When they get around to carving Mount Rushmore-like busts into the mountains surrounding Park City, the smirking face of Parker Posey is sure to have a prime location. The actress is a Sundance favorite, winning an acting award for The House of Yes in 1997, and serving as a member of the 2010 jury that honored Winter’s Bone and Restrepo. This year, she plays a monstrous boss — think if her Dazed & Confused character grew up and went corporate — in Price Check, and on Thursday night, she joined Joseph Gordon-Levitt on stage and gave his Hit RECord at the Movies show her Indie Queen endorsement: “I like what you’re doing,” she said. “It’s very independent. I approve.”
So it seems appropriate that Posey will host tonight’s Sundance awards ceremony. The actress sat down — literally on a tiger-striped rug in front of a roaring fire — to share her plans for tonight’s show, which will be live-streamed at Sundance.org, and her thoughts on the evolving — or is it devolving? — state of American cinema.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve been to about seven Sundance festivals and were a member of the jury in 2010. How did it feel to be asked to host tonight’s awards ceremonies?
PARKER POSEY: I’m really excited about hosting because it’s a big deal. These filmmakers have worked their whole lives, getting their movies financed and having them here. So it’s already a finish line. It’s already an achievement that you get the Sundance stamp. But you know the filmmakers, they’re still like, “It’s a competition and I want to win!”
What should we expect tonight?
I think people just want the ceremony to move quickly and have fun. It’s not going to be like the Golden Globes or the Oscars, I promise you. No jokes. I mean, these are filmmakers that have spent their lives working to get their movies to Sundance. They’re not celebrities to make fun of. So I’m just going to do something very easy, so everyone can just see if they win. I have a song and I’m going to do something silly — because they’re making me — and then I’m going to read something, and then everyone can just party.
Will you play an instrument, perhaps a mandolin, while you sing?
Yeah, I might.
Just like A Mighty Wind, one of my favorites?
Isn’t that the best? In the New Main Street Singers, there was a warm-up vocal exercise that Jane Lynch and John Michael Higgins made up that didn’t make it into the movie, where we all stood in a circle and placed our hands in front of each other’s genitals and then sang the colors of the rainbow: “Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet!” It was harmonizing while our hands were on each other’s genitals. Silly. Silly. I love those people.
You also have a film here this year called Price Check, in which you play a manipulative boss who steamrolls anyone who gets in her way.
She is a monster, and I loved being able to portray something that I think is happening in our culture — this kind of power struggle between men and women. What does a powerful woman look like? How can that person who is so monstrous, so seductive, and so chaotic manipulate all these people? That said, I love Susan and I think she’s a great boss. It’s complicated.
At one of the screening panels, you said, “I don’t ask to be liked in my movies” and Susan is tough to love. Is that a confidence you’ve always had, or is that something you kind of had to develop.
But you know, those people liked me. I don’t think they liked Susan but I think they liked me. My desire to expose something and to portray something that I feel I don’t see represented in movies takes over my insecurity when I’m working. I work, and then I suffer the exposure of being judged.
You feel that?
Of course. The talk about movies in our culture, I feel like we’re missing the point. I think we need to be more French. But I think being an actor is incredibly exposing, and it does get personal. And I think that’s why actors who don’t know each other smile at each other when they see each other. I mean, the cool ones do.
You first came to Sundance in 1995 with Party Girl. Where do you see the festival going in the future?
It’s going to keep growing. It’s going to keep evolving. The form is changing. We’re in the beginning of a change in our culture, a change from the [big] screen to the iPhone and the computer.
You recently mentioned the early 1980s as a time when movies seemed to try harder. What’s changed?
The movies just stopped being about grownups, and [more recently] people stopped going to theaters. I think the computer changed so much. Reality shows changed a lot in our culture. The tabloid media changed how people look at actors and, hence, how they look at movies, which is not to have that much respect for them.
I agree that reality entertainment has played a role. Fame in itself now seems like an attainable goal for average viewers, and they have become much more resentful of actual actors and actresses who they now consider rivals.
It’s something I think about and I talk about it a lot with my friends. Because I see that [movies have] lost their mystique, and I had nothing to do with that. I have no control over what has happened around movies, something that I think has value in our culture. Something in the right hands that can cure, and inspire, and open people’s minds, and entertain them. It’s become something else now, right. I don’t know. I hate to be bleak, though it is kind of fun.