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Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
for Radio Free Entertainment

August 12, 2008

Amidst her impressive run of studio projects including Deja Vu, Mirrors, Idlewild, and Swing Vote, actress Paula Patton shot a small independent for director Lee Daniels, whose previous producer credits include Monster's Ball, The Woodsman, and Shadowboxer. Currently titled Push--and not to be confused with the action thriller starring Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, and Camilla Belle as youngsters with superhuman abilities--the film is waiting for the chance to hit the festival circuit in the hopes of getting a distributor.

While promoting her horror film Mirrors, Paula took a moment to preview Push. In this interview segment, she talks about the story, and where her script-picking process stands these days.

The Interview

MEDIA: You seem happier now than when we first met you, if that's even possible...

PAULA: Wow. I think [it's because] I've got more money. [laughs] Just kidding.

Do you still have the same kind of excitement about your career now as you did then?

It's funny, to be honest with you. There is a bit of excitement, because you can hardly believe it. One moment, at the beginning, it feels like a fluke and it's never going to happen again. And then you are like, [excitedly] "Wow, I'm back again? I'm doing another press junket? What's happening?" So it's kind of exciting. And so yeah, I think I'm really happy. But that's not to say that there [aren't] a lot of things that you don't expect will happen in your life that are not positive that are tough to get through, do you know? So it comes with its pros and cons.

What other projects do you have in the works?

I have another film called Push. It's directed by Lee Daniels, who also produced. He produced Monster's Ball and The Woodsman, and he directed Shadowboxer. A great filmmaker. It's a really intense drama that will probably go to festival circuit. But it has no release date right now.

When you have a film like this, which may never get proper theatrical distribution, do you follow its progress closely, or just let it go?

You know, I think that it's a mix. One part of you is saying "let it go" because it gives you too much anxiety. Everybody puts a lot of work into every film. Whether you guys think they're bad or good doesn't really matter--people are working really hard. And so when they don't work out or they they don't get seen, it's upsetting, you know? And you try to not get attached to it like that, you try to just go, [casually] "Oh, just let me know what's going on." But the truth is that obviously deep down, you do have a concern, you do want to make sure that it gets out there and gets seen, do you know?

This film has been confused with another movie titled Push, starring Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, and Camilla Belle. What is your Push about?

Well, my Push is about a young girl growing up in Harlem who's 16, already has her second child, who's really just invisible [to] the world, and been allowed to get to eighth grade without even learning how to read or write. And when she goes to her fantasy world, she fantasizes about being on the back of Tom Cruise's car going down the red carpet. Anyways, her last hope at an education is this alternative school where I'm the school teacher. And basically, I teach her how to learn and read and write from the very beginnings, and push her to believe in herself, and push her to realize that anything is possible. And I am a lesbian, I'm dealing with a mother who has sort of ostracized me, and she pushes me to love myself just the way I am.

Was this a situation where you wanted to do research on teaching?

Yeah, definitely. That was a longer research [than for Mirrors]. My mom was a school teacher growing up, so I got that insight, and then I [visited] an alternative school that was similar to the one that I was a school teacher in in the movie. And I would sit in a classroom all the time, and I would watch this teacher, see the students, see what that life was like, which was a blast. I mean, just to be back in high school--in any kind of high school--it's like wild. It was such a great moment. It's one of the best things, I guess, about being an actor--at least a working actor, which doesn't always happen for me! [laughs] Like if you're not working, you're not getting to do it, so...

...you're hanging out at Starbucks.

Yeah, exactly. And you're doing research on Starbucks and unemployment--that's what I tell people. [laughs] But when I do get a job and I do get the blessing and the opportunity to work, it's so great to be able to inhabit different people. That's the truth, is that my own life is kind of boring and dull, and I'm not much to write home about. And it is really lovely to be able to go in and be other people. And not only that--not only are you somebody else--but you are somebody else in a pinnacle of a moment.

Your Mirrors co-star Kiefer Sutherland said that his reaction to a given script might be colored by what's going on in his life on a particular day. How do you approach them?

Wow. Well, I don't think I have as many scripts being thrown at me as Kiefer. I'm sort of like, "Wow, they want me for that? Hold on a second, I'm going to read it today, tomorrow, and the next day and make sure!" Because it's like, it doesn't happen that often. [laughs] And so I can't be that flippant about it, essentially. So no, I really try to think about it, and often times will read a script a couple times, a few times, before I'll go in and meet with the director, so that we can really make sure we're on the same page. Because the longer I'm in this business, the more I understand, the more I know the questions I need to ask. Before I was just like, [gasps excitedly] "Yeah! Whatever! Okay, let's do it!"

Have you turned down anything because you just didn't like how the material was handled, or it because it crossed a line for you, personally?

Yeah, definitely...And it is a funny time to be in that place, because [at one time] I would have taken anything, period. And it's something I don't really feel comfortable talking about, because I think it sounds kind of sh*tty, to be honest with you, for all the people that are working really hard trying to get a job, to be like, [says haughtily] "Oh, no, I didn't do that!" I was in acting class, and I remember you'd just be praying for a commercial, anything. And so I don't want to seem I'm being picky or something like that. No. But certainly, if you've been given a certain opportunity...I kind of liken it to gambling. I'm like, "Well listen, I'm going to take a year, I'm going to try to go for the things I really love. If it doesn't work out, I'll go back to the other stuff."

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