Award-winning actress Patricia Clarkson has played characters ranging from Elliott Ness's wife in the 1987 The Untouchables to the Vicodin-addicted Aunt Sarah on the HBO series Six Feet Under. A native of New Orleans, she now lives in New York. WebMD the Magazine caught up with her over the summer and asked her about the loves in her life: acting, Manhattan, healthy food, what she describes as some "remarkable" men, and her latest movie.
You've acted in Shutter Island, Vicky Cristina Barcelona,and Six Feet Under. Most recently, you play a magazine editor who flies to Cairo to meet her husband only to fall into a brief love affair with his personal body guard in Cairo Time, by Toronto director Ruba Nadda. As a woman who's never married, how much did you relate to your character?
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I've certainly had extraordinary relationships with remarkable men in my life and I value each and every one of them. But I don't know if I've ever had anything that mirrors the affair in the film. I don't think I've ever fallen for a boyfriend's friend. But, the night is young!
Do you like your character in this film?
Oh, she's a beautiful, lovely character. She's kind of a woman I would like to be. She's very different than I am. She's a very quiet, spare, insular woman and … I'm more gregarious than Juliette. I'm a more demonstrative person. But that's the beauty of this character -- that it's not me. And that's what I love about acting. I like becoming someone else.
You've won dozens of awards, including two Emmys, and you were nominated for an Oscar in 2004. Is acting therapeutic to you?
Absolutely. I mean, it's rigorous. I do a lot of intense, emotional parts, but they are oddly invigorating. [Acting] fills me with great joy and it fills me with great joy to work.
What disease or condition would you most like to see eradicated in your lifetime and why?
Cancer. You can't be alive today and not know somebody who's suffered cancer. And hopefully they've survived it, but lots of people don't. I think it would be a miracle.
What's the one thing concerning your health you wish you'd done as a child?
I probably shouldn't have been in the sun so much as a child. I realize that now. I grew up in New Orleans. I grew up in the water, I went to camp. I never used sunscreen as a child.
What's your best health habit? Your worst?
Eating breakfast religiously. It's so good for the body and I never, ever, ever go without breakfast. Ever. I can't function without breakfast. [It's usually] organic cereals and rice milk. Sometimes oatmeal. [My worst is] French fries. I dip them in mayonnaise. And bourbon! I try to eat and drink both in moderation. But, you know.