Movie audiences who have only seen Piper Perabo in films such as The Prestige, Cheaper By the Dozen and Coyote Ugly have missed the young actor in two of her best movies—Lost and Delirious and Imagine Me & You, the lesbian-themed indies that have garnered Perabo a devoted LGBT following. Now, Perabo ( who was named after actress Piper Laurie ) co-stars with another LGBT audience favorite, Guy Pearce ( from The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert ) , in the psychological thriller First Snow.
In the film Perabo plays Deirdre, the longtime live-in girlfriend of Jimmy ( Pearce ) , a cocky salesman whose life spirals out of control after encountering a fortune-teller. Shot in barren New Mexico, Perabo brings much to a character who can't do much more than offer support for a situation that she doesn't understand.
Perabo, who lives in New York, enthusiastically talked at length about her work on First Snow and how her performances in lesbian-themed pictures have elevated her credibility as an actor in the business.
Windy City Times: When I told my publisher and editor that I was going to be talking with you, the whole office—and all these lesbian girls—started screaming 'Piper! Piper!' [ Laughs ]
Piper Perabo: [ Laughs ] I should come to Chicago more often!
WCT: You gotta come here, girl. Anyway, I think First Snow had this really cool, eerie Hichcockian feel to it, which I'm sure you're hearing that as you do press for this. What draws you to a part like Deirdre?
PP: There were a couple of things. I had heard about these two writers, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, and I was really interested to read their script. When I read it, I didn't think they would cast me because she's a little tougher and dryer and keeps her cards closer to her vest than characters that I usually play. It was something that I really wanted to try. Then I heard Guy Pearce was attached, and I'm a big fan of his.
WCT: She doesn't say a whole lot but you can see the concern in her eyes over what Jimmy [ Pearce's character ] is going through. Are you a fortune-telling type or more like, 'I don't want to know?'
PP: I'm more in the camp of 'I don't want to know.' For me, this movie is a perfect ad for 'Don't go to fortune-tellers' because they plant that little splinter in your brain and it can really start to affect you.
WCT: Right. Can you just talk for a minute about working with Guy Pearce? Was it a little daunting to work with him?
PP: He's such an interesting and compelling actor, so it was really challenging. He lives in Australia so you never see him in the tabloids, and it's hard to know what he's going to be like. But it was so much fun.
There really was a lot of discussion about the script and the place and I think you can feel that New Mexico is really a character in the film. I think a lot of that comes from discussion from Guy with the writers. Listening to him talk about those kinds of things and working on scenes with him was just amazing.
WCT: New Mexico really does seem like another character in the film.
PP: It's funny, right?
WCT: It really is. What was your reaction when you went out there to film?
PP: I had never been to New Mexico. It's so awe-inspiring and majestic, but at the same time it makes you feel really small. It's the perfect background for a story like this, I think.
WCT: For anybody keeping score you have now kissed Hugh Jackman, Guy Pearce and Lena Headey [ Perabo laughs ] —all major gay heartthrobs. So who was the best smoocher?
PP: Wow, they're all really good [ Giggles ] . Guy has sort of the best mouth of them all but Hugh had just finished reshoots for X-Men when we did our scenes so he was in his, sort of, Wolverine form—
WCT: And what a form!
PP: Yes, and what a form! [ Laughs ] And Lena Headey is so beautiful and now she's had all that success with 300. I think it's going to be a much longer line to kiss her these days.
WCT: Well, maybe that will also encourage some people to go take another look at Imagine Me & You, which was the sweetest comedy.
PP: Thank you; it's one of my favorites.
WCT: Has the fact that you've done these two lesbian films caused any backlash for you or, rather, made you a more interesting person to cast?
PP: You mean in my life or in my work?
WCT: Well let's do both. Work first.
PP: In work, it's been nothing but positive—the effect of both those films. People have said that to me in the past, 'Do you worry about playing gay characters?' or 'Does it worry you to do these films?' Many people saw Coyote Ugly [ and ] that's great—but, in fact, Lost and Delirious is really the reason I get to meet a lot of interesting directors. That film is so beautiful. It opened a lot of doors for me.
WCT: Has it affected your personal life? Has there been more scrutiny because you've done these two lesbian films?
PP: No. Not at all really. People ask me if I'm gay but I don't know; I don't consider that scrutiny [ Laughs ] . I think that's a flattering question.
WCT: Oh good, good. You've got that 'who cares; comme ci, comme ca' attitude. We love that.
PP: Well, yeah, who cares and why are you asking?
WCT: Right. And that said, are you eventually going to do a big budget, lesbian comedy-drama-action blockbuster?
PP: [ Laughs, tongue-in-cheek ] I'm looking for that big-budget lesbian action comedy! I haven't read a script that I think is funny enough yet. I'm looking for it. Hopefully, Jerry Bruckheimer will back me up on this one.
WCT: Is there a career path for you or is it whatever part that comes up that's interesting?
PP: It's really whatever part that comes up that's interesting. When I read a script I just want to be open and aware to see if it's a story that I think I can tell well. Having a path is just something that's never been the way that I work.
WCT: It's probably also great to be on the forefront—to tell some of these kinds of stories that we really haven't seen before.
PP: Well, going back to Lost and Delirious, one of the things that was so exciting was that the character was such a hero. I think that was partly because the script was written by a woman and also directed by a woman. There are not a lot of young women hero characters and it's funny to me that in the lesbian scripts that I've read, there are women heroes. I think in real life there are female heroes all the time and that's not reflected in films. One of the things that appealed to me immediately about that story was the aspect of a hero.