliding Doors" taps into feelings we all have about how one incident or choice can change our lives. As it ended, it made me think twice about which way to drive home. . . .
Answer: Good! The idea of the film is so unique, and the script was so clever and funny; I thought, whoever wrote this is a genius.
Q: You play two parts, but they're the same woman in variations of the same situation. Was that difficult?
A: Not really, because for me, their experiences had so shaped where they were that it was like they were two different people.
Q: Which was more fun to play?
A: The liberated one in the process of self-discovery. I hate to admit that, because I love the other woman. When we're spying on her, she's just at a bad place in her life.
Q: Speaking of decisions, I heard you were in the running for "Titanic."
A: I did meet with Jim Cameron. I remember walking in New York with Ethan [Hawke, Paltrow's "Great Expectations" co-star]. He was like, "Are they talking to you about 'Titanic'?" Yeah! "Are they talking to you about 'Titanic'? What do you think?" And we both thought, it's too big, too much.
I would've lost my mind. I have so much respect for Kate Winslet for getting through that, and saying only one bad thing about Jim Cameron!
Q: You and she are among the few actresses your age who can hop through any century.
A: She can, I guess I can. Now I'm going back on "Shakespeare in Love." Me and Joe Fiennes.
Q: What's he like? Intense, like brother Ralph?
A: He's intense and quite beautiful. I'm excited. Tom Stoppard wrote it. . . . It's about what's going on in Shakespeare's personal life as he writes "Romeo and Juliet." I play the woman he falls in love with who's his muse.
Q: You seem attracted to films where the script counts.
A: Well, I've made some strange choices, based on "good premise, this could get there"--and that's always the wrong way.
Q: For example, the recent movie you made with Jessica Lange, "Hush"?
A: [sighs] Ughhh . . . I don't know what you're talking about! [disingenuous grin] I've never even heard of that!
But the movie I just finished is a happy ending of that kind of thing. "A Perfect Murder." At first I thought, I'm not going to do an Andy Davis Hollywood movie--but Michael Douglas was attached and the script was a page-turner. There were some problems with it, and they were like, "We're going to fix them." You always hear that--but they actually did fix them.
It's so much fun to play. There's one scene we call the "Gaslight" scene where Michael turns everything around. Even though you've seen all the events of the movie take place, you start to question what you know. It's brilliant.
Q: It seems you've done a little of everything--even a musical, if we count "Shout" [Paltrow's 1991 debut].
A: I'm gonna do a musical! My dad's directing a movie called "Duets," about karaoke singers. I sing in that one.
Q: You almost made your screen debut in another musical. Weren't you offered the part of Vanilla Ice's girlfriend in "Cool as Ice"?
A: God, can you believe that? [laughs, shakes head] Thank you for calling that back to my attention! I'd just started acting, I auditioned for "Cool as Ice," and they offered me the movie! They said, "It's an $80,000 offer"--and I was hostessing [at the Santa Monica Airport restaurant DC-3].
I was like, I can't believe it--but my God, it's Vanilla Ice! So I went straight to my father. He read five pages of the script and said, "You really could potentially hurt yourself by doing this film."
Q: So in the parallel universe, you did make that movie, and where would you be now?
A: Well, Kristin Scott Thomas did "Under the Cherry Moon"--doesn't that count as her "Cool as Ice"? So you never know!
Q: It sounds like you're very close to your parents.