Meg Ryan is not interested in talking about an image change, as she stars
in the sexually provocative thriller In the Cut, from Aussie-based
New Zealander Jane Campion. "This is not a conversation I am interested
in, because you [the media] do that. I do not cultivate image, you know,
that is your job," Ryan, says, almost defensively. "I know there
are plenty of people whose job it is supposedly to do that, but I think
an audience sees that, and they see an attempt at cultivation, and it
seems so inauthentic. So my feeling is that I just do not believe in that.
Obviously, the way you see yourself and how other people see you is entirely
different. Everybody has that experience, only mine is weirdly amplified.
I've been assigned an archetype and that's nothing I have raised my hand
to have, although there are worse things to be called than America's Sweetheart,
right?" Ryan may hate talking self-image, but how can it be avoided,
given her track record? "I've made 30 movies, seven of which are
romantic comedies. So breaking out of something, not breaking out of something,
it's just that I feel I'm being asked to react to something that I'm not
really up to speed with, but I do understand the idea of being assigned
Arriving in Toronto for the film's world premiere, Ryan, tightly clad
in a brown leather jacket, her blonde hair looking ruffled, is prepared
to talk about the sex and nudity employed in Campion's adaptation of the
Suzanne Moore novel. Ryan had to fight for the role after Nicole Kidman
pulled out of the controversial project, and if the actress was ever going
to be concerned about the film's sexual content, she didn't care. "It
was kind of a no brainer going ahead with it", Ryan says in a Toronto
hotel room. "I thought something about it was very familiar to me,
about the story, when I read the script." She admits it might have
been a bit scary "but not THAT scary because it is Jane, great people,
I knew I would be in great hands and I think that telling this kind of
story now is something I want to do."
In the psychological thriller, Ryan plays a lonely language teacher who
becomes involved with a sexually aggressive and morally questionable cop,
played by Mark Ruffalo, who in turn is on the trail of a violent serial
killer. As in the Moore novel, the film treats sexuality with great candor,
and perhaps Ryan would not have been as keen to be as sexually raw, had
there been a male director at the helm. "It is just her. Generally,
the way she treats the sexuality in her other movies are cool and interesting
and not exploitive." Ryan says that she "loved the sex scenes
in this movie, because they are really, really not coy, but truly honest."
Ryan wants to downplay the film's sexuality, believing that the film's
sex scenes "are the least shocking thing about the movie; I think
the ideas are really big and beautiful and worth talking about more."
But whether or not In the Cut goes beyond sexuality, it is still a given
that with Meg Ryan baring body and soul for her art, the conversation
steers back towards the sex and nudity. At this year's Toronto Film Festival,
more films dealing with sex have permeated their way into the mainstream.
Is this a new trend? Ryan doesn't think so. " I am not aware of that,
but I know that this one sex is used in such a smart way," she says,
loving how it is sort of 'devolutionary', meaning, "they start out
and they're just fucking, and then it sorts of evolves into a kiss."
Ryan sees the film as "a movie about intimacy, as well as about grief,
sadness, soul connection and about love vs. romance."
Without giving too much away, Ryan says that easily identified with "every
aspect" of her character, perhaps the most complex character the
actress has ever played. "I came to think that she was somebody who
was in a kind of remission, that she has been so disappointed, so heartbroken,
had so much grief, and has all these things that keep her in this kind
of a remission, that shrink her into a little dot inside herself. Then
the story is about how the universe comes in and doesn't allow her soul
to be alone, so I think it's about that kind of love versus romance. That's
how I think the sex works very well in the movie, because it's so not
coy or 'prettified' "
In trying to finally establish if there are any parallels between Meg
Ryan and In the Cut's Franny, there is finally a hint as to why she may
have responded to her with such voracious ferocity. "Franny is not
interested in pleasing anybody. She doesn't care what people think of
her, which is liberating when you get to inhabit that character for a
while." Perhaps the same applies to America's former sweetheart.