By David Canfield
June 02, 2018 at 02:07 PM EDT
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Variety and Shutterstock Portrait Studio, Day 1, Toronto International Film Festival, Canada - 09 Sep 2016
Credit: Andrew H. Walker/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

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Parker Posey has never gotten used to hearing “yes.”

From Party Girl to Kicking & Screaming, the actress remains best known as a darling of the ’90s indie film scene. Yet while a consistent on­screen presence, scoring roles in big-budget ventures like Blade: Trinity, as well as becoming a member of Best in Show filmmaker Christopher Guest’s improv troupe, Posey never quite cracked the A-list. By the end of 2016, she’d become concerned enough about “never working again” and not being able to pay her mortgage that she resolved to write a memoir. She sent out a book proposal and, to her amazement, elicited interest from publishers. “I forgot what it was like: They actually wanted me there!” Posey, 49, remembers. “I’m so used to rejection — the Hollywood ‘no.’ ”

Soon she began writing You’re on an Airplane (out July 24), revisiting her past. “I shut the curtains, got the earplugs and the candles, and got in touch with the solitude,” Posey says. She moves backward and forward in the book, relaying various (celeb-filled) showbiz anecdotes in the conversational tone of an airplane passenger, speaking in lengthy chunks to her imaginary seatmate. It’s a loose, clever format to tell your life story. But, as Posey learned, it can be an intimate and revealing one, too.

It was fall of last year, with Posey having written for months in a “creative exile,” when allegations of sexual assault began surfacing against producer Harvey Weinstein (who executive-produced her movie Scream 3), and then against other prominent men in Hollywood with whom Posey has worked — including Louis C.K. “When you start to write, it’s something that can accompany you wherever you go,” she explains. “And the suffering of women in a patriarchal structure is painful…. The relationship between men and women has suffered for a while…. That was heavy to [get through].”

Airplane courtesy penguin
Credit: Penguin

Crafting the memoir developed into a deeper, more isolating experience for Posey than she expected. She rewrote and rewrote, pushing through the Weinstein trauma and ultimately declining to discuss the scandals of any of her collaborators in detail. She instead remembered her mission: to write a light, entertaining book filled with meaning. As such, Airplane is an eclectic mix of monologues, recipes, revelations, and collages. It’s all in the effort of sharing herself — her quirks, passions, and creative spirit.

As she tells her seat partner, Posey worked with brilliant directors like Richard Linklater, fell in love with her dog Gracie, and — yes — faced plenty of rejection. Skirting the edges of the book are engrossing Hollywood details: Joaquin Phoenix wandering the set of Woody Allen’s Irrational Man, 30 pounds heavier for the lead role; Shirley MacLaine confessing to a messy affair; a Polaroid of Matthew McConaughey looking like “Ted Nugent meets daredevil Evel Knievel and just as gorgeous as Jesus Christ” catching her eye on the set of Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. But the book, fundamentally, is a portrait of an indefatigably singular actress, navigating a field that punishes artistry as much as it rewards it.

Posey, who recently landed a plum (and mortgage-paying) job as Dr. Smith on Netflix’s Lost in Space reboot, is in the final stages of the editing process as we chat. “It’s been intense work,” she says. Her goal here isn’t to drop bombshells, or be self-indulgent, or illuminate Hollywood’s darkest corners. She wants to connect with others through her art, to reach out in a warm, unique literary expression. But is this what she’s really like when she’s on a plane? “Well, on my good days,” Posey admits. Drily, she then adds, “On my bad days, I’m fine sitting on the airplane with a blanket over my head.”