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Drea Matteo - Precinct 13

 

The Diva's interview with
Drea De Mateo
One of the Stars of
Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

 

The Diva's Assault on Precinct 13 Movie review

 


 

Comes in while we’re laughing and wants to know who we’re talking about…

Comment: We’re talking trash on one of our colleagues is all.

Drea de Matteo:
Oh, I thought you were talking trash on an actor because they’re all bastards!

Question:
Did you get to choose your outfit in this movie? A lot of people in the audience were commenting on those stockings and the stilettos.

Drea:
The stockings and those stilettos. Well, originally I thought we were going to be more dressed like Adriana since I was playing yet another Italian-American, which seems to be the story of my life at this point. But Jean-Francois had never seen “Sopranos.” He hired me based on this movie “’R Xmas” so I kind of made her a little more like that character. And they wanted me to be more dressed up because I was ready to party for New Year’s. And… so Jean-Francois sort of was involved in the picking out of my outfit. We decided not to have her in pink, in secretary-style.

Question:
How did you manage to be in stilettos in the snow and not bust your behind?

Drea:
It was a nightmare. It was a nightmare. I had strep throat, 104 fever, scratched cornea, black eye, and wearing those stilettos in the freezing cold, and it was not fun.

Question:
Were the injuries from stunts in the film?

Drea:
No. The strep throat… I had gone and done the pilot for “Joey” and as the producer was saying good-bye to me, she scratched my cornea. And I got a 104 fever on the plane. And then I walked into a table that was sitting on top of another table with my eye – on this eye [indicating her left]. This was the scratched cornea [indicating her right eye], this was the black eye [indicating her left]. So, it was eventful.

Question:
Did you feel like packing it up and just going home to bed?

Drea:
I always feel like packing it up and going home to bed. I’m not one of those actors that wants to sit here and talk about their craft 24 hours because I’m just not interested anymore.

Question:
You have a tattoo that says ‘Rea’. Is that your nickname?

Drea:
That’s my grandma and that’s my nanny who raised me who now I raise her. She lives with me. I take care of her now.

Question:
Now this is your first action role…

Drea:
Yeah, that’s why I did it. It was such a great cast and I never done an action film. I’d never shot a gun before, I’ve always just had them shot at me (laughing). So I figured it would be fun to do and the script was definitely not the normal, formulaic, slick Hollywood film, which I don’t normally enjoy myself. So I did it.

Question:
Did you do any training with the guns?

Drea:
We only had one day of training. The three of us – the three girls – went and did it. It’s funny because all of us were so true to our character when we even did it. Maria was very like [fumbling around], “Ohhh.” And I was all kind of gung-ho but still a little, little trepidacious. And then Aisha [Hinds] was just, “Give me the gun!” She was the best with it.

Question:
You said that action movies weren’t your type. What type of films do you personally like?

Drea:
I like small films, small character-driven films. I haven’t seen any movies this year. I have a sick dog so I work all the time and then I go home to be with my dog. But the only movie I did get to see was “Garden State,” and that kind of movie is what I like. Something that’s still a drama but still doesn’t take itself too seriously. I like a lot of French and German [films]. I like a lot of the old German filmmakers and stuff like that. Italian films…

Question:
Your costume in this and then your costume in “Sopranos,” does anything that you’ve done so far reflect your personal taste?

Drea:
I mean, I can whip out a few sexy outfits every now and then but I’m not a very… I don’t think I’m sexy. I don’t feel sexy. I don’t act like I’m sexy in my real life. I don’t even find the characters that I play that sexy. So it was difficult for me to play ‘sexy’ in this role, because I’m actually playing it instead of just existing there and being sexy. But I mean, yeah, I wear low-cut tops every now and then. I never wear a mini-skirt in real life. I don’t think I’ve ever worn a mini-skirt in my entire life. It’s just not for any reason, it’s just that I don’t like to cross my legs. I’m more of a guy and you know…

Question:
Is that why you know how to kill people six different ways or something like that? Have you always been some sort of a tomboy perhaps?

Drea:
(Laughing) Oh, I’m very much a tomboy. I had two older brothers, you know.

Question:
Did you come up with the throat [maneuver]?

Drea:
No. What was very upsetting about that was there were a few people on the set who had no authority but kept commenting that there was no way I’d be able to kill that guy by sticking my fingers in his throat. And I totally, completely disagreed with them, especially with those nails. I knew I could have done it in real life because there’s nothing you can do if someone sticks their nails into your throat and starts ripping out your trachea. You know what I mean? The other way is you poke someone in the eye really, really hard and you [making a hooking motion] pull out their nose bone. I mean, I can do that. Anybody can do that. Comment: You tried definitely. I saw that. You had the chocking, then you went with the finger, and then the knife came out.

Drea:
Yeah, but they ended up going with the knife, which I thought we could have done it the other way. It was originally scripted that I did pull out his [trachea].

Question:Was the concern just that you couldn’t do it?

Drea:
There were about four people on the set that were like, “There’s no way she’d be able to do it.” So they changed it. Yeah.

Question:
When you got the script did it actually say ‘sexy’ secretary or is it when they hired you that they knew they wanted to go that direction?

Drea:
I don’t remember. I’m not sure.

Question:What it was it like working with this cast?

Drea:
Oh man, it was great. Everybody has their own thing. Everybody brought their own thing. Like John would make us laugh. Laurence was just this calm, cool king, you know? He’s a king to me. There’s something about him. In this business I don’t know if anyone really recognizes just how special he is. His energy is so, so special. Ethan was like my brother. We just kind of had fun together all the time, joking around, horsing around. He was always – he and my boyfriend were always just playing guitar and hanging out and singing in the camper. Who else? Maria is like the acting [sounds like ‘chick’]. She’s like, “What did you find in that scene?” and “What was this like.” I’m the one that’s like, “What did I find? It was freezing, I don’t know.” So she was actor girl and just everybody was so great. Brian Dennehy with his old war stories and all the old theatre stories. It was great. It was so much fun.

Question:
Were there any problems working with a director who is from a different background and speaks a different language? Was there a language barrier at all?

Drea:
Not for me. I mean, I’m sure for some people, maybe. But for me, I know that he cast me based on “’R Xmas,” which was Abel [Ferrara’s] movie and he’s a huge Abel Ferrara fan. And then when I went and watched his film, I realized just how much of a fan he must have really been of Abel’s because it was very similar feel. Almost identical to Abel’s kind of filmmaking. So he and I had an unspoken understanding, I think. He hired actors that he knew were just going to do what he wanted them to do. He had a lot on his plate. This was his first big American film, action film, fake snow, this, that, explosions. He had a lot of pressure on his back so as much as we could do to just do the job that we needed to do for him, I think the better it was. And I think there was an understanding there.

Question:
How familiar were you with the original film?

Drea:
Um, I’d seen it. I don’t remember it that clearly. But I think the differences… I mean, I think that it’s mainly the foundation of the film was the same and then we opened it up and made it a much bigger picture.

Question:
Would you have done it if it was just a remake of the original?

Drea:
Well it depends on how it was handled. I definitely think the way the script was written separates it from a lot of the average action films. So, I don’t know. Well, yes, if it was the same cast. I picked it because of the cast, not because of the script. I picked it because of the cast and the filmmaker, and the reasons he hired me.

Question:
So Laurence and Ethan were already attached when you were hired?

Drea:
Everyone was, I think.

Question:When you read the script what did you think of your character?

Drea:
I mean to be completely honest with you, I didn’t feel I needed to play another Italian-American girl. I didn’t think I needed to play another slut, another tough chick. Not another tough chick because Adriana was not tough, she was the victim. So it was more based on the action of it. The fact that I hadn’t done an action film and the fact that the cast was so great.

Question:
Are you concerned about being typecast?

Drea:
I’m always typecast. No one in Hollywood has a clue as to whether or not I really speak with that accent or not. So… They think I show up hair and make-up ready that way so… They don’t know that it takes four hours. But yeah, it’s always been a concern of mine but at this point in my career, I’m not a kid anymore. A friend of mine said, “Drea, it’s better to be typecast than not cast.” You know, I don’t really have that many more years left for me as far as acting goes. I’m not one of those girls who is going to go and lift my face, shoot it up with Botox, have my boobs done, just to maintain, just to keep my face on the big screen or the little screen. I’m going to step away and get behind the camera. I didn’t study acting. I really went to school for directing. So that’s probably where I’ll end up.

Question:
Can you use the opportunity to fight for women who feel they have to get Botox and facelifts just to stay on the screen?

John:
It’s tempting to do all that stuff, I just happen to be very afraid of it all. I don’t want to mess with something that was okay. You just don’t mess with what God gave you (laughing). I understand that there are a lot of B actors who base themselves on their looks and stuff. But when you get A-list actors who are so incredibly wonderful and talented, I don’t understand why they feel the need to erase all of the life from their face because that’s what makes them so wonderful. If they have the talent to go on then I feel like it’s your talent people are looking at, it’s not your face.

Question:
You do have the talent! You shouldn't feel like you have to go behind the camera because you’re time is running out.

Drea:
Yeah, but Hollywood doesn’t really care for people who aren’t beautiful at certain times, unfortunately. Unless you’re playing a character actor, which I am a character actor. But for some reason I still get thrown into the ‘pretty girl’ role and I’m not really the pretty girl because I don’t photograph. I look better in person. I don’t photograph that well.

Question:
You really believe you don’t photograph well?

Drea:
I definitely don’t. I definitely look better in person. Everyone always comes up to me, all my fans, and they’re always, “God, you look completely different in person.” You know? So…

Question:

Do you have directing projects lined up?

Drea:
I do. I do. Well it’s all stuff that… My mom’s a teacher and she teaches playwriting, and I take students from her class and take their scripts and develop them. It’s really exciting for me because I really, really enjoy taking something that’s great and making it incredible. I took one of her students and now she’s my partner. She just writes everything. I got her signed with my agency and she’s possibly going to be the best writer in Hollywood, I’d have to say. Real stories, not crap, you know? Real little stories that mean something. So we’re working on one project right now. I was going to direct it over the hiatus of “Joey” but it’s not a “Soprano” hiatus of a year and a half so I don’t think I’m going to have the time this hiatus.

Question:
Can you say anything about the story at all yet?

Drea:
It’s such a crazy story that I wouldn’t even know how to explain it. Most directors passed on it because it’s so crazy, so now we’re directing it. It’s pretty good, that’s all I have to say. I come from “Sopranos” and to me that’s the best kind of writing there is. I would never do anything less than that. I would be in other movies that are less than that just for a paycheck, but I would never create or direct a film that wasn’t going to be as good as the writing on “The Sopranos.” I’m kind of snob that way. I’ve been spoiled by my mother and by “The Sopranos.”

Question:

So what was it about this girl’s writing?

Drea:
It was the first play I’d ever done. We turned it into a screenplay. I sat on her while she turned it into a screenplay. “I’m not letting you move until you turn it into a screenplay.” It’s sort of set in the way that “Smoke” was set. It’s a pharmacy where a bunch of very broken people hang out. It’s about two twins and one of the twins – it opens where one of the twins had just died and they both have muscular dystrophy. And it’s progressing in the one who’s alive. It just kind of…all these different characters are there. One of the guys is autistic. It sounds insanely dramatic, but it’s not. It happens to be really, really funny but at the same time very tragic, and then hopeful also at the end. It’s really kind of a romance between my character and the boy with muscular dystrophy. And she’s a drug addict.

Question:
You’re going to direct and act in it?

Drea:
Yeah. We’re going to direct it together because I’m in it so much. She’s never directed so we’re going to do it together. It’s going to be fun. (Laughing) And then I won’t have to act anymore. I can just act in my own projects and I won’t be talking like this [lays on the heavy Queens accent] in any of them, unless they’re really great like “The Sopranos.”

Question:
What is your background?

Drea:
I’m Italian, Italian-American. I was born in Queens, which I hammed up to the nth degree when I started “Sopranos” because I really wanted it to be truthful. I didn’t want anybody to think I was faking an accent because the accent’s so huge, you know? I grew up on the Upper East Side.

Question:
Tell me about this boutique of yours. It has an interesting name.

Drea:
We closed. We closed two weeks ago. Yeah, it was mine and my ex-boyfriend’s. He closed and it moved out here. I don’t know if I’ll be involved this time, but he’s definitely going to keep going. Either he’ll open up a boutique here or do a website where you can buy off the Internet.

Question:
What did you specialize in?

Drea:
Vintage clothing. And then we also made clothes and we were actually going into a deal with Rocawear and it was not very much in my favor so I backed out

Question:
What kind of deal were they thinking about going into?

Drea:
We were going to do jeans. We were going to do denim and stuff but then they sort of told me that I would never be able to promote or do or sell anything else, or make anything else ever again. They’d own me. I didn’t work this hard and come this far to be owned by anybody. Question:
How big a difference is it working on a sitcom from working on a drama like “The Sopranos?”

Drea:
It’s night and day. It’s a whole different thing. I did it sort of because it was a huge challenge for me. The only thing that I could bring to the party was that I’d done a lot of theatre, and it’s very much like doing theatre. I think that when people watch sitcoms they say and think that this is the mediocre actors who are doing this. This is not the real acting. Jesus Christ, it might be more real than anything there is. It’s the most difficult thing there is to do. People who are doing sitcoms deserve the most respect. I understand why they get a million dollars an episode, because they work you to the bone. And having to make people laugh is probably 10 times harder than ever having to make anybody cry. And it’s definitely very intense and you’re onstage. You know, it’s theatre. You’re a comedian and you’re there to entertain people for seven hours in that audience. So it’s very hard and I have a lot of respect for people who have been doing it for a long time.

Question:
Do you enjoy doing comedy?

Drea:
I’m learning how to do comedy right now. It’s all a learning process for me. I enjoy learning but more than anything, I have so much fun with Matt LeBlanc that whether I love it or not really makes no difference to me because I just really have that much fun with him and playing with him. Being onstage with him is great. We all have a lot of fun together.

 


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