Parker Posey on Her Nude Scene in ‘Beau Is Afraid’ and the Industry Boys’ Club

"When I work, it’s my job to be in the story," the actor told Jezebel in an interview about intimacy coordinators, waiting to be chosen by directors, and more.

Parker Posey on Her Nude Scene in ‘Beau Is Afraid’ and the Industry Boys’ Club
Photo:Kayla Oaddams (Getty Images)

There’s something refreshing about Parker Posey’s open bidding for work. The actor, whose name became synonymous with the indie-movie boom of the mid-‘90s, wrote openly about feeling behind the curve in her 2018 memoir You’re on an Airplane, as she watched the movie industry change rapidly before her eyes: “Stories of characters were swept under the rug in favor of caricatures and stereotypes. I was feeling swept under the rug, too… It was difficult not to become jaded and feel left out when romantic comedies became bromantic franchises.”

Though she’s had memorable turns recently in shows like The Staircase and Search Party, there is a distinct sense of her being “just happy to be here” when she is, in fact, present. So was the case, apparently, for her brief time on the set of Ari Aster’s Beau Is Afraid, whose third act she features in prominently as the love interest of Beau (Joaquin Phoenix). Posey said she shot for two or three days and relished her time on the set, where she bonded with Patti LuPone. (This piece was originally intended to be a moderated conversation between Posey and LuPone, though Posey ended up not being able to Zoom in because she was in Mississippi taking care of her mother, who underwent heart surgery last year.)

When we caught up the following day, Posey put forth a breezy conversational style as she drove to meet up with some people in a park (apropos of nothing, she noted when she had passed a Lincoln Continental—“Oh, my God. It’s actually a convertible”). She was dryly funny but also serious about wanting more work than she’s getting, sometimes in the same sentence, like when she jokingly wondered aloud, “Why does Toni Collette get all my parts? She’s not even from America.”

We shot the shit about Beau, the state of her career, the rumors that she’s rejoining the Scream franchise, and her willingness to play a crone for Marvel. “I have had the kind of career that, for whatever reason, and I don’t really understand it, but where I have to be chosen by these guys, and I have to be the only choice,” she told me. “Despite being in all those indie movies in the ‘90s.” At least she’s still got her sense of humor. An edited and condensed transcript of our conversation is below.

JEZEBEL: You said in your book that you don’t like horror movies. Had you seen any Ari Aster movies before you signed onto Beau Is Afraid?

PARKER POSEY: I don’t like horror movies that go in just to provoke and that aren’t entertaining. You know, like those really bloody movies that are just kind of like a Halloween haunted house experience, which I’ve been to once and I’m still traumatized from. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of those.

I have, yes.

It was like Children of the Corn. They made all these cornstalks and then they come and say hi to you out of nowhere in the bushes. And you’re just like, “That’s not cool.” But then the kids there are like 16 and they’re like, “I’m not scared.” They’re used to it because they’ve been playing video games and they’re seeing horror films their whole lives, you know? I am too sensitive for that kind of play. But I would never turn off The Shining. I would never. It’s the scariest movie ever, but I would always watch it.

I saw Ari’s movie [Hereditary] first on an airplane, and then I went home and I watched it again. I was like, “This is the real deal. This is a real visionary.” Why does Toni Collette get all my parts? She’s not even from America.

She can do the accent, though.

What witches brew is she stirring up that I can’t? Anyway, I just thought that movie showed us a new voice in filmmaking. In the movie business, there aren’t a lot of auteur voices that are supported. I’ve seen it over the years. Someone makes a great first movie and then they’re like, “How am I going to make my second one?” Many times they’re not given the opportunity. And then what if your second one isn’t great and you don’t get a chance to do it again because they’re onto the next new young person? You know, we love the new in our culture. So I think Ari’s really smart about it. It was a Zoom meeting when I met him, and I said, “The only thing I didn’t like about Hereditary was that I wasn’t in it.” [Laughs] And it was just so nice. We talked for like an hour and he said, “I want you for this, Joaquin wants you for this.” And I’m like, “You know, I love working with the real deals. Of course, I’ll do it.” He goes, “Well, wait a minute. Let’s have you read it first.”

We just had a great Zoom call. I have had the kind of career that, for whatever reason, and I don’t really understand it, but where I have to be chosen by these guys, and I have to be the only choice. I don’t really get in there unless…you know, it’s rare. Despite being in all those indie movies in the ‘90s. It’s like, I know how to play ball. And I love it and I’ve got experience. I love going into someone else’s vision.

So you’re effectively swimming upstream at this point?

It’s just my path. I’m not complaining about it. It’s not in my doing.

So I read [the script] and I’m like, “Who would do this and who could do this?” I was like, “This is so outrageous.” But I found it really moving, in a way. And, you know, I had to get a life cast over my whole body, which is like sitting for two hours with mold all over my body.

“The culture’s just changed. It’ll always be a boys’

And you have only tiny little holes for your nostrils to breathe out of?


That would make me claustrophobic. That’s scary.

You know, whenever you go into some kind of unknown and you’re offered that opportunity, you just have to take it. I think this is like soulful, deep stuff that you learn from, you grow from. At my age [54] to be like, “Oh, okay, now I’m doing this?” [Laughs and then coughs.] I feel like I’m 30 all the time, and I think I’m going to feel in my mid-30s for a while. But then, you know, your body catches up to you. Everyone’s knees hurt now because they were walking around barefoot during covid. But we’re not solely of the body. And it was an interesting meditation to prep for [Beau Is Afraid] while playing Freda Black [in The Staircase] in Atlanta with Antonio Campos directing, who’s a friend of Ari’s. So everything felt in its right place.

But I’ll say it was very edgy going into it, which I think is always a good sign. I think I only [shot for] two days, but I came three days earlier to settle. Oh, and I changed hotels like three times. I could tell immediately it was like a strange kind of land to be in. I was just happy. It’s like what I told Ari in the Zoom meeting, I was happy to be chosen to play this little part. Because it’s so competitive out there and it just feels like there’s so many people involved in the decisions. As a woman, it’s just a whole other game.

Do you think it’s gotten worse or better in terms of opportunities and the roles?

You know what, I don’t know, because things seem so… We have a lot of genre in the superhero realm right now. Like Patti [LuPone], I wonder. Patti’s having a great time at Marvel, right? [In the upcoming Marvel show Agatha: Coven of Chaos.]

We didn’t talk about that, the Agatha project, but she’s in it, so that seems fun.

It’s a different kind of work for an actor. It’s just a different thing. The culture’s just changed. It’ll always be a boys’ club. We just now have the misogyny conversation going on. But it will always be that. Do you remember those movies in the ‘80s and, you know, like Jessica Lange or Sally Field? Dustin Hoffman. I miss those. Broadcast News. You know, that were kind of dramas and comedies. Or what they call now “dramedies.”

Posey in “The Staircase” Image:HBO

Movies for adults.

Also known as movies for adults. So it’s interesting, right? The placement of women when you’re making movies that aren’t movies for adults. I enjoy those parts. I’m happy to be a witch or a crone or, you know, a dark mother figure. That’s all fun.

There’s been rumors that you might return to the Scream franchise. Have you heard that? Is that true at all?

I started that rumor. I just finished a play like a year ago, but we closed last weekend, and we did an interview with the playwright Thomas Bradshaw at WNYC Radio. The radio host said, “Well, it just so happens we have some other guests here and they would like to say hi.” And then it was the whole Scream crew, the producers and the writers of the last one. I was bummed when I was shooting [Scream 3] that I had to die. So the pitch back then is still kind of the same: “Really, Wes, bring me back.” There’s, you know, another dimension to reality, and me and everyone else who’s dead can, I don’t know, haunt everyone who is alive. I don’t know!

I’m happy to be a witch or a crone or, you know, a dark mother figure. That’s all fun.

People seem to love these movies and when they’re entertaining and full of, like, wit and energy, great. Why not? That was really fun, because Wes [Craven] really let me do a lot of silly stuff. And I was really excited about that, because it was fun and everyone was nice and sweet and, and yeah, the lunches were incredible. It was one of those jobs where people are like, “Why don’t we break for lunch?” Those haven’t come around a lot for me, but it was a great experience.

I’m curious about filming the nude scene in Beau—how that was for you and if you’ve seen an evolution in the age of intimacy coordinators. You’ve been topless on screen before. Is there any difference between being so now and, say, in Sleep with Me?

I mean, it was very congenial. We were shooting at night, so I… That’s kind of your homework, I guess, because I have heard these conversations about intimacy coordinators. But, you know, they’re just kind of…they’re around. For me, it can’t be a distraction and it can’t be something where I’m like, “What are they doing here?” So it went very smoothly and I’m glad.

You know, I’ll be able to process that and then I’ll write about it. Everyone has a lot that goes on inside, and I think an actor’s life is compelling and interesting. It’s a lot to go through these things. I’m just happy I can express it and work on the story of Freda and Elaine in this chapter, which includes, you know, my mother’s heart surgery, it includes the play I just did. I’m in like a story world. It’s not as simple as what was. The question about the difference is not really something I know a lot about, because I haven’t done a lot of nudity. And also I just can say when I work, it’s my job to be in the story.

Got it.

How about that for a quote?

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin