This Friday sees the reissue of “Metropolitan,” Whit Stillman’s 1990 indie dramedy about a group of young, upper class New Yorkers on Christmas break from school, which they mostly spend at debutante ball parties and, after they end, in fancy living rooms, where they spend all night, drinking, smoking, debating, firing off quips and in some cases flirting. It proved a surprise hit — a surprise even to some of the cast members — and stands as a landmark of early ’90s independent cinema, especially as it concerns a group not always recognized among low budget cinema: those with money.
We didn’t have a chance to talk to its writer-director or many of the cast members for its 25th anniversary. However we did talk to three of the leads: Carolyn Farina, who plays shy Audrey; Taylor Nichols, who plays insecure yet intellectually confident Charlie; and Chris Eigeman, who plays scene-stealing, snooty Nick, who gets many of the best lines. What follows is a mini-oral history, charting their sides of the making and what came afterwards.
All of the actors in “Metropolitan” were new to film. Most, if not all, were stage actors. For awhile there has been a rumor that Carolyn Farina was discovered at a department store. Though she did work at Macy’s at the time…
Carolyn Farina (Audrey): That’s not true. I wish it was. That would have been so much more interesting — like Lana Turner being found in an ice cream shop. I was an out-of-work actress and found it in the ads like everyone else. There is a funny story, though. I stood in a line with seven people. After my turn I walked away. It was the middle of winter. I grabbed my coat and it was upside down. I had about five dollars in change in my pocket. And every penny and quarter and nickel fell out on the floor. I was so embarrassed. As I was picking up all my change, Whit says to me, “Excuse me, would you mind coming back in a couple of hours?” I was lucky my change fell out. It gave them time to think about me.
Chris Eigeman (Nick): It was clearly going to be a clusterf—. The ad asked for anybody who could play people in the mid-20s. I mean, that’s the largest demographic of actors you could ask for. I was going to blow this one off. But I was living downtown and it was a block from my apartment. So I went and it was a zoo. There were hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of people. I got a number and went back to my apartment. I auditioned and I didn’t get the part. Someone else got my part originally. Then a couple days into shooting, they swapped a few actors around, and I got in.
Taylor Nichols (Charlie): I was doing a scene from a Leopold and Loeb play, so I was dressed really preppie. I went to this open call and knew nothing about it. I almost left. There were so many people I thought I’d never get picked. I was actually supposed to meet a friend from acting class for a drink. I wound up blowing that off. I’m glad I did.