Minnie Driver
Credit: Everett Collection; Prashant Gupta/FX; Joey L./A&E
  • Movie

From NBC’s charming rom-com About a Boy to Lifetime’s biblical miniseries The Red Tent (debuting Dec. 7), Minnie Driver is having one very busy fall—and that’s not even including her surprising role in the sleeper hit Beyond the Lights or her appearance in Peter Pan Live! on NBC.

EW asked Driver to share memories of the projects that paved her path through Hollywood:

Circle of Friends (1995)

“I had been working pretty consistently in television in England, but that was my first big film role. I was so broke. I was trying to be a musician. I had been living in Uruguay with my sister, and I came back for Christmas and I met with Pat O’Connor, the director. I don’t think I looked the part, but he clearly saw Benny in me. I remember the casting director saying, ‘The girl that they cast as the beautiful girl is going to get all the attention, and you need to just know that you’re going to do a wonderful job.’ It gave me my whole career, that movie.”

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

“The script wasn’t right when we began shooting, and John Cusack went to the head of the studio—Joe Roth—and said, ‘Can we improvise? If you don’t like it after two days, we’ll stop.’ And he gave us two days, so we would sit in someone’s hotel room knowing where the scene had to begin, what plot point had to happen in the middle, and where we had to end up. And everyone would sit around and throw out ideas, and someone would be on the computer writing lines down. They had an amazing story to begin with. It was this amazing mishmash of how we got it done. That was the first movie I made in Hollywood. It was a big awakening, coming to California.”

Good Will Hunting (1997)

“I actually watched four or five scenes of Good Will Hunting over this dude’s shoulder on the plane the other day. Matt [Damon] and Ben [Affleck] had this incredible, innocent enthusiasm and love for what they were doing. It’s not like we knew we were making this movie that would be a classic. At the time, Miramax was genuinely turned towards Jackie Brown. We were the total redheaded stepchild. They weren’t paying attention to us until the movie was made, and then they really sat up when they saw it.”

Return to Me (2000)

“You have to understand, people only really knew David Duchovny from The X-Files; I don’t think they realized how insanely clever, dark, funny, and brilliant he is. I liked doing something that was romantic and heartfelt. You want to do as many different things as you can if you’re trying to run a marathon in a career and not just sprint. That movie, it seems to be in the heart of a lot of people, in terms of people coming up to me on the street.”

Owning Mahowny (2003)

“I made a film with Philip Seymour Hoffman that I don’t think anybody saw, and it was a crime because he was just magical in that. I’d make it again tomorrow because of my experience with him and what I learned from watching and being around him. You’re programmed to believe that success is measured in dollars, but as an actor you have to figure out a way of knowing that that’s not true.”

Will & Grace (2003-4)

“It’s the rare thing, a show that works like that. They asked me what kind of character I wanted to play. They said, ‘Do you want to play a character that Will has had a sexual affair with, or do you want to play the slutty English version of Karen?’ And I was like, ‘No offense to Will, but I want to be a slutty Brit.’ All we did was die laughing and try not to laugh during takes. When I dropped the tiara out of my hoo-ha, I can’t believe we got past the censors. When we did it the first time, the audience laughed for 10 minutes. They couldn’t use the laugh track from the audience because they couldn’t stop.”

The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

“I was in a completely different movie than everybody else, and the whole thing was just extraordinarily fun on such a grand scale. Patrick Wilson and I laughed the entire three months that we shot that movie. An Italian operatic diva doesn’t get any more crazy or over the top, and between the clothes and the wigs and the makeup…there was so much put into that character, creatively, from so many different people. It’s so wonderful. That’s why I do this. Because you’re not always in some low-budget independent movie playing an incredibly in-pain character. It was larger than life. I tend to have a very good time making films…I love the messy, weird business of making movies, but I definitely had a very good time making that one.”

The Riches (2007-8)

“That was the greatest part I ever had, hands down. Dahlia was the most insanely beautiful character. It still kills me to this day that we got axed, I think, so unfairly. If it was on now, there’s no doubt, we’d be on for 10 years. It was ahead of its time. We got slammed by the writers’ strike, and then FX didn’t have the budget, or the inclination, or both, to really re-promote us when we came back for the second season. It became easy to justify cancelling us. On social media, I get people begging us to do a movie or for there to be some sort of ending to round out the story. I do think it would be a very different story today. I just saw [costar] Eddie [Izzard], we went to Robin Williams’ memorial together, and we were talking about it. They tried to revive it, but they tried to do it too soon after it was cancelled, and I think we should try again now. I think there’s legitimate potential in it. It’s a hard one, that show. I never really got over that. That’s the true only regret in my career. I wasn’t anywhere near done with that character or those storylines and where they could have gone.”

Beyond the Lights (2014)

“What a fantastic opportunity to play a villain. She’s not really a villain—she’s complex and difficult, but it is it much, much harder than what I normally play. It’s been blowing my mind on social media. I love that it sort of is about race, but it’s not. It doesn’t matter. It’s out the window, the fact that [Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character] is bi-racial. It has more to do with her relationship with my character’s poverty than anything. I feel like it’s a really forward-looking movie, where you’re not seeing color anymore, but when you’re looking at the music industry in the way it treats women in general.”

The Red Tent (2014)

“This was not the glamorous Morocco with blue crystal-lined pools. This is the really hardcore Sahara, the hardest place I’ve ever made a film. It was very difficult to make. Rebecca Ferguson is amazing in this film. I’m horrified because she’s, like, 10 years younger than me, and I’m playing her mom. But still! I think for people who love the book, which I did, it’s going to satisfy that fantastic female-driven biblical story, and you don’t have too many of those.”

About a Boy
  • Movie
  • 100 minutes
  • Chris Weitz
  • Paul Weitz