PARK CITY, Utah — For Sundance newbie Lucy Liu, the first time is a charm. “I couldn’t ask for a better experience,” the actress says. Of course, sitting in a freezing basement bar with a leaky ceiling isn’t exactly glamorous, but, according to Liu, it’s all good. At least she has a fur-trimmed North Face parka and suede Coach boots to keep her warm. Her film, “Lucky Number Slevin,” which premiered Friday night to rave reviews, was scooped up by The Weinstein Co. after it was shot and before it was selected for the festival, so the result was “a totally relaxed, indie set and a lot less stress here,” she says. “I’ve made indie films that have never seen the light of day. I’ve never even seen them. They’re probably collecting dust on a shelf somewhere in someone’s grandmother’s basement.”
That’s certainly not the case with “Slevin,” which hits theaters in March. In it, Liu stars opposite Bruce Willis, Sir Ben Kingsley and Josh Hartnett, who is her on-screen love interest. Playing Lindsay, an inquisitive coroner who gets caught up in a mobster murder scheme, was freeing for Liu, who says she loved the “child-like, almost naive quality that Lindsay had. She wasn’t afraid to say what was on her mind, even if it was something a normal person would never say.” Indeed, the whip-smart script is full of lightning-quick banter, much of which was rewritten once the cast was assembled and their natural chemistry began to develop. “I had major rewrites on my script,” Liu says. “It went from a couple of lines of dialogue to page-long monologues about everything from borrowing a cup of sugar to penises.” She’s referring to Hartnett’s member, which Lindsay, not viewers, gets a glimpse of in her first scene. “We had so much fun working together; there was just an instant comfort level,” she says.
It looks to be a big year for the N.Y.U. and University of Michigan-educated Liu, who will appear in two other films this year — the comedy “The Cleaner” and the horror thriller “Rise” — plus work on three more that were just announced. “I like constantly learning and growing,” she says. “I haven’t been bored in about 20 years.”