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Fall Sneaks

Going coast to coast and back in one day paid off for stage actress

StarTurns / Lindsay Duncan

September 07, 2003|Mark Olsen

"IT'S been one of those years in your life where you think, 'God, I'm probably going to fall off a cliff in a minute,' " says Lindsay Duncan, a veteran British stage actress who went directly from her Tony-winning role in the Broadway revival of Noel Coward's "Private Lives" to filming her first major part in a Hollywood production, "Under the Tuscan Sun."

Except she almost didn't even try out for the role.

In the middle of her run in "Private Lives" she was called to make a trip to Los Angeles on her day off to meet director Audrey Wells. But taking two flights in one day was the last thing on the actress' agenda.

"It's funny how the British have a slightly different approach -- 'Do I really have to go to this meeting?' -- where the Americans are more 'Try and stop me from going to this meeting.' " But fly she did, and as she returned to New York, she already knew she had the role. In the part of a British expatriate living in Italy, Duncan's character regales anyone who will listen with her tales of working with Federico Fellini, clinging to the one glimmer of hope in a life filled with disappointments. In a highlight of the film, she reenacts Anita Ekberg's famous romp in Rome's Trevi Fountain from "La Dolce Vita."

This role should certainly bring her greater attention than her previous Hollywood effort, as the voice of a protocol droid in "Star Wars: Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace."

"It was hardly what you'd call a job, a half an hour in a studio. But, of course, 'Star Wars' is so huge in the grand scheme of things, it means an awful lot to a lot of fans. I'd really rather have my face on screen, but it's a curiosity which I'm very glad to be attached to. But it is weird to get fan mail for being a voice."

-- Mark Olsen

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