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THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

A goat-milking cover girl

July 08, 2007|Choire Sicha | Special to The Times

VERA FARMIGA'S goats in upstate New York have started lactating, even though she's never so much as seen a boy goat. Fortunately, Roman Polanski told Farmiga how to milk: You use an accordion-like motion, and counterintuitively push up, not pull down. Farmiga recently played a psychiatrist in Martin Scorsese's "The Departed"; she stars in "Joshua" with Sam Rockwell, a psychological thriller about a new mother and her oldest child, now in theaters.

And what was it like making a film about motherhood, and being in your early 30s?

I'm always thinking about motherhood. I want to be a mother more than anything. And I'm not a mother, but I had a mother. And seven siblings. And each one of us have terrorized and shocked her to the point of hysteria. And I've seen these moments, my mom being very broken because of her children. Or because of her hormonal children. So yes, I think about it.

Anthony Minghella said: "Increasingly, audiences are uncomfortable with any subject that is not aspirational." It seems that you think about projects versus products, of which aspirational marketing is the main sign.

It's such a barbaric world we're creating and living in. I think that every choice I make is with that in mind. How will that choice contribute to the chaos, and how will it maybe not? How can it? I live a pretty humble existence, which makes it possible. And I just want to live in a gentler, more refined world. And I have a simple existence in the country.

You and your compost.

Me and my compost. And my ruminants.

Last August, you appeared on the cover of the New York Times Magazine; the article was about you mostly and about how there are no great roles for emerging serious actresses. What were the repercussions of that?

Really what I heard was that it gave a lot of young actresses some guts. And hope. I heard some stories here and there about how it touched this person and it helped her with perseverance and it's on her nightstand. Any time.

Well, you seem like that person from that article.

God, it's tricky reading an article about yourself. There's just this cringe factor.

People forget that it's hard for actors to look at themselves, because we project such narcissism on them.

That is something I really work hard to negate, to combat, in a profession where it's so much to do with ego and narcissism and image. I fought against [being interviewed for] that article for some time. I was resistant.... [I had never] gotten a job from any magazine article. Or red carpetry. Or partydom.

Are there ways in which other actresses cannot be in competition for a smaller pie but work in cooperation?

It has to be more of a sisterhood if we [want to] see more roles for women. Women producers have to cultivate more projects for women. But I don't encounter that. I have Maggie Gyllenhaal to thank for where I am today. She was on the jury for Sundance the year "Down to the Bone" was there. She really fought for it.

But should actors seize the means of production? Must they all become producers?

Well, if there's a story that they must tell, and no one's telling it, then why not? I think the milkman can become a producer, if it so moves him. The business is a lot of fun and games and free stuff and fame and fortune and working with people and spotlight and glamour -- but the only thing that keeps me in the business is being a messenger for something serious and important.... ["Joshua"] centers around a deviant child -- but is also an opportunity to learn about postpartum psychosis and depression, which is a huge female issue. There's that squabble between Brooke Shields and Tom Cruise. And as I was listening to their fencing about it, I realized this was a major women's health issue that affects 17% of women who give birth a year.

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