Natasha Lyonne is not the kind of actress you just bombard with questions. She speaks her mind, and is excited if you go along with her. We’re supposed to talk about “Antibirth,” an indie horror film that she produced, in which she plays Lou, a stoner in a nowhere town filled with drug-addled former Marines who wakes up after a wild party knocked-up — but probably not with a baby. There’s gross body horror and a bizarro conspiracy, plus countless chances for Lyonne to run her mouth and hang with a character played by real-life longtime friend Chloe Sevigny.
But mostly Lyonne and I talk whatever: L.A. vs. New York, the L train out of Williamsburg, getting older. My phoner with the “Orange is the New Black” player, greatly condensed from the full thing, begins with my mistaken assumption that she’s in Los Angeles, not home in New York.
Are you in Los Angeles?
Never. I’ve never been to Los Angeles.
I don’t believe that.
Not my problem.
I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a number of films you were in that were clearly shot there.
It was all CGI.
Everything I do is CGI.
It was very convincing.
Thank you. And it was low budget. All of the budget goes to the CGI work.
As a New Yorker, are you someone who’s really down on Los Angeles?
You know, what I feel about Los Angeles is this: Who cares? I spent so much of my teenage years on the debate of New York vs. Los Angeles and how awful it is and how integrity can only live in New York, and so forth. Now, I just feel like I’m too old to have that conversation again. Let’s be honest: You’re gonna have to go make a picture on the coast now and then — in the words of Bugsy Siegel. In a quote he never said. How come more people don’t misquote people? That’s what I want to know. Moving forward in interviews, if I say something I’m going to regret, I’ll just say, “Dorothy Parker said that.” [Laughs] What a great solution, when you’re in a twist.
How do you feel about Brooklyn?
My father’s from Flatbush, so I never got the appeal of Brooklyn. Especially with the L train. Let’s be honest about the L train: Is it my imagination or is a giant catastrophe coming our way? Everybody knows it. I don’t like the fact that they know the train needs handled in a major way. You’re talking millions of rides before they get to the actual construction. And they already know the train is so problematic. That to me spells eerie, impending catastrophe. I don’t like it. I would strongly advise people to re-route prematurely. I know it’s an inconvenience, but I don’t trust the L train.
Or everyone can start riding bikes.
Here’s the thing about bikes: When you’re in Manhattan, if you’re in a taxi or a car, any pedestrian or biker is automatically an asshole. They’re in the way, everything they do is wrong. As soon as you’re walking, every bicycle or car is horribly dangerous and trying to kill you. As soon as you’re a biker, it’s like, “Get these pedestrians out of the streets and stop opening your taxi doors in the middle of the road!” No matter what the mode of transportation is, it’s always wrong, and you’re always right. And that’s why I love this city. That’s why I love New York.
It’s a wonderful city to just be mean.
It’s great. The anonymity and vitriol and belligerent nonsense cannot be beat. [Laughs] The consequence-free nature of giving somebody a shoulder because they’re carrying their umbrella too low, and it’s only a drizzle, on a crowded street — where else in the world can you get that kind of excitement? That’s why everyone in New York is so great. We’re a very happy people, because we’re constantly dealing with our angst. As soon as we’re angry we immediately take it out on a stranger and keep it moving. It’s really one of our best qualities.
The umbrella thing you mentioned is one of my more specific pet peeves about walking with pedestrians.
That’s how you know it’s a tourist. If you’re on Saint Marks or in SoHo or in Times Square, there’s a crowd of people with low-hanging umbrellas. Like, lift up your umbrellas! You’re in a crowd. Also, how kind to your neighbor that maybe they get a little bit of shield from the rain? Instead you’re a selfish prick and you’re carrying your umbrella too low. You’re gonna get shouldered.
I wish they knew what they were doing.
The big takeaway from life is nobody knows what they’re doing. That’s the joy of adulthood.
I feel like as an adulthood I have less of an understanding of the world than I did as a child. I’m just neurotic and needy.
Growing up is very tricky, and also sort of great. Everybody has a confusing patch. Everybody needs to go through their own personal pains of growing up, whatever that looks like for people. And the great tragedy of life seems to be that once you get a handle on the thing, you die. [Laughs] But I will say, having arrived at the other side of 30, I feel more solid than I ever have and not so easily rocked by life and outside opinions and that sort of thing. I’m perfectly content to just sit and play crossword puzzles with the dog.
I should ask you something about “Antibirth,” which you even produced and in which you play a character with a drug problem but who is unapologetic and — this is maybe the wrong word for it — fun. It’s about half a horror movie and half a shaggy character study.
I only studied three things to prepare for the role: Dustin Hoffman as Ratso Rizzo in “Midnight Cowboy,” Denzel Washington in “Training Day” and some of the performances of the late, great Sam Kinison. The hope was to make it a character study. I think Lou wound up a very fun metaphor for a lot of things [writer-director] Danny [Perez] wanted to say. Her alien immaculate conception served as commentary on American consumerism and the toxic nature of addiction and how f—ked up things are. His vision for this was more art film weirdo fest. As a person, he’s very Cronenberg-meets-Hunter S. Thompson. I hope people get to know him and his work more, and that’s why I produced the film.
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