Her fame has faded in the decade since she became an instant celebrity as a legwarmered welder in Flashdance, but Jennifer Beals has been keeping busy. The big-budget bomb The Bride (with costar Sting in 1985) and a career slowdown to get her degree in American studies at Yale cooled her star, but Beals has recently reestablished herself as a working actress. Married to indie filmmaker Alexandre Rockwell (she costarred in his 1992 movie, In the Soup), Beals, 29, has been paying the bills by doing schlocky TV (the short-lived ’92 CBS soap 2000 Malibu Road; the thriller Night Owl, airing Aug. 19 on Lifetime) while honing her technique in arty films by such auteurs as Samuel Fuller, Claude Chabrol, and Alan Rudolph, whose Mrs. Parker and the Roundtable she is currently shooting in Canada. ”I love making independent films,” Beals says. ”People are much more motivated by their hearts than their bank accounts.” Over lunch in Manhattan, where she lives in the funky East Village, she looked back on the past 10 years:
Is it true that 4,000 actresses read for the lead in Flashdance?
Yeah, I guess so, but what fool was back there counting? It sounds like an awfully even number to me, you know?
How did you get the role?
They wanted me to do a screen test in L.A. I read the script and there was all this nudity. Adrian Lyne [the director] tried to convince me that it would be very tasteful. I was like, ”No offense, buddy, but I don’t know you, so how can I trust your taste?” We agreed on a body double. I went out to L.A., and there were all these other women there — it was like a slumber party. We all read with Kevin Costner (the part eventually went to Michael Nouri). I didn’t remember that. [Costner] told me later.
How did your life change after the film came out?
I’d get famous actors from L.A. calling me up saying, ”Oh, it’s so wonderful that your film is doing better in its third weekend than it did in its second.” I was like, ”Did you invest in the movie?”
Were you disappointed by The Bride‘s reception?
My agent was much more concerned than I was. I was back in school, more concerned about what classes I was going to take.
How did it feel when In the Soup won at the Sundance Film Festival?
Like winning The Price Is Right. None of us expected it because it was a comedy, and usually it seems the winners are politically correct dramatic films.
Were you disappointed that the film didn’t get a wider release?
It would have been nice. Without being nasty, we were under the impression that the company we went with [distributor Triton Pictures] was going to put more money into P&A [promotion and advertising]. That didn’t happen.
Were you hoping 2000 Malibu Road would last longer?
I wanted to explore the character [an alcoholic attorney] a little bit more. It ended up with me in a stairwell getting my brains beaten out by a psycho. I wanted to stab him in the throat in the next episode. But such is life.
What’s your character in Night Owl like?
I’m the one who has to save everyone. Save my marriage, save my husband, destroy the beast. I think I would have preferred to play someone a little more disturbed.
Your bio in the Bride press kit described your life as a fairy tale. Is it still a fairy tale?
(laughing) It’s a Grimms’ fairy tale, replete with crack addicts on my block and Cinderella trying to make her way to the bodega at the end ofthe corner with her little thing of Mace. That’s about as fairy-taleish as it gets.