Movieline Magazine - May 1991, Pages 60-64 & 85

Beyond the Pale
Written by Joshua Mooney


Mary Stuart Masterson can't figure out the wine list at the Mondrian Hotel. "These must be prices for a `whole bottle,`" she says. You never know in a place like this, I warn her. "Ha-ha, right," she laughs. She has one of those infectious laughs, or maybe the Heineken and the Liberace clone at the piano are going to my head. I'm beginning to get the feeling that Mary Stuart is fun to be around and, let me assure you, this is not a given with movie actors.

Meanwhile, the hostess pops up every few minutes to make sure we have "everything we need," and keeps eyeing my tape recorder and notebook. "Work with it, work with it!" she exhorts, like a drama coach. I lean across the table after she leaves: Don't you think our hostess is quite obviously --

"An actress? Yeah," agrees Masterson. "I had that sneaking suspicion when we walked in. People who are obviously actresses are always very daunting to me because I never felt like one. I never had head shots taken." Maybe not, but she was in The Stepford Wives when she was seven.

I've noticed Masterson is consistently singled out as a bright presence on screen no matter how dim the film she's in. "I wonder why," she says. "Maybe 'cause I do `really bad movies!`" The flip assessment is delivered with another laugh, but it's pretty accurate. Her last three films especially -- Chances Are, Immediate Family, and Funny About Love -- were -- "Bombs?" she asks, helpfully. That term could also be applied to earlier films like Mr. North, Gardens of Stone, and At Close Range. All this is a testament to just how much impact Masterson had in the single movie she's done that actually got seen -- the John Hughes/Howard Deutch Some Kind of Wonderful. She imbued her tomboy character Drummer Girl with a depth Hughes, who wrote the script, could hardly have been counting on -- in fact, she's the most believable and interesting character in `any` Hughes film.

Though she worked with Hughes, Masterson was never a member of the late, unlamented Brat Pack. As she puts it, "I wasn't part of the package." While her acting peers were holding court at L.A.'s Hard Rock Cafe, she stayed
at home in New York between films, and attended N.Y.U., where she "went through a romantic neo-beatnik-Bob Dylan-blues-coffeeshop-cigarettes-writing poetry till four in the morning-spiritual enlightenment-thing. You know -- you're rich if you have depth of thought, poor if you have material wealth. As if one existed to the exclusion of the other." Masterson says that, in terms of her film choices and everything else, she used to be "incredibly idealistic. Now I'm just optimistic."

At the point where her career was in the difficult teen-to-adult role transition period, Masterson did an optimistic, and, from a Hollywood point of view, rather unambitious thing. She moved to Texas and married her high school sweetheart. She's lived in Austin for a couple of years while her husband George, a Texas native, worked on his MBA. If Hollywood thinks of New York as being off the face of the planet, imagine what it thinks of Texas. "Being in Texas `was` a way of getting away from things," says Masterson. "Being with George at all is a way of not being a part of Hollywood. He and Texas are one and the same. They are what they are, you know? Does that sound really bogus?" No. It does sound like someone who recently married a Texan though. Masterson says she and George will be moving back to New York before long. "I realize that I gotta get back to it, and submit to the fact that I'm an artist... Texas `is` a great place to make movies, though." Because everything's bigger in Texas, right? "Hearts're bigger, too," she drawls.

Masterson talks what I believe they call in Texas a "blue streak," and she's constantly promising to slow down. I tell her it's okay -- I've got plently of tape. I ask her to describe her upcoming film, her comeback, as it were, the romantic comedy Married To It in which she co-stars with Cybill Shepherd, Beau Bridges, and Ron Silver. "`Must` I?" she asks, and laughs. Well, isn't that why she's here in L.A.? "Uh -- yeah. It is! Okay -- Married To It is a comedy/drama directed by Arthur Hiller starring a wonderful, incredible cast. Cybill, of course, I've worked with before," she says. And rolls her eyes. Apparently, her favorite aspect of the film was working with Beau Bridges. "I think Beau is hysterical -- the most wonderful person on the planet. I loved him. I mean, I wanted to adopt him." In other words, see this movie when it comes out next fall, if only to get a load of Beau.

I've run out of tape, but we have another drink anyway. "Why not?" Mary Stuart says. "It's Wednesday night." I have no money, but she says she's got it. It's that big-hearted Texas thing, I figure. She proceeds to tell me that Francis Coppola has a hot tub in his trailer, and then she gives me all the advice I'll need if I ever plan a big Texas wedding -- mostly, what mistakes to avoid. Along those lines, she notices that I've been leering at our hostess, and suggests I get her number. It's a good idea -- married women seem to be full of sage advice for me these days -- but I'm thinking I prefer actresses who aren't quite so obvious.