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Hope Davis dishes on stage, her fear of flying -- and playing Hillary Clinton

THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

August 02, 2009|Choire Sicha

Hope Davis was just nominated for an Emmy for her work on "In Treatment." She is on her way to England to play Hillary Clinton in "The Special Relationship," written by Peter Morgan ("The Queen") for HBO. Most of this year, she has appeared on Broadway in "God of Carnage," for which she was nominated for a Tony; we met in her adorable dressing room, with a little hot plate and some terrific drawings by her kids.

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You are giving up the life of the F train, or what have you, for the Tube!

In a couple of weeks. I feel very nervous about it. It's a challenge. Maybe the biggest challenge I've ever had. Well, coming back to the theater -- but playing Hillary Clinton, I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton! And this is over the Lewinsky years. I'm not sleeping well, I'll say that. Yes.

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That was an amazing time.

It was an amazing time. And now that we look back on that time and think about how much breath we all wasted -- not me personally -- but you know, God, who cares? But obviously it's a point that is going to be gone over in the story and we want to do it justice, but who knows what was said behind closed doors, right?

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It's always tricky with fictionalized nonfiction.

It's really tricky. It's one thing when you're playing someone really hateful. But I think Hillary Clinton is one of the most amazing women of this time. I don't know her and I don't know -- should I call her? I'm sure she's busy. But I know they know this movie's being made. And I just want to call and say: Do you have any thoughts or feelings I should be aware of? Of course I can't make that call. I feel like saying, 'I'm going to play you in this movie and I have a lot of respect for you and is there anything you want me to say?'

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You have sort of the journalist's angst. You want to be fair --

But you also want to be entertaining. So there's that, but there's what would have really been said in those moments. Which is really, really keeping me up at night.

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So there's Drew Barrymore in "Grey Gardens," Laura Dern in "Recount" -- and now the pressure's on.

Oh, thank you. God! As if I didn't know that. I feel it. I care. I care a lot? Wouldn't you feel. . . . Put yourself in my shoes: I want to do a good job. I want her to be OK when she sees it. She's been through a lot, this woman.

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She broke her elbow!

She's still going! Can't slow her down.

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I have to ask: Emmy nomination versus Tony nomination, on a scale?

I don't know, God, it's overwhelming in a way. But the Tony thing was in the middle of it, it's New York, it's my hometown, it was very, very exciting. The Emmy thing feels a little more abstract, it's done, it's aired already, and it's out in L.A., which means I have to get on a plane, which is not something I do easily.

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Oh! Are you a non-flier? Why? What have you done about it?

I always step on the plane with my right foot and touch the outside of the plane with my left hand. Sometimes you know there's someone standing there to welcome you to the plane and I have to kind of get them to move a little bit so I can put my hand on the outside of the plane. It's not a natural thing to be up in the sky in a little metal tube. My father was a pilot, my father who's long gone, he was a pilot of small planes, so we'd travel to family gatherings, Thanksgiving, glug glug glug glug glug, get back in the plane, fly back to New Jersey with my mother. It wasn't a good thing. I think my fear came early. So you know, honestly, the first thing that goes through your mind when you've been nominated for an Emmy is: You have to fly to L.A.

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I'm sorry, uh, you have to go to London! How do you feel about that?

How do you think I feel? Why do you think I'm not sleeping at night?

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Um. Klonopin?

Who's going to watch the children? My husband sleeps on planes. Completely relaxed. What's there to be scared of? It's the safest way to travel, they keep saying to me. I'm sure it's going to end up sounding like I'm completely neurotic. I'm actually just a little overwhelmed at this point. I'm actually better when I'm flying with my children. I think, well, if we go, we go!

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I love that you're in panic about it.

You know what I have noticed? And this is really sad. Flying first class is less scary than flying coach. They speak to you and they're so nice to you and they want to help you and they know you want a drink before the plane takes off. And they bring it to you without asking. If you're sitting in coach and hoping for a drink, good luck.

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I'm sorry. This has gotten ugly and dark.

I'm feeling really nervous now. It's OK, I can blow it all off on stage. I could use it! Performance No. 172!

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