April 1992 | By Michael Kaplan | Interview Magazine
Several days after our first meeting, Robin Wright greets me at the door of the sprawling Mediterranean-style home she shares with Sean Penn and their year-old daughter, Dylan. We talk in the billiards room, where a window looks out on the Pacific Ocean and the only direct light is fixed on the pool table’s green baize.
MICHAEL KAPLAN: What did you think of the movie?
ROBIN WRIGHT: I am so relieved that the innocence of the film is still there. I like that we have a sweet, clear, direct love story. It’s very honest, rather than being one of those formulaic, fictional, God-knows -what approaches.
MK: It must be unnerving to sit down and watch yourself in a finished film for the first time.
RW: It’s like being with the family at Christmas. Everybody’s real excited about opening their presents and they seem to like what they’ve received, but you don’t know what you really think of those gifts until you’ve had a chance to live with them.
MK: Why do you spend a lot of time between projects?
RW: Good roles come along only once or twice a year, and if I can’t get one of them, I’d rather not work. It will probably hurt me, or so I hear, but I don’t care. I can’t sacrifice substance for sustenance. Do a movie you don’t really want to do and you sell yourself out, you get old, you burn out your facets.
MK: What made Tara -the “scandalously” unwed mother you portray in The Playboys- so appealing to you?
RW: I knew that this would be my character’s movie. It would enable me to be free and not be tied down to some director’s tunnel vision. That possibility hit me immediately. Beyond that, I read the part and knew that it would be close to me morally. So I had no hesitation about doing it. On the other hand, for example, I would have a hard time with the notion of playing a whore. [mulls it over] Even though, in a certain sense, playing a hooker would be the ultimate role for me because it would go so far beyond my personal sense of reality.
MK: I hear that Annette Bening was originally cast to play Tara.
RW: She was, but then she backed out of it. I had already auditioned once while I was pregnant. But I didn’t give a very good reading then because it had been close to a year since I had last tried out for anything, and I was real rusty. On the second go-round, however, I convinced them that I’d be able to do the role.
MK: Did the pregnancy hamper your first audition?
RW: Yes. There’s something about being pregnant that imbues you with a total no-bullshit factor. That neon light is constantly on. You’re looking at things on a very pure level, and auditioning to play another person in a movie is not something that you really want to do.
MK: Did you ever consider working with your own daughter, Dylan, on this movie?
RW: They asked me to. First, I laughed hysterically. Then I said, “Are you out of your fucking mind,” I would never put my baby under hot lights even if it is for only twenty seconds at a time and have all these people handling her. Never!
MK: In your two most recent roles (Kathleen in ‘State of Grace’ and Tara in ‘The Playboys’) you portray strong women surrounded by weak men. How appealing is that?
RW: I don’t know if it’s appealing. I don’t think it has so much to do with the men. In fact, I think it would be sick to say that I like being in movies in which the male characters are weak.
MK: Are you as strong and self-protective as your characters?
RW: Yeah. I was just thinking about whether I would have done in 1957 what my character does in The Playboys, as far as keeping the baby and not letting the people in this little town (where they used to have to go to Northern Ireland in order to purchase condoms) push me around. Ask Robin today, sitting here this stool and talking to a writer from Interview, and I say, Yes, I would. But then, I haven’t lived in 1957 with the pressures of religion and society.
MK: Where does your strength come from?
RW: My mother. She’s very strong, and she influenced me a lot. She raised my brother and me without a husband and managed to get us out of Texas. When I was four years old we all got into the car and just kept driving till we hit the ocean. She became very successful selling Mary Kay Cosmetics and always supported the things I wanted to do whether it was going to Japan when I was fifteen years old or trying to become an actress. And believe me, when you just miss getting cast in every John Hughes film, you need the support of your mother!
MK: Following your heart, particularly when the consequences can be dire, seems to be a major theme in The Playboys. What is a difficult choice that you’ve recently made?
RW: Refusing to take my clothes off in this movie. In that sense Hollywood is truly a man’s world, and I refused to do it. Nudity just didn’t seem necessary, and it turned into one of those small fights. Fortunately, I won.
MK: But you did disrobe in State of Grace…
RW: [puts on New York accent] Hey, man, I got to keep my underwear on. They wanted me completely naked. When I got the part, I was told that I would absolutely have to do a love scene. So I said, “O.K., if Sean takes his shirt off, so will I.” Then he did and said, “See, now it’s your turn.” I wasn’t thinking in such literal terms, but that was the deal, so I had to do it. What can I say? I blew it. I didn’t like it. I don’t want to do it again. I’ve since learned to be more specific about my conditions.
MK: Did you and Sean meet on State of Grace?
RW: No. I knew him before. When we read for State of Grace, it was like meeting an old friend. We got to know each other during the filming, but the relationship began after it wrapped. We were both going through our own things with other people at the time. But when we got back to L.A., and after the stress of filming ended, we started spending time together. We always had a kind of familiarity with each other. Unlike the dating syndrome -now we can consummate, now we can’t, now we can- it was always like, Oh, God, there you are. I feel like I’ve known you forever. Now, of course, we have a baby, which was unexpected. It was a great surprise and marked the time for us to move in together. Maybe we will get married eventually. You know, marriage is a spiritual binding and it solidifies things in stone. So there is a positive aspect to it.
MK: Married or not, I assume that one of the negative aspects to the relationship has been dealing with the gossip that seems to dog Sean.
RW: He clued me in what it would be like, and that was a good thing, because I wasn’t prepared to have people talking behind my back and speculating about my private life. The reality slowly hits you in the face, and you’re like, Fuck, this is real. You lose your privacy to these tabloid writers, and that’s the one thing I hate about this town. It’s nobody’s business, but I guess that’s the nature of the beast.
MK: What have you learned from Sean since the two of you began living together?
RW: Sean has brought me out of myself more. He’s helped me learn to be more prescient with my convictions. He’s such an honest person; there’s no bullshit, no sliding. Communication is everything. The connection between us is that we’re both very straightforward.
MK: What about outside of your relationship? Is honesty an asset or a liability in Hollywood?
RW: Both. Depending on the day.