When most people think of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, they think TV.
Defying the odds for most comediennes in the industry—aside from maybe Lucille Ball—Louis-Dreyfus has had three monstrously successful television shows since she began her career on Saturday Night Live back in 1982.
Ironically enough, it’s that very success that’s effectively kept her fans from also enjoying her work on movie screens. “For many years I was doing different TV series that were time-consuming.” She reveals when she sits down to chat with us at a roundtable interview during the Toronto International Film Festival. “I had my two kids during the run of Seinfeld and the idea of going off on my hiatus to make a film was not something I could do emotionally. So I didn’t, much to my agent’s chagrin.”
Her schedule has, miraculously, eased up a bit over the last few years, enabling the actress to look at widening the scope of her career: “Now I’m doing Veep which is 10 episodes a year and I have one son in college. My calendar opened up in such a way that allowed the time to make a movie. And there was this great script that I was crazy about.”
That script is Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said, which recently celebrated its premiere at TIFF (“I’ve been bitten by the Festival bug.” Says the actress “I like everyone trying hard to make good art.”). The film acts as Louis-Dreyfus’ first romantic lead, a role she happily took on after spending years admiring Holofcener’s films. “I’m a big fan of her prior work. Her voice is a very character-driven, quirky, raw, authentic, small-about-big-things voice and I love it. It just speaks to me.”
In the film, Louis-Dreyfus plays Eva, a divorced masseuse faced with the fact that her daughter is about to leave home for college. In attempting to assuage her impending loneliness, Eva embarks on a romance with another soon-to-be empty nester named Albert (James Gandolfini) while also unknowingly striking up a friendship with Albert’s bitter ex-wife (Catherine Keener) – a fact she keeps secret from both parties once the coincidence becomes evident.
It was a role that the actress was eager to take on for many reasons, including the fact that on some level, she could completely relate to Eva’s mindset. “That part of a parent’s life is very much on my mind. I lived it recently with my older son going off to college and so I read that moment in the script and understood how the dread of the impending departure of her daughter sort of fuels this horrible thing that Eva does.” She explains. “She’s hijacked by her own emotional life without even knowing it. It turns her into this deceitful person. I understood how that moment in a parent’s life could do such a thing.”
“Her fear of loneliness and separation was so overpowering that she lost a sense of herself.” Says the actress, delving a bit deeper into her character’s psyche. “I think it’s interesting that’s she a massage therapist because she’s out there massaging people, nurturing people but who’s nurturing her? Nobody.”