“But I’m a Cheerleader”: Natasha Lyonne & Clea Duvall Interview

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif., July 17, 2000 — Catfighting actresses are legendary in Hollywood. While they gush about each other during publicity tours, the niceties usually stop once the cameras stop rolling. The co-stars leave separately and hole up in their respective trailers.

But some showbiz friendships are (as far as we know) real: Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon, Carrie Fisher and Penny Marshall, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell, Julianna Margulies and Cate Blanchett. Now you can add a young addition to this group: the duo of Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall.

They gab, hang out and laugh just like any other pair. But unlike their Hollywood predecessors, the two buddies get a little closer (in the tradition of “Cruel Intentions” friends Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair) in the comedy “But I’m a Cheerleader.”

The satire follows a suburban high school student named Megan who giggles with girlfriends and loves her football-playing boyfriend. But when her family and friends surround her for an intervention, the last thing Megan expects to hear is that she’s being sent to “rehabilitation” camp for homosexuals before her lesbian tendencies (listening to Melissa Etheridge, for example) get the better of her.

A confused Megan joins the camp, titled True Directions and run by the smarmy, strict Mary (Cathy Moriarty), with assistance from counselor Mike (RuPaul Charles, out of drag). Still convinced she isn’t gay, Megan follows suit so she can quickly graduate and return to cheerleading life. But after she meets fellow camper Graham (DuVall), she begins to rethink her feminity and “true direction.”

In real life, Lyonne, who grew up as a tomboy, found her own girliness increasing with newfound love.

“I’ve been in my first relationship [with "Detroit Rock City" co-star Edward Furlong], just happened recently, about two years, and I’m slowly seeing I’m wearing less platforms and more skirts,” Lyonne says. “What’s interesting is when you get into a relationship, you sort of tap into this nature. It’s just what happens. … I definitely want to be a little more feminine because I have a boyfriend now.”

Lyonne got her start at age 6 when she played Opal in the original children’s show “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.” That led to acting gigs on the soap “As The World Turns,” the feature adaptation of “Dennis the Menace” and the Woody Allen musical “Everybody Says I Love You.” Her biggest role was in 1998’s “Slums of Beverly Hills,” as a teenager coping with puberty.

In contrast, the California-raised DuVall made her debut in 1996’s “Little Witches,” leading to guest roles on “ER” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and finally to supporting turns in “She’s All That” and “The Faculty.” Like Lyonne, she acts in offbeat, independent productions such as “Committed” and “Wildflowers,” but recently turned up in Winona Ryder’s “Girl, Interrupted” as her compulsive-liar roommate.

They came together for “But I’m a Cheerleader” when Lyonne saw the script in DuVall’s car. DuVall had already been cast, so there was no concern for rivalry.

“Me and Clea are funny like that. Clea’s just one of my favorite people … [we're] not competitive at all,” Lyonne says. “Clea and I are very different, [though] we’re definitely from the same planet of people. We don’t really go up for the same parts and stuff.”

But their friendship added an interesting new dimension during filming, when the two girls had to liplock for the cameras.

“[Being friends] made it worse,” DuVall says of their kissing scene. “What if you had to make out with your best friend? It wouldn’t be fun. It made it really awkward, but it’s awkward no matter what when you’re doing it in front of people.”

She adds, “The first time we kissed was the first take of the first scene. It was really bad, and we had to do it so we got more comfortable with it. … It was not funny, we were very serious and very nervous and not wanting to look at each other … so we would just sit and smoke in silence.”

Lyonne disagrees. “She said that? [That's] really charming, because I’ve been saying it wasn’t awkward at all,” she jokes. “Maybe it was awkward for her because I liked it too much? … If Clea says so, yeah. … It was so weird kissing her. It was so weird even touching her.”

But Lyonne does allow that “Clea has a great set of lips, I don’t know if you noticed that.”

She pauses. “Did I just sound gay”?

“But I’m a Cheerleader,” released by Lions Gate Films, expands to wider release July 28.

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