Claire Danes: Cinema's hippest teen eases from Shakespeare to French Revolution epic Les Misérables...
If Claire Danes had any manners, she would be at least try to seem a tiny bit messed up. Consider this Hollywood-brat-in the making biography: raised in a loft in New York's trendy SoHo district by artsy parents, announces her intention to be an actress at the tender age of six, by ten, she's studying Method at Lee Strasberg, by 11 she's got an agent. Turns down a soap opera a year later because it isn't serious enough and, after some episodic television roles, she's cast as the lead in TV's teenage angst celebration, My So-Called Life. She's all 13. And has since been taking advice from pals Jodie Foster (to attend Yale) and Winona Ryder (what to wear to premieres).
Attention Claire Danes: if you're not going to have the decency to go into rehab, you're going to spoil the image of young Hollywood. But no, she has to be different. No breast implants. No weight gain. No huge parental rift. Instead, Danes is self-assuredly old before her time, a fact concealed, at first, by her bleached-blonde locks and casual grunge-chic wardrobe.
At any rate, Claire does just fine acting out for a living-at 19, she recieved acclaim from such respected directors as Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg and Jane Campion. And yet, because she's a teenager who's more excited about excited about the prospect of going to college than working with Liam Neeson (in Les Misérables), she's quick to brush it off.
"I'm always nervous when it comes to working on a new movie. Absolutely petrified. I think, this is the one movie where I'm going to fall completely flat on my face. This is the one where I'm going to be exposed and everybody's going to realise how clueless I am..."
Having portrayed dying heroines (in Little Women, Romeo and Juliet), an abused spouse-turned-killer (The Rainmaker) and a Thai prison inmate (Brokedown Palace), the prospect of lightening up appeals to her now. She almost turned down the chance to play Cosette in Les Misérables for the opportunity to let loose.
"It was my first year in high school, and I was feeling kind of frivolous. They called it Senior-itis. As a graduation gets closer, you become more flip and irreverent about reponsibilities."
All this led her to The Mod Squad (based on a 60s TV kid cop caper).
"I was just in the mood to do something fun and cool. I though, it shoots in L.A., it's sunny, there will be barbecues on the weekend. I know that sounds silly, but I was sort of worn out doing dramatic thing."
At the moment, though, the most important thing for Danes is to get real. Have a so-called life.
"As an actor, you just remove yourself from reality completely for three months, and then when it's all over, you're left with few friends who are really angry because you haven't called, and a dusty home that's been neglected. That's utterly depressing. So my goal now is to integrate my life into my work. I try to adapt to the various changes that have occured in my life and evolve, but it does become quite scary sometimes. Some people feel a little claustrophobic when fame hits, but you have to take it as it comes. It's really important not to be afraid of people. That's to damaging."
But it's not all a big sob story.
"The perks are lovely, you know. It's really great to have sucess and money because suddenly you have all these choices. You can say, 'I'm curious about Italy - lets go there this summer.' You get an incredible amount of access to so much"
Danes is grown-up enough to cite John Turturro as her ideal leading man, and sound off Leonardo DiCaprio as if she was his older sister-but she's young enough to be mortified about what she said on stage at the MTV Movie Award.
"I made the most embarrassing worst speech in the universe. Now I don't want to be nominated for anything, because I don't want to run the risk of digging myself into as big of a hole again. If I go this year, it will be a paper bag over my head"
And what of the future for this mature young star?
"I'm mature, I guess. People say so. I've spent a good amount of time goofing around and being reckless, I think-I just don't tell you about it, my publicist would yell at me! For now, I'm just feeling things out. That's the way I've lived my life so far, and my intuition has led me into some good places."
Originally transcribed by: Rachelle Unreich
© Empire Magazine 1998