Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Saturday, April 23, 2005

Mortimer not mortified

The Independent
April 22, 2005
John Hiscock

Emily Mortimer has built a reputation in Hollywood as a daring actress, willing to try most things at least once, particularly if they are unusual, controversial or both.

Last year, her advisers stepped in with a firm admonition. It was time, they said, for her to stop taking her clothes off in arty, low-budget films, no matter how worthy, and to make the transition to the big time. She should co-star in a major Hollywood comedy. The British actress acquiesced and duly signed on the dotted line; but instead of delivering witty dialogue in a sophisticated comedy, she found herself in a seemingly endless series of sexually provocative scenes, most of them involving close encounters with Steve Martin.

'It was much more outrageous than anything I had done previously but I had a complete ball,' she recalled with a fetching giggle. 'It was a totally different thing for me.'

The film is The Pink Panther, a 'prequel' to the 1964 Blake Edwards comedy classic, which starred Peter Sellers and David Niven and introduced the bumbling Inspector Clouseau to the world. The new version, which will be released in the United Kingdom in the autumn, features Martin in the Sellers role with Kevin Kline as the long-suffering Chief Inspector Dreyfus, originally played by Herbert Lom.

Emily Mortimer is Nicole, Clouseau's very French, very perky and completely inept secretary, a role that she enjoyed greatly once she overcame her initial reservations and threw herself wholeheartedly into it. 'I had done a number of quite risquZ independent movies and had got quite used to taking my clothes off and being smothered in custard and things,' she laughs, 'and the people who represented me decided it would be a good idea if I did this big, safe Hollywood comedy. But about half way through the filming I realised I ended up in practically every scene with my legs wrapped around Steve Martin's face.

'It's very broad physical comedy which I was really nervous about because there's something mortifying about trying to be funny on screen and not managing it. Being naked is something you can't really do anything about " there you are and you're not good or bad and that's fine " but telling a joke that no one laughs at is just soul-destroying.

'Steve Martin is a comic genius whose mind is phenomenal and works faster than anyone else's I've ever met. All my scenes are with him and, whenever Clouseau and Nicole are in a room together, complete chaos ensues and we end up in all sorts of compromising positions which are, of course, completely innocent but look terrible.'

'In the end I just thought I've got to stop worrying about this because it's like playing tennis against someone who's about five million times better than you. You just hope that by being the same room as them, your game is raised a bit, so I managed to get over my nerves and had a great time doing it.'



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