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What's up?
by George Spencer (ID - May, 1997)

Thanks to Romeo & Juliet, cute, keen and squeaky clean Claire Danes has shot from teen soap starlet to fully-fledged star. George Spencer Talks to Hollywood's hottest 17 year-old.

When did you first come across Shakespeare?

I'd studied As you like it in high school. Before that, I thought Shakespeare was reserved for the special elite and I wasn't part of that club. But my teacher was great and she really helped me tackle it. I wrote a couple of papers on it and once I'd figured out what Shakespeare was really about and what he was saying and how profound his ideas were and what a grasp he had on human nature, I was just overwhelmed.

Were you familiar with Romeo and Juliet?

I hadn't read it before I was offered this role. To study Shakespeare and to act in it are two different things. You would presume to do it would be one of the hardest things but actually, it turned out to be one of the easiest because he was such a good writer. He creates such well drawn out characters that there are no loopholes and it's not like you have to go home and fill in the blanks and do tedious homework in order for the words to make sense. It's all their on the page.

Do you think this generation will venture out to see Shakespeare?

I would see it because of Leonardo. He's one of my favourite actors regardless of age. But I saw the film last week with a friend and he was so excited by it. He was really turned on and I was really pleased. I had no clue if it was good or not because I was so attached to it but when we walked out of the theatre, he just said it was so cool'. He felt it was hip, accessible and had a great soundtrack.

Do you personally believe in love at first sight?

Well, I'm a bit of a romantic so I do. People just have a chemistry sometimes that is inexplicable. I mean, there's no rhyme or reason for love and there's no way of rationalising it. I've found myself trying to talk myself into adoring somebody and the feelings just aren't there and it's really frustrating because I want them to be. It's such an amazing high when you're infatuated with someone and you really do love them. I was recently doing a movie with Lena Olin and she asked if I would rather be completely in love with a person or have them completely in love with me - that is, if it couldn't be reciprocated. I said I'd rather have someone completely in love with me. I've been on the other end and it's just not fun. As high as the high is, the low is just so low.

So has love at first sight happened to you?

I think it did happen to me but I don't know if it was love or lust. You may have an idea of who somebody is then you realise they have so many dimensions that you would never realise or expect.

I take it then that you can't see yourself going to the extreme that Juliet did?

I don't think on the same level as her. For me as an actress, I had to find a way to understand why Juliet would go to such an extreme for love.

And why is that?

I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that she is miserable in her own life and was virtually abused by her parents. Because she was abandoned and neglected, Romeo is a breath of fresh air and she got to be her own person and free and loose with him. For that to be threatened was the worst thing for her, a point of no return. Not that I condone suicide by any means. The most important thing is just to keep going; it's just a known fact that people go bonkers when they are in love.

Where is Claire right now in terms of love?

I broke up with my first boyfriend about half a year ago, and it took another six months to really truly break up. I'm sort of seeing someone now but it's not too heavy and I'm happy to have it that way. I don't want anything too serious right now.

Are you a jealous person?

I have the capacity to be very jealous. It's such an exhausting feeling and nothing good comes from it but it's there. You have to deal with it.

I'm sure you've had your share of guys infatuated with you.

Yeah. I've been getting a lot of presents which is really nice. Somebody gave me this ring with Claire' on it - I wear it all the time.

Do you know who sent you the ring?

No. My mum wanted me to write back and thank him but I thought that might be a bit weird. I found out he also sent a ring to Alicia Silverstone, though!

Do you feel like a kid in an adult world?

I just like sitting back and not having the pressure be completely on me; knowing that whatever I do, I'll get away with it a little more than I will in ten years time. that's kind of a luxury. I still mess up once in a while when no-one is watching.

Steven Spielberg is quoted as calling you one of the best young actresses to emerge in the last ten years. What did that mean to you?

Well, I love to act, but I'm also very insecure, convinced that people will find out what I'm about and realise it's been a lie for the past ten years. I've talked with other actors who are well established and whose work I completely admire and they feel the same way. It's good to know that we're all in the same boat.

Originally transcribed by: Mike Toms

© ID 1997