Byline: Daniel Peres
Mary-Louise Parker calls it an epiphany. When the actress turned 30 last August, she decided to change her ways. It’s not that her career was in danger — she stars with Whoopi Goldberg and Drew Barrymore in “Boys on the Side,” which opens Friday, and just finished shooting “Reckless” with Mia Farrow and Scott Glenn. It’s just that she felt herself slipping.
“I had been really obsessive and really unhealthy. I think I’m at an age where I need to slow down and change,” she says as she moves a wooden stirrer through her cappuccino at a Manhattan coffee bar. “I’ve never been a very social person, but I’m even less social now. I spend time with a small group of very close friends.”
As a part of her resolve, Parker quit smoking after a “very long time.” It’s been nine months since she drew on her last cigarette and anything but easy.”I was the type of person that would wake up in the middle of the night and have a cigarette,” she admits. “I still walk behind people that are smoking so I get that cloud of smoke. It’s tough.”
In addition, she has been running, working out and even taking the occasional yoga class. While she says the movie roles she accepts do not necessarily reflect her personal life, it is possible to see a correlation. In “Grand Canyon,” she plays a secretary who has an affair with her boss, has a moment of realization and changes her life. In “Fried Green Tomatoes,” her character leaves her abusive husband for the love and companionship of her best friend. In “Boys on the Side,” once again Parker’s character tries to start a new life, and ultimately cultivates deep friendships with her two newest — and closest — friends.
“I’m attracted to roles that have a full journey, where you actually see what makes someone change,” Parker says.
Her characters also often have an underlying sense of neurosis. “I think we’re all neurotic,” she says. “It’s just how in touch with it you are.”
Now between projects, Parker is at home in New York. Her days are spent running errands, meeting with friends and walking. She’s still undecided about her next project and is simply trying to keep busy until then.
“Idle time is dangerous for me. In the past, I would get myself into trouble when I didn’t have a lot to do. I once had the problem of creating too many relationships when I wasn’t busy. Years ago, I was working a couple of days a week at Kenneth Cole on the Upper West Side, and four guys came in to see me on the same day,” she recalls with a laugh. “My boss came up to me at the end of the day and asked, ‘Just how many boyfriends do you have?”‘ These days Parker is a one-man woman. Her relationship with a man she describes only as a former professional athlete (but whom she declines to identify) is going well. This also represents a change, as nearly all of her relationships have been with actors — including a well-publicized coupling with Timothy Hutton while the two were starring on stage in “Prelude to a Kiss.”
“I’m the happiest now that I’ve ever been,” she says. “But who knows? I’ll probably slip down again. I have epiphanies all the time.”