Gina Gershon: Everyone’s Darlin’
Showgirls is infamous for a lot of things. It killed any chance Elizabeth Berkley had of being a movie star. It also put dents in the careers of Kyle MacLachlan, Joe Eszterhas and Paul Verhoeven. They only person who came out smelling like a rose was Gina Gershon who knew just how to vamp up her performance. Showgirls didn’t make Gershon a household name, but it put her on the map which lead to parts in movies like Bound and Face/Off. In this profile from the July 1997 issue of Movieline, Gershon describes what it’s like to kiss costar Nicolas Cage.
Here’s the thing about Gina Gershon: everyone I know seems to want her. If they’re guys, they comment endlessly on that mouth. If they’re girls, they love to imitate her character Cristal, the dissing diva from Showgirls. And if they’re girls who like girls, they have her poster from Bound on their ceilings. No matter how out-there Gershon’s roles get, Hollywood keeps wanting her, too. After gaining a small cult following with Showgirls (Rocky Horror-esque Showgirls parties are thrown on both coasts), she’s landing role after role–among them, the John Travolta-Nicolas Cage thriller Face/Off, and two indies, Prague Duet and This World, Then the Fireworks.
DENNIS HENSLEY: Do people come up to you all the time and recite Cristal’s trademark, “Hey darlin'”?
GINA GERSHON: Literally yesterday I was walking out from my facial and I hear, “Hey, darlin’.” I look over and it’s Sandra Bernhard. She goes, “Hi, we don’t know each other, but I just like to imitate you from Showgirls because I really loved it.” And she went on and on.
Q: You seem to have fun with the role–and to be the only one of the cast in on the joke.
A: I thought, “OK, if drag queens imitate me on Halloween, then I’m successful.” I had the fun part, no doubt. I mean, how often do you get to play someone bigger-than-life like that? I’m actually a bit of a drag queen myself, and I used to live with one in Boston.
Q: Did you give each other makeup tips?
A: My makeup tip was, “Stay the fuck out of my makeup,” because he wouldn’t put anything away.
Q: Do you think your career would be where it is now if you hadn’t done Showgirls?
A: I don’t know. I was a working actress, but Showgirls took me to the next level. I got Bound while I was doing it. They wanted me no matter what, but having some name value helped. I think, though, that I would eventually have gotten there no matter what.
Q: How does it feel to be a gay icon, thanks to your role in Bound?
A: Fabulous. I feel like a professional lesbian. Listen, it’s nice to be loved, and women are so much more outspoken than men. Tom Cruise, Elvis, the Beatles–they all know what it’s like to have women screaming at them, and now I do, too. You can see why all these actors get screwed up because women are just like, “I’ll do anything for you.”
Q: Did you learn anything about yourself while playing a lesbian?
A: It prepared me to be able to have a relationship. I played a woman who is not trusting, but who eventually opens her heart and allows herself to fall in love. After the movie I thought, “I bet I’m going to fall in love now,” and I did.
Q: OK, dish.
A: He’s a restaurant owner named Sean [Macpherson]. We actually went out before Bound, then broke up for a while, then got back together.
Q: Do you prefer doing a love scene with a man or a woman?
A: A woman–I’m just more comfortable, and I can be really candid, like, “Oh, this looks better this way.” With a guy I wouldn’t say anything like that. I don’t know why. You don’t get beard-burn, either. I kiss Nic Cage in Face/Off, and he’s a macho guy. He’s like Fred Flintstone. After the twentieth take you’re like, “My face is raw. Can you go shave?”
Q: What’s your character like in Face/Off?
A: I’m obsessed with Nic’s character, even though I haven’t seen him in five years. He comes back into my life and wreaks havoc and then I become a machine-gun mama.
Q: So you get in on the action?
A: If you’re in a John Woo movie, you might as well. I prefer doing that to being a helpless female.
Q: You also have two indies coming out in the fall. What are they about?
A: Prague Duet is kind of my first real adult love story. I play a child psychologist visiting Prague who falls for a Czech man [Rade Serbedzija] at a convention.
Q: What? No whips or feathered boas?
A: Well, in This World, Then the Fireworks I play a psychotic killer who has an incestuous relationship with her brother [Billy Zane].
Q: Getting back to basics, I see. What were you teased about when you were a kid?
A: My mouth. My brother called me Bucky Beaver because I had a big overbite and buck teeth, and the kids would call me Fish Lips.
Q: But everyone in the free world loves your mouth.
A: It’s a perfect anecdote of how things that torment you are later probably your greatest strengths. But when I read about my “sexy overbite” I still cringe. I turn into an eight-year-old trying to defend myself against my brother.
Q: If your current success had happened when you were starting out, how would you have handled it?
A: I wouldn’t have. At this point I know not to put too much credit into what people say. If I hear another time, “Oh, this is your big thing, this is going to do it for you,” I’ll say, “We’ll see.” I’ve heard this three times already. If it doesn’t happen, what’s the difference? You just keep going.
Dennis Hensley interviewed Julianna Margulies for the April ’97 issue of Movieline.