AMANDA PEET--A GIRL WHO'S
BEST WHEN SHE'S BAAAAD!
My interview with Amanda
Peet, whose "Whipped" took something of a whipping from
the critics, was originally published in The New York Daily News
on August 31, 2000. I found her refreshing and appealingly ambitious.
buzz on Amanda Peet began earlier this year with the mob comedy
"The Whole Nine Yards," in which the 28-year-old New York
native upstaged Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry as a ditsy dental
assistant whose heart is set on becoming a hit woman.
Tomorrow, with the opening of "Whipped," that buzz could
swell to a roar. In the raunchy comedy, Peet plays a cagey, deceptively
docile Manhattan swinger who succeeds in taking the swagger out
of four macho buddies. Audiences watching Peet stoke the libidos
and deflate the egos of these cocky dudes and then share
the ludicrous details of their sexual inadequacies with her girlfriends
over lunch may find it one of the meanest, merriest delights
of the movie season.
In real life, the girl with the amazing blue eyes and playful smile
is also seductive, but about as far from Mia, the flaky femme fatale
of "Whipped," as silk is from leather. "I think anyone
as strategizing and deranged as Mia should be institutionalized,"
says Peet. Wearing white chinos, sneakers and a flowery hand-me-down
blouse, the slender, clean-scrubbed, 5-foot-6 Peet looks like an
exceptionally pretty tomboy and much younger than her 28
On some level, Peet's disapproval of Mia's pseudo-feminist tactics
might be explained by the fact that she fell in love with Brian
Van Holt, the 30-year-old hunk who plays one of the saps she zaps
in "Whipped." The couple now share an apartment in Los
Angeles, close to where Peet toils on her WB series "Jack &
Jill," and where she recently completed the feature "Saving
"Silverman" is a dark comedy co-starring Jack Black, Steve
Zahn and Jason Biggs. In this one, Peet's character is really bad
news, she says, with evident pleasure. "Jason plays a total
sucker, really in love with me, but Jack and Steve don't want him
to be suckered into marrying me. So they kidnap me and tell Jason
Is this girl at least redeemable at the end?
"What are you thinking?" Peet responds. "You
know there's no character arc for women in movies. I'm bad, and
With the exception of a small but standout turn as Jennifer Aniston's
kid sister in the 1996 romantic comedy "She's the One,"
most of the characters Peet has portrayed on film are unknown to
"I think Whipped was my 13th independent film,"
she says. "You're always hearing stories about people who do
an indie that goes to Sundance, gets everyone their money back and
you become famous overnight. But somehow, I managed to do 12 indies
that never made it to the video store, to the Quad or even to the
Buffalo Film Festival."
Clearly, the sail to stardom has not been smooth for Peet, a dutiful
Jewish daughter who lived in London with her family for four years,
attended Manhattan Friends High School ("I'm a Quaker Jew
a little bit Quaker, a little bit Jew") and majored in history
at Columbia. From the beginning, her parents (a lawyer and a social
worker who divorced in 1990) frowned on her dream of a life in the
theater. "Acting was kind of taboo in my family," she
says. "It was something too intangible, too tied up with charisma
and presence, not really a meritocracy. To my mother, acting was
tantamount to modeling."
When she was 14, Peet says, she told her mom she wanted to become
a model, and her mother anxiously asked, "Don't you know what
happens to people who rely on their looks?"
But both of her parents were excited when she was accepted to study
acting with Uta Hagen. "Finally, the stamp of approval,"
The actor singled out for Peet's personal seal of
approval is Paul Newman. "That man is so brilliant, and he
just keeps trying to learn more about his craft," she says
admiringly. "He came to the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven
to see The Country Club, a play in which I was naked.
So Paul Newman saw me naked for four whole minutes!"
How did it feel to be nude on stage?
"It felt very liberating, except for the day my father came
to see the play," Peet recalls. "I went to the man in
the box office and told him to give my father a seat in the very
back row, in a corner, on the opposite side of where I was to take
off my dress. Even so, I said my lines quickly that day and got
right back into my dress."
And what did her father have to say about all this?
"He didn't say much."
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