Force of Nature

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In Human Nature, the new film directed by Michel Gondry and written by Charlie Kaufman, Patricia Arquette plays Lila, a nature writer who seeks exile in the woods because of her copious body hair, only to return to civilization because she gets horny.
In the film, Arquette is everything she has proven herself to be in previous films like Lost Highway, True Romance and Flirting With Disaster: funny and vulnerable and a little unhinged. During this interview, she meditated on the impending Hollywood renaissance and said “pubic hair” seven times in one minute.
Michael Martin

So I think we have to address the pubic wig.
[enthusiastically] Mm-hm!

Specifically, in the scenes where Lila is naked in the forest, you’re wearing one. That was your idea?
Yeah. I thought a lot about Lila’s hair, and her relationship with it. Her hair is basically a character in the movie. She feels safer being naked with hair than later, when she’s hairless. I know there’s a trend now to have this really streamlined, shaven pubic hair. And I thought, Lila won’t have that hair. She’ll have spent so long thinking, God, I wish hair was right on my body, I don’t want a little girl’s pubic hair! I want a woman’s pubic hair! So I figured she had this big triangle bush. And when I got into costume, I was like, “Where’s my pubic hair?” And they said, “We don’t have any pubic hair.” And I said, “I NEED PUBIC HAIR! I MUST HAVE PUBIC HAIR!” So I went to the makeup trailer, got a beard, cut it up and made my own.

Has horniness ever drawn you out of exile?
Yeah, I’m a sexual person. Sexuality is important to me, and the older I get, the less apologetic I am about it. I’ve finally taught myself that it’s not a bad girl thing.

What was the toughest part about being naked for half the movie?
Well, being comfortable in front of everyone, obviously, and knowing the way the Hollywood system works. I did Lost Highway, and all of a sudden they were like, she can’t play this good girl, or she can’t play this homely mom, or she can only play a sexy vixen. So I know any script involving body hair will come to me soon. And I know that this business is motivated, in large part, by who’s sexy now, and body hair is not sexy. So it was kind of a dangerous choice. But I’ve always been kind of brave in that way. I want to have my career on my own terms.

What was involved with the hair suit?
Six hours in makeup, and me freaking out. There were a few pieces that were tied on like a wig, but most of it was human hair glued on to me. And it was, like, a lot of people’s hair. It was disturbing, because I kept thinking, whose hair is on my body, and why did they sell it?

What was Gondry like as a director? His videos are very meticulous; they don’t exactly say “this mind is good with people.”
Acting is actually his priority. He has this visual strength, but in the film, it only comes into play to educate you about a character. Other than that, his priority was just us feeling comfortable as actors. It was great to work with a director who was, like, I don’t want you to work out. I want you to not work out! And I want you to have real breasts and I think that’s beautiful and that’s what I want to see in the world! That’s a real statement in itself.

Did you relate to Lila’s freakishness in any way?
I did. I always felt like if I was taller or shorter or smaller or younger or less honest or more honest or whatever, than I should have love. Or if I was just true. But it never seemed to be enough. And I certainly have body issues. I’ve always felt apologetic for the way I looked.

The scene where Lila shaves herself bald, she has these cuts running down her face, and then she throws herself at Tim Robbins — it’s frightening.
Yeah. With your lover, little by little, you make a silent agreement about who you’re supposed to be in their eyes. And the minute they discover something that doesn’t fit into their concept of you, their love is reneged. And then you’re like, I don’t have me, and I don’t have your love for me anymore. I don’t have anything. It’s like a drowning person flailing. I loved that, and I’ve never read that in a script before.

How does Gondry compare to David Lynch? I ask because they both develop these intricately imagined nightmare worlds — David in his films, Michel in his videos, the “Knives Out” video specifically.
They’re very different. Michel has an essential optimism, and he wanted to make sure there wasn’t a sarcastic quality to the movie. David directs like nobody I’ve ever met. He would direct some scenes while listening to music in one headphone. In Lost Highway, while we were shooting the scenes between Bill Pullman and myself early in the movie in the apartment, Lynch would say, take more time . . . more time . . . more time. He’s more of a somnambulist, he wanted to create this dreaminess. Of all the great directors I’ve worked with, what’s great about their vision is that you can’t compare them. It’s like they speak different languages.

In your next film you play a stripper?
It’s a movie with Billy Bob Thornton that takes place in this world of transsexuals. It’s a really important story for me, because one of my brothers does drag shows. He’s really informed me and helped me be more open and accepting. And I wanted to play a part that encourages this openness and takes away some fear.

I feel like there’s been a stale time in this business, but some really great things are starting to happen, and I’m really excited about them. And I feel excited about myself. Like I’m finally capable of doing great work.

What’s behind the renaissance?
A lot of it has to do with the video generation. A lot of young filmmakers got their start making very short films — they were telling stories and had to be creative because they had low budgets. These are not the people the school system celebrates; these are the people who don’t quite fit into that system. So it’s great to see them getting older and people starting to say, “Oh, these videos are making a lot of money for these bands, so maybe we’ll give them some money to tell stories.”

To read the Nerve Interview with Human Nature screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, click here.

For the official Human Nature website, click here.

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