Even Jacqueline Bisset couldn’t pass up an opportunity to meet cultural icon Sarah Jessica Parker.
“I said yes because it was her, and I thought it’d be fun to meet her, having watched her so much on television,” says Bisset of taking her role in “Here and Now.” The upbeat 74-year-old actress was concluding a full day of press for the new drama, which stars and was produced by Parker. But first, Bisset needs a piece of chocolate. Rifling through a glass jar of candy options in a suite at the Essex Hotel, she ultimately settles on a small Cadbury.
The adage that you should never meet your heroes didn’t ring true in this case. “She’s very warm, very friendly, very welcoming — perfect,” Bisset says of her costar.
In the film, Bisset plays Parker’s “overbearing” mother; although it is a smaller role, Bisset enjoyed playing around with the idea of a “bad” mom. “I love playing bad mothers, actually — or supposedly she’s a bad mother, because she has a life of her own and she’s selfish. But it makes for a funny character,” she says of her part. “It amused me that she was so oblivious with what was going on with her daughter. She gets it in the end, that she’s not welcome, so she gets a bit huffy. That makes me laugh, too.”
The film, which takes place over the course of a day after its protagonist receives a troubling medical diagnosis, was directed by first-time feature filmmaker Fabien Constant, who Bisset gave rave reviews. “He was very nice, he’s a nice guy — seemed to be happy to be doing it, and was very smooth,” she says. “I was having fun…even if the person is totally established, you never know what’s going to happen. You could hit them on a good day or on a bad day.”
Bisset, who these days seems to take a happy-go-lucky approach to her career after becoming a screen icon in the Seventies, lives in L.A. and was heading to Europe the next day to begin filming her next two film projects. Despite her decades in the industry — or perhaps because of — she seeks out roles that offer her something new to play with, characters that feel more 3-D to her than “cookie cutter,” and, most importantly, projects that don’t make her yawn. Not surprisingly, she’s attracted to independent filmmaking and specifically projects that explore interpersonal dynamics.
“I never really liked the big machine [of Hollywood]. I did quite a bit of that when I started acting, and I’ve gotten in and out of it, but the last time I was on the set of a big [film] I really felt like it was a machine: all these people and all these caravans and all these caterers,” she says. “It runs very beautifully in America. But I love the intimacy of film, and the films I like are usually independent. That’s always been my taste, the individual, one-off stuff,” she adds. “Unfortunately, one gets paid virtually nothing, but that’s what happens.”
First up next is the tentatively titled “Very Valentine,” which will see her playing the part of an Italian grandmother running a struggling handmade shoe company; the other project, “Loren and Rose,” has her playing a part a little closer to home — that of an iconic actress working with a young director. She met that film’s director, Russell Brown, through Christopher Münch, who directed her in “The Sleepy Time Gal” and which Bisset describes as one of her favorite projects. Bisset will also appear in Michael Caton-Jones’ “Asher,” being released this December.
The actress has a busy few months ahead for another reason, too; she’s a voting member of the Academy. “I’m so behind,” she says of watching the fall awards-season releases. “I haven’t been here; I’ve been away in Europe. I’m going to have, when I go back Christmastime, mountains of DVDs [to watch],” she continues, as she decides to make herself a cup of tea and looks through the room’s tea offerings. “The whole thing is such a big job, there are so many. I was actually planning to not work for this period and just really enjoy the whole screenings and stuff in L.A., but this came up and I thought, ‘Well, OK.’ It’s hard to find good work, so when you get it you should go and do it.”
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