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Piper Perabo keeps on plugging

The 'Imagine Me & You' star rebounds from her fair share of flops with a Brit rom-com
Sunday, February 05, 2006

Piper Perabo has come a long way from Toms River, N.J.

It hasn't exactly been a rocket-like ascent for the 29-year-old actress, who after six years of making movies finds herself on only the middle rung of the ladder all Hollywood actresses must climb.

In her breakthrough role -- in 2000's "Coyote Ugly" -- she played a young wannabe songwriter, nicknamed Jersey, who moves to Manhattan to make it big. Not exactly a stretch.

Perhaps her best screen performance to date came in 2002's "Slap Her ... She's French," a film that, uh, was never released.

And Perabo's most notable film accomplishment last year was a starring role in "The Cave," a schlocky horror flick dumped into theaters at the tail end of summer. She also suffered through last month's "Cheaper By the Dozen 2."

But the actress continues to work, steadily, and sunnily refuses to trash any of her past movies. As for "Cheaper By the Dozen 2," Perabo insists that it's always worth it to work with Steve Martin, regardless of the project. And "The Cave" introduced her to the British actress Lena Headey.

Perabo and Headey are back together for the film "Imagine Me & You," a romantic comedy with a lesbian angle, and Perabo believes their previous work experience together has paid dividends.

"It helps," she said during a recent interview with her co-star in a Midtown Manhattan hotel room. She turned to Headey.

"Don't you think it helps?"

"No," said Headey.

"I wanted to do some good acting with Lena."

"Imagine Me & You," currently playing in Manhattan, is an "odd man out" picture, as Perabo's character, newly married, leaves her husband ("Match Point's" Matthew Goode) for a woman, the florist at their wedding, played by Headey.


But on the film's set Perabo was something of an odd woman out. "Imagine" is a product of the U.K., helmed by a British director (Ol Parker) and shot in London with British actors -- and Piper Perabo, of Toms River, N.J.

The actress wasn't Parker's first choice, for one very simple reason -- her American accent.

"I saw her movies, and thought she was funny and spunky and gorgeous, but I think when people do accents in movies it becomes all about the accent and the effort at perfecting it kind of neuters everything else good and vivacious about the performance," said the director.

"She is effortlessly vivacious and charming, and I didn't want to see that restricted."

Perabo, however, was extremely persistent in expressing interest in the part, and Parker eventually gave in. But she appreciated the risk he was taking.

"I hate when I see anyone doing an accent and it's inconsistent. I find it distracting and laughable, so it was frightening to do this," said the actress.

"If you (mess) it up in a British film when they could've cast any number of genius British actresses you look like an (idiot)," she said.

"I was very aware of trying to be as prepared as I possibly could be by the first day of shooting so that I could try to just set that all down."

"Piper did a great job with the accent, really and truly," said Goode. "Sometimes you get sort of a posh wash and it's a bit one-note. She took the edge off it."


"Imagine Me & You" marks Perabo's second experience playing a lesbian, following 2001's "Lost and Delirious."

"I've just been very lucky that I've found two really well-written characters, and I didn't care who they were sleeping with. They happened to be lesbians," said Perabo.

"I think what's great and progressive about this film is that there's no hemming and hawing about whether this makes her gay, is she a lesbian, what does this mean? I think maybe we're past that initial thing and we can just get on to the love of people, you know what I mean?"

To Headey, the film is concerned with something else.

"I think the film more than anything is about timing, and how we have absolutely no control over anything," said the actress.

"You can't take anything for granted for a second or you trip up. That's why it's so gorgeous, I think."


"Imagine Me & You" is different from most Hollywood movies about romantic triangles because there's no villain or unsympathetic character, which Parker, who also wrote the film, actually regrets.

"It was a terrible decision, it made it much harder," he said.

"The reason that Bill Pullman is a doofus (in "Sleepless in Seattle") is so that Meg Ryan can go to Tom Hanks and you don't worry about Bill Pullman. That works great for those movies, and I thought I would not do that."

He didn't, and the result is a love story that's rawer than most.

"I think love can be a terrible thing," said Perabo. "When you're young and still figuring it out you break some hearts until you figure out who you are and what's important to you."

Perabo, it turns out, can be as philosophical about love as she can be about trying to make it in Hollywood.

"I guess there are people who fell in love just once and stayed with that person their whole life," she said, "but they're a lucky few, man."

Todd Hill is the film critic for the Staten Island Advance and may be reached at hill@siadvance.com.


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