Parker Posey says it was “terrifying” doing her first Christopher Guest-directed films, Waiting for Guffman (1996) and Best in Show (2000), since the mostly improvised mockumentaries barely contained any written dialogue for the actors. Such a statement is surprising to hear given that Parker has played so many characters oozing with confidence, no matter how flighty, artsy, or stuffy they otherwise were.
The 47-year-old actress, who was born in Baltimore and raised in Louisiana and Mississippi, became known as the “Queen of the Indies” in the 1990s for her roles in art-house favorites like Party Girl (1995), Kicking and Screaming (1995), The Daytrippers (1996), and The House of Yes (1997). During that era Parker often spoke about the desire to break out of the Sundance niche, and eventually crossed over into mainstream blockbusters like You’ve Got Mail (1998), Blade: Trinity (2004), and Superman Returns (2006).
Some of her most celebrated work, however, has come ad-libbing her way through absurd situations with Guest and company. The new Netflix original movie Mascots marks Posey’s fifth Guest film; she also appeared in 2003’s A Mighty Wind and 2006’s For Your Consideration. In her latest, Posey takes her Southern drawl for a whirl as Cindi Babineaux, a hip-hop-dancing performance artist who mascots as an armadillo for the Amelia Earhart College for Women’s basketball team and who makes the cut for a national competition for mascots held annually in Anaheim, California.
In our latest episode of Role Recall (watch above), Parker tells us about the makings of the films that have landed her big cheers. Some highlights:
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Parker was a regular on the soap opera As the World Turns — her first credited project — when she shot Richard Linklater’s seminal ’70s coming-of-age film. The actress was so taken with Matthew McConaughey, who played the townie creeper Wooderson, that she asked Linklater if she could be in a scene with him. Next thing she knew, “McConaughey slaps me on the ass.” (In the scene, that is.)
Party Girl (1995)
The actress scored her first major lead role as Mary, the hard-living, stylish Manhattanite forced to take a job as a librarian in this low-budget comedy. It felt of the moment for Parker, who enjoyed the New York club scene at the time, even if it was exhausting. “The party scenes were easily like 18 hour days,” she said. “And I remember me and Liev Schreiber and [costume designer] Michael Clancy sleeping on the cot together, just [trying] to steal an in-between nap.”
Waiting for Guffman (1996)
You can thank Lorne Michaels for introducing Posey and Guest. Saturday Night Live‘s head honcho recommended the actress, who had appeared in the 1993 SNL spinoff Coneheads, to the Guffman director and his producing partner. They then met when Posey went from New York to Los Angeles to audition for a recurring role on the TV show Murphy Brown. She didn’t get Brown, but she got a lifetime of Guest work. “I was devastated on the last day, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’ll never see these people again. I’ll never see [Guest’s character] Corky [St. Clair],” she said. “I was sobbing in a van.” Of course, there’d be plenty of reunions, like…
Best in Show (2000)
“When I did Guffman, it was terrifying. I didn’t know what to say. I started talking, and it just came out. And it was the same with this,” Posey said of reteaming with Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard, and friends in Best of Show, arguably their most beloved film together. “In most movies, the director likes to have a lot of control. In this one, Chris really trusted that the chemistry and the harmony with all the characters would naturally play out.”
Mascots, in which Guest reprises the role of Corky St. Clair, is now streaming on Netflix.