By Brittany McLaren
HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 6/12/07 - Hollywood has long been obsessed with the fountain of youth, and actress Tea Leoni may have found it.
There is a litany of leading ladies that have struggled to navigate and challenge the industry’s youth-seeking standards and still find challenging roles. At 41 years old, actress Tea Leoni is one of those select few setting her own standards.
Leoni has been married with two children for over 10 years to “X-Files” David Duchovny, one of the hottest sex symbols of the 90s. Leoni, burst onto the scene in 1995’s action flick “Bad Boys.” Her career has successfully spanned genres from comedies like “Fun with Dick and Jane” to blockbusters “Jurassic Park III” and “Deep Impact.” Anchod this month, Leoni adds co-executive producer to her resume, as she both produces and stars in “You Kill Me,” John Dahl’s smart, dark black comedy about a hitman falling in love. A wife, mother, actress, and now producer, Leoni is proving that 40 truly is the new 30.
Ben Kingsley is Frank Falenczyk, an alcoholic mob hitman who, on boss’s orders, moves to San Francisco to join AA and pull himself together. After getting a job at a mortuary, Frank falls in love with Laurel Pearson (Tea Leoni), a relationship soon to be threatened by characters from his mob past.
Although exceedingly talented, some might consider Kingsley a somewhat unlikely romantic lead. Yet the humble Leoni has nothing but praise for her costar, whose acting ability is supported completely by his sex appeal. Says Leoni, “Forget the clothes, forget the facial hair, the persona that he will be playing. He’s a very sexy guy.”
With a low-profile marriage to fellow actor Duchovny, Leoni admits to liking older men. Between laughs, she confesses, “I actually do find older men attractive…my husband is turning 47 in August and I told him – you know it’s alright, you’re almost there. He’ll get really sexy when he’s 50. 60 ought to be hot. Who wants to lay down with a plebian?”
Much like 1997’s “Grosse Pointe Blank,” Leoni understood that “You Kill Me,” as a hitman black romantic comedy, is hardly blockbuster material. Coming onto the project as co-executive producer, she explains, “that a dark comedy in Hollywood is always going to be somewhat of a tough sell to a studio or to a financier or a distributor…we were making this for under four million dollars…and we were afforded a great creative license.”
Despite the dark comic material of a woman falling in love with an alcoholic hitman, Leoni believes audiences have learned to empathize with such seemingly lowlife characters. She likens “You Kill Me” to HBO’s recently ended success “The Sopranos,” where audiences feel for the characters “because it’s designed that way. The purpose isn’t to educate you about the mob, it’s to have you recognize the humanity that’s behind all of it.”
Leoni hopes that viewers will appreciate Laurel’s complexity, who is not suffering from some sort of “moral depravity” in her love for Frank, but rather is complicated and taken aback by his brutal honesty.
At 41 years old and with more than 15 years in the industry under her belt, Leoni has continued to have a thriving, varied acting career in Hollywood, followed up by her recent foray into producing. Leoni is pensive when she thinks about the different circumstances that young actresses today face. She explains, “it was a different world when I entered Hollywood and that was only 20 years ago…your private life, as much as people were even then bemoaning paparazzi, was nothing like it is today. And you did your work and on your spare time you did your thing – there wasn’t this celebutante ridiculousness…I’m glad I got in when I did.” And so are we.
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