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Get Over It. (She Has)

Minnie Driver's been busy since the breakup with Matt Damon, thank you very much.

July 26, 1998|Robert Hofler | Robert Hofler is an editor for Variety in Los Angeles

Maybe it's in the genes. Minnie Driver's sister, Kate, is just as outspoken--in her own behind-the-scenes kind of way--as her famous actress sibling. "Minnie's opened herself up to situations where she should never have gotten herself," Kate says straight out.

Is she talking about her sister's tabloid blowout with former boyfriend Matt Damon or perhaps Driver's disclosure to the press that the "Hard Rain" crew had turned the set's water tank into a mega-urinal? Whatever. The British actress' mouth got her into such trouble that Kate Driver says she told her younger sister, "I don't want you to ever do another interview by yourself. I want to shut you up when you get into territory that can be misinterpreted."

Fortunately, Kate Driver, 30, wasn't anywhere near the Chateau Marmont the afternoon her 27-year-old sister sat down for tea, some smokes, and a chat about her upcoming movies "The Governess" (which opens Friday) and "At Sachem Farm," the first project to be produced by the sisters' new production company, the Two Drivers.

But first, the Two Former Lovers. Minnie Driver and Damon romanced during the production of "Good Will Hunting," and no sooner had the movie made him the Next Big Thing than their affair was the Last Big Thing, and he was seen squiring Winona Ryder to every fete on the pre-Oscar party circuit. Driver rolls her eyes at the mere mention of the whole mishegas.

"Everything has to be made so mythic," she begins, not exactly uneager to discuss the affair and its dissolution--especially its dissolution. "There are these archetypes that everybody has to take apart," she goes on to say. "I had to be the victim. It's horrendous breaking up with someone anyway, but to have it be so public and to be cast in a role that I would never play if they were paying me--this wronged woman! It's unfortunate that Matt went on 'Oprah'; it seemed like a good forum for him to announce to the world that we were no longer together, which I found fantastically inappropriate. Of course, he was busy declaring his love for me on David Letterman a month previously."

No doubt, this is precisely the territory of potential misinterpretation that sister Kate is talking about, and any journalist would have to bless Minnie Driver for taking him or her there. (For the record, she's just parted ways with her post-Damon boyfriend, drummer Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters.)

But as for archetypes, the Driver-Damon breakup is definitely a newly minted one even for that Jungian of Hollywood junk, Jackie Collins.

Besides being witness to Damon's Letterman/Oprah flip-flop, Driver kept running into her former boyfriend all spring at the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards, and the Oscars--thanks to their respective nominations for "Good Will Hunting."

A "Day of the Locust" apotheosis actually came two weeks before the Academy Awards, at the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas. She had been crowned ShoWest Female Star of Tomorrow; he, ShoWest Male Star of Tomorrow. How did that lightning-strikes-yet-again situation go down? "It was pretty strange," Driver recalls, "being the counterpart to the person you used to be with--the male and female equivalent of each other, you're standing on the stage with someone who's not even speaking to you anymore. That was pretty bizarre. There had to be some reality check there. It was weird, uncomfortable, sad and strange. I really wanted to enjoy it more than I did."

Enjoy them or not, these are the kinds of situations that can create the mythic, archetypal eggshells from which stars are sometimes hatched. Most important, it got people who'd never even seen a Minnie Driver movie talking about Minnie Driver. Heretofore she had clocked in a great film debut in "Circle of Friends" (1995), as a chunky duckling who finds love with the attractive Chris O'Donnell. The only problem was, no one saw "Circle of Friends." "Savoy wouldn't even fly me out to do any publicity," Driver says, still somewhat miffed. A year of unemployment followed before the actress landed a series of supporting-girlfriend-to-the star roles in "Big Night," "Sleepers," "Grosse Point Blank," and, of course, "Good Will Hunting." All fine performances, but would she ever graduate from roles that, as Driver puts it, "had people yawning at the first read-throughs whenever I opened my mouth"?

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