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Claire Danes Articles
Danes is real, but guarded
She'll talk about her work or her dog, but not her relationship.
By Donna Freydkin
USA Today, November 6, 2005
NEW YORK -- Claire Danes is the sort of celebrity who, en route to a breakfast interview, calls to apologize profusely for being a few minutes late and promises she is just blocks away.
She didn't oversleep. Danes had to walk her 7-month-old schnauzer/poodle mix, Ouija, who had a mind of his own about when he needed to be walked.
Her streaked blond hair still wet and her face devoid of makeup, Danes is casual in a gray sweater and black trousers. She's goofy and gracious, albeit guarded.
Danes chortles about the tabloid obsession with Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson's marriage, recounts her dog's behavioral turnaround after his stint at canine boot camp, and says she's trying to get into "Madame Bovary."
But she won't discuss her love life. Yes, she and Billy Crudup, 37, with whom she starred in last year's "Stage Beauty," are still together. And things are going well.
"I used to talk about my personal life all the time. It's the most fun thing to talk about," says Danes, 26, who now opts to keep it under wraps because otherwise "the people in my life are hurt."
She'd rather talk "Shopgirl," which opened Oct. 21 in New York and Los Angeles. Danes plays Mirabelle, an introverted artist who sells gloves at Saks Fifth Avenue.
Older bon vivant Ray (Steve Martin) sends Mirabelle gloves and a handwritten note to ask her out, while slacker Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman) picks her up in a coin laundry. What's the furthest a man has gone to woo Danes?
"I've never dated (casually). Ever. It's kind of weird." says Danes, who was previously involved with musician Ben Lee. "I did have a boyfriend in junior high who was a kleptomaniac. We'd leave stores and he'd come out with something for me."
As for her bare-some sex scene with Martin, 60? "People are alarmed by it, but it's so discreet."
Unlike Mirabelle, Danes -- who started acting at 12 and made her mark as Angela Chase on the short-lived but much-loved series "My So-Called Life" -- has never had a dead-end job. "But I certainly know what it feels like to feel lonely," she says. "I admire her resilience."
Danes had a lot of attention lavished on her at the beginning of her romance with the extremely private Crudup, who had parted ways with Mary-Louise Parker while she was pregnant with his son, William Atticus, now 1. How did Danes cope?
The scrutiny is ".008 percent of what's important and challenging," says Danes, who's rarely seen in public with Crudup.
Her life in Manhattan is ordinary, Danes says. She lives in a downtown loft and rides the subway every day. She goes to the refurbished Museum of Modern Art, shops at the NoLita boutique A Detacher, loves reading Lorrie Moore's "Anagrams" and eats out a lot.
Paparazzi largely leave her alone. But when they do get her, "it's embarrassing, because I'm always wearing the wrong thing. I'm in my North Face jacket, my sweatpants and my huge, ugly gym shoes. But I'm not newsworthy right now, I'm relieved to say."
All her life, says film star Claire Danes, she
has felt an innate sense of loneliness.
"I Needed A Connection That Was Real" (Film actress Claire Danes)
Published: October 2, 2005
By Dotson Rader
'Growing up, I wanted desperately to please, to be a good girl, Claire Danes told me. I wanted acceptance. I still do.At age 15, Danes won fame as the star of ABCs My So-Called Life. Two years later, she received international praise as Juliet, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet, a 1996 hit. She has two romantic comedies out soon: Shopgirl, with Steve Martin, opening this month; and The Family Stone, due Nov. 4.A part of me desired fame because I associated it with love, said Danes, 26. That was a total mistake. Fame doesnt end loneliness.Starting in childhood, Danes said, she felt lonely and anxious. Ive worked hard to come to terms with that. What I needed was a connection to life that was real and lasting. Eventually she would find one, but at a cost. Claire and her brother, Asa, grew up in a loft in downtown Manhattan. Her father, Chris Danes, now 60, was a photographer. Her mother, Carla, 59, was a textile designer. When I was 4, said Danes, my mom ran a toddler school in our home. I shared my space with a lot of tiny people. I didnt really like it. It felt invasive. It was challenging, sharing my mother that way. At about the same time, Claire began suffering delusional incidents. I started seeing scary, demonic creatures, she said. I believed there was a gargoyle who made me assume bizarre positions and stay that way for a long time. Evil creatures would taunt and bully me. I was very afraid. I began to develop obsessive-compulsive behavior. At 6, Claire began treatment with a child therapist and started taking modern dance lessons. Therapy helped calm her fears, and dance freed her body. I took to dance immediately, she said. And that led to my fascination with acting. Claire began acting classes at age 11 and soon was cast in her first movie, Dreams of Love. In 1992, two events changed her life: She was cast as sensitive teen Angela Chase in My So-Called Life. Then she lost her beloved, doting grandparentsGibson Danes, former dean of Yale Universitys School of Art and Architecture, and Ilse Getz, an artist. Claires world was shattered when they died together from carbon monoxide poisoning, a decision resulting from Ilses advanced Alzheimers. Claire was 13.They shared great intimacy, Danes said. They lived in a beautiful house in Connecticut, where I learned to swim. Grandfather sent me birthday poems. My grandmother loved to dance with me...They deeply loved each other. She stammered and began to weep. I adored them.I was speaking with Danes in the penthouse of the Soho Grand Hotel in New York. From its terrace, Claire pointed out streets she knew from childhood. She stood, poised in the sunshinea beautiful woman, with prominent cheekbones below soulful, shimmering eyestalking of her past. Fame seemed to offer protection, she said, and the possibility of deep acceptance. In 2003, she co-starred with Billy Crudup in Stage Beauty, and they fell in love. Crudup walked out on his pregnant girlfriend, actress Mary-Louise Parker, allegedly to be with Danes. A scornful media reaction to their affair followed, but the pair remain together. And Danes said she learned a lesson from the publicity: It can be torturous, she said. But I chose a public role, and its illusory to think that fame immunizes you from rejection. Famous or not, you can still feel invalid and unloved. Now, she said, she values acting even more. Were all on an emotional journey with each other, she said. And the point of acting is to share, to connect. Thats why I act. Acting is the greatest answer to my loneliness that I have found. What about marriage? I asked.
I like the idea of partnering with somebody, she said, smiling. But I dont know if people are meant to be together. You have to have a lot in common, choose well and be really fortunate. Its not like youre sprinkled with fairy dust. You have to believe that love will be there when you need it.
The conquering Danes
By Heather Hodson
November 27, 2004
The day before we meet, Claire Danes had an unusually uplifting encounter with a fan.
"A driver of a garbage truck hollered out, 'You're the best, Claire, you're No. 1!' " she recalls, her dark eyes widening with amusement. "It felt fantastic. And I thought, 'Yes! Yes!' It made my day, it made me feel so good."
The garbage man sticks in her mind because fame, Danes has found, is profoundly disquieting. "It's not really easy to cope with. It can be really abrasive," she says in her soft voice. "I've had people scream out horrible things. It's jarring and hurtful and sometimes I'm ill-prepared for it."
We are sitting in the back bar of New York's fashionable SoHo Grand Hotel, a local haunt of Danes' just a few blocks from the loft she owns. Danes, who grew up in Manhattan's SoHo district and is part of that elite club of neighbourhood children who have become famous (the designer Zac Posen, the actress Julia Stiles; both friends), is the epitome of downtown chic in blue jeans, pastel flip-flops and an exquisite puff-sleeved blouse by the hip New York designer Jayne Mayle.
Cerebral and articulate, she hovers between intimacy and reservation; when the territory becomes too personal, she has a way of drifting off into silence.
This, it must be said, happens a lot, but then her reticence is no doubt fuelled by the bad press she has received over her relationship with Billy Crudup, with whom she co-stars in her latest film, Stage Beauty, to be released next week.
She and Crudup became close during the movie's shoot, and reportedly the 35-year-old actor left his girlfriend of seven years, the 39-year-old actress Mary-Louise Parker, soon after. Parker was pregnant at the time with her and Crudup's first child, a boy whom she gave birth to in January and has named William, after his father.
Crudup is a subject that is strictly off-limits during our interview, yet children are the first thing we talk about because I myself am noticeably about to have one.
"You're pretty preggers!" Danes says, giving my stomach a sideways look, and soon we're talking about two-year-olds and the tyranny of women's biological clocks. Having a family, Danes explains, is something she wants to do, in part because she grew up surrounded by tiny children.
"My Mum ran a toddler school for 10 years, so from the age of four to 14 my house served as a nursery school and the place was just littered with kids," she laughs. "I shared my space with them and so developed relationships with them because of proximity. It was fascinating to observe their habits and behaviour. It was cool, so I'm very keen on the idea."
Recently she found herself discussing egg freezing with a girlfriend. "It's so wild. I was talking to my friend who just turned 30. A lot of her friends who are in their early 30s and wanting to start families are not as fertile as they expected to be. And she's thinking, like, 'Should I freeze my eggs? Is this a rational action?' And we decided it might be. And I was stunned in that moment. It was like, 'How did I go from being an egg to talking about freezing eggs with my friend?' "
The problem is at 26 we don't necessarily meet the right person, I say.
"Right, right!" she says, growing animated.
And men willing to have babies do not grow on trees, I add.
"Right, right, right! And they're certainly not 26 years old! But anyway . . ." She hesitates, then trails off.
One of the reasons Danes brings such an emotional complexity to the characters she plays is that she herself is not straightforward. She grew up in SoHo during its bohemian heyday in the 1980s, before the boutiques and bankers moved in and it began to resemble a shopping mall. Her mother, Carla, an artist from Vermont, and her father, Christopher, an architectural photographer, raised Danes and her older brother, Ada, in a loft, where they used crates for shelves, and the furniture was found on the street and reupholstered and repainted. "It seemed so makeshift and so chaotic to me," Danes remembers. "I just wanted something infinitely more conservative."
Her ultimate fantasy, she says, "was to live in the suburbs, have carpet on the floor, be some member of some country club". At the age of six she entered therapy when she began to see gargoyles in the loft piping. "There was one who chased me around and made me sit in really bizarre positions for half an hour at a time. I really thought I saw them; I had a pretty active imagination," she laughs.
She has been in therapy ever since and finds it a support. "It's a really valuable resource for me and it's been great for self-awareness, hopefully not self-obsession.
I'm fearful that it's an indulgent practice, but it doesn't keep me from doing it."
For all the peculiar pressures of her life, Danes blossomed like a rose under the creative influence of her parents. At the age of four she enrolled in modern-dance classes, and by six was appearing in "very avant-garde, off-off-off-Broadway Lower East Side productions. I didn't really get what was going on but was thrilled to be performing in some way." By 10, she was studying method acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute ("I tried to feel the wind blowing, and all that business"); by 11, she had an agent, and had appeared in her first film, a student production called Dreams of Love in which she played a molested child. "I was really ragingly inspired and was totally guileless and innocent, so didn't know what the consequences were or what the hazards of the industry were, thank goodness."
In 1994, the family moved to Los Angeles when Danes landed the lead in MTV's My So-Called Life, the critically acclaimed teen drama in which she played the world-weary narrator whose cynical reflections made the show cult viewing.
She went on to win critical acclaim for her roles as Beth in Gillian Armstrong's Little Women, and Holly Hunter's daughter in Jodie Foster's Home for the Holidays, and by the time she was 18, she had won a Golden Globe award, an Emmy nomination and widespread praise for her performance as Juliet opposite Leonardo DiCaprio's Romeo in Baz Luhrmann's audacious Romeo + Juliet. This breakthrough role established that she could telegraph fragility, budding sexuality and a rich inner life all at the same time.
"She radiates intelligence and wit; it's in everything about her," says the director Richard Eyre, who determined to cast her in Stage Beauty after seeing her play Meryl Streep's daughter in The Hours, in what he regards as the best performance of the film.
"She shows her feelings very clearly. She has that film actor's great ability of appearing to slow down her thoughts, so that you can follow an emotion across her face, like watching a shadow move across a landscape."
Adapted from the Jeffrey Hatcher play Compleat Female Stage Beauty, Eyre's film tells the story of the celebrated Restoration actor Ned Kynaston (Billy Crudup), a bisexual and cross-dresser who was famous for his exceptional beauty and ability to play the heroines of the English stage.
As Maria, Kynaston's lovestruck dresser who later becomes his professional rival, Danes had a lot to reckon with. "I was intimidated by the material," she says. "It was from another time. I had this period to contend with, it's another culture and accent, and I was playing the first actress of the British stage. Bleuch." She laughs.
"I had to act very badly, and then I had to act very persuasively, and to redefine an entire acting style. I mean, are you kidding?"
What saves the film from slipping into art-house opaqueness is the tangible on-screen chemistry between Crudup and Danes. Eyre says, "They're both very, very intelligent, they're both quick-witted, they're both very accomplished actors. There's nothing in the film that they do that is an accident and so there was just a lot of mutual respect - like when musicians get together, they sort of sniff each other out, essentially to ask, 'Can you play the instrument?' "
At 25, Danes has spent almost half her lifetime working in the movie industry. Young actors are fragile creatures, easily wounded in such a tough old business, but she has avoided the major pitfalls associated with what her mentor, Jodie Foster, calls "the child actor thing". "Claire is very thoughtful and, I would say, compassionate," Eyre says. "She cares about people."
The qualities that make her so compelling to watch as an actress - emotional accessibility, self-awareness, a kind of heightened intelligence - are the same qualities that leave her struggling to deal with carrying a public persona. But she is learning how to carve out more privacy for herself. She will no longer, for example, talk about her ex-boyfriend of seven years, the Australian indie-rock singer Ben Lee. "I really shouldn't get into that, it's too dangerous, too fresh; but we're still friends."
Nor will she discuss losing her grandparents, who chose to die together in a double suicide. "I talked about these things when I was really young and in a really open way and I kind of have a greater awareness now of the impact it has on others. So I have to be more cautious these days.
"I'm learning slowly that sometimes it helps to protect myself and my family by not discussing everything in such a public format."
She doesn't want to live and die in SoHo - "that would be way too provincial" - but for now she's glad to be home. "I did an exercise the other day. I was in a cab and I closed my eyes and I knew where I was going. I know the streets so well." She sighs, then gives a bright smile. "It's really reassuring when my life can be as fractured as it often seems."
- Telegraph Magazine
Stage Beauty opens next week