Combustible Celluloid

Interview with Claire Danes

Little 'Shop' of Rapport

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

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Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore) and Claire Danes (Romeo + Juliet, Igby Goes Down) co-star as two parts of a love triangle in Shopgirl, a lovely new comedy written by Steve Martin, based on his 2000 novella. The two actors enjoyed working together so much that they continued to appear together while visiting San Francisco and promoting the movie.

Schwartzman, 25, wears a sport coat while Danes, 26, looks dazzling with a head of blond ringlets. They munch on cookies while talking and laughing (mostly laughing) about their experience.

The pair begins by talking about their absent co-star, Steve Martin, whose character completes the movie's love triangle. "He's a serious guy," Danes says, "sensitive and tender and incredibly thoughtful. A little guarded, but he'd be the first to admit to that."

"She got to be his girlfriend, and I only got to work with him as a writer," Schwartzman says, "I never got to act with him. I just pass him [in one scene], and I don't even notice him."

Danes's character, Mirabelle Buttersfield, works at the glove counter at Saks Fifth Avenue, a section that does not receive much foot traffic. She's lonely and depressed until she meets Jeremy (Schwartzman), a kooky font-designer for an amplifier company, as well as the older Ray Porter, a wealthy businessman.

For the role, the actress summoned a restraint for her quiet, almost invisible screen counterpart. "I understood that she was quietly exceptional," she says. "It was a little scary to be so still. I kept having to remind me to do that, to exercise that kind of restraint. I always have this desire to entertain. I understood, too, that she had to undergo a transformation in order to make her evolution remarkable or clear, I had to commit to her inertia. And she's stuck in every way."

Danes was also able to use her character's unusual name as part of her performance. "I've had some great character names so far! Sookie Sapperstein? Maybe those are the two. Those are enough. I'm satisfied with those," she says.

Schwartzman seems rather smitten by his co-star. "Although we spend a lot of time apart in the movie, I feel like we spent a lot of time together. All the stuff where I was alone was done in one day. When we got there together, the first day when I was not working with Claire, I was like, 'I don't know if I can do the character without her.' Because she makes it happen, for some reason. She highlights something inside of me."

October 10, 2005

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