You did an Off Broadway play, Through a Glass Darkly, in which you were
No, I was topless in the play. In the script, she was naked, but I dreaded the idea of being naked onstage. When I’ve seen plays with actors who are nude, I’ve always thought, Gosh, that actor’s naked. I wonder how they feel about being naked. Then two minutes later, you fall back into the play. Through a Glass Darkly is not very long, and I didn’t want the audience to stop and think, Oh, she’s naked—I wonder if she feels funny. So we modified it.
You sing in Shame. That seems scarier to me than being naked.
I’ve never sung in a movie before. The point wasn’t really that Sissy was a great singer—it was more that she attracted people. I sing “New York, New York” in the film, and Steve wanted it live. We did 15 takes—because every time I made a mistake or my voice fell out of tune or I lost my breath, we’d have to cut, and Steve wanted to do the whole thing in one go. At one point he wanted Sissy to sing something else and asked me to make up a song. He said, “You’re an artist, aren’t you? We can’t afford the rights to a famous song, so make one up.” I was walking around the room thinking, How do you write a song?! Eventually I made up this really bluesy song and sang two lines.
See, you’re an artist!
A bullshit artist [laughs].
Were you theatrical as a child?
Somewhat. I would put my earphones on and sing along to soundtracks of musicals like Les Misérables. I’d act it out in the mirror and cry. When I was 11 or 12, I asked my parents about going to a performing arts school, and they said no. Although I did audition to be a presenter on a TV show called Dig It.
Yeah, the producers invited 3,000 kids to audition. They put you in a big inflatable chair, and you had to talk for a minute about something. They said, “Pick any topic.” I talked about my guinea pig, and it was awful. I got 20 seconds in, and then I had nothing left to say, so I just sat there. For some reason, I was still really shocked that I didn’t get the job. Even though I knew I’d been terrible, I thought they might have seen something in me that they could work with.
You had innate optimism.
I did. I thought it was all fate. I thought: I’m here for a reason.