“She’s the coolest, isn’t she?” Posey gushes as Sevigny disappears into her downstairs garden apartment.
What looks like wackiness to the untrained eye is actually, in the estimation of a certifiable comic genius like Christopher Guest, the spontaneity that is crucial to the success of his improvised films—the mark of the perfect supporting player, who knows when to yield a scene to other actors and who can just as easily elicit laughs without saying anything at all. “When someone acts like they’re listening and isn’t really listening, that’s what it looks like: ‘Look, hey, I’m listening!’ ” says Guest, whose new movie casts Posey in a film-within-a-film about a family celebrating Purim in Georgia in the forties. “But when she does that, it’s not pushed—she’s actually listening. And, at least for me, it’s just mesmerizing.”
“Parker, you’re driving yourself crazy,” said Richard Linklater. “You don’t want to do it, don’t work.”
And every so often, that spontaneity gets her noticed by the directors of $200 million superhero epics—particularly when such a director seems as blissfully screwball as she is. “When I was young and first hearing the name ‘Parker Posey,’ I just thought it had to be fake,” says Bryan Singer, who cast Posey in Superman Returns as Kitty Kowalski, the gal pal of Kevin Spacey’s villainous Lex Luthor (see David Edelstein’s review). “I didn’t realize she was a person until I started seeing her in the Guest films.” Singer originally conceived of Kitty Kowalski as a traditional gangster’s moll, but after two weeks of shooting with Posey, and cultivating an appreciation for her “hidden intelligence,” he gave her a more redemptive story arc. “I knew that she could make the character more sophisticated but could also inspire a change in the character,” he says. “In another life, she could be Lois Lane.”
She may not be the girl who gets whisked off into the sky by the dashing Brandon Routh, but there’s something equally heroic about Posey’s ability to keep such a relentless schedule without changing her fundamental nature. And at the end of each adventure, she will faithfully return to that part of the city where the manic spirit she personifies is always in need—the Manhattan neighborhood that has defined her, and which, in equal measure, she has come to define for the last five years. “There’s just more mental energy here,” she says. “I’d miss the pop-up-book randomness of it all.”
So saying, she scoops up Gracie and deposits her in her knockoff Louis Vuitton carrying bag (complete with photo-I.D. tag that reads GRACIE POSEY) and declares to her beloved dog, “Let’s go take a bath.” She pauses. “Not together, of course.”