the insider: gaby hoffman

on getting over now and then and getting back into acting.

by rebecca willa davis

Chances are high that Gaby Hoffmann was in one of your favorite childhood movies. Now and Then? Check. Uncle Buck? Check. Field of Dreams, Sleepless in Seattle, 200 Cigarettes? Check, check, and check. But the daughter of Andy Warhol superstar Viva and onetime child star decided she wanted out by the time most actors are just getting started, going to college and reassessing her priorities through her early-20s. Now, at 31 years old, she's back--and considering how good she is in Crystal Fairy, a film by Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Silva out this week in which she plays a neo-hippie in search of a mystical hallucinogenic with Michael Cera, we couldn't be happier.

Was Crystal Fairy as much fun to film as it was for me to watch?

We had a lot of fun--we were having fun the whole time. We'd go from shooting a scene to having a big fun lunch to shooting another scene and having a big fun dinner and drinks. It all felt like one big thing--it almost felt like there wasn't a distinction between when we were working or weren't working.

Did you have a feeling that it would turn out that way when you first read the script?

Sebastian and I had already worked together and we had become really close friends--and I'm a fan of his work. So [he called] me up and said, "Will you fly down this week and make this road trip with Michael, and I have to go because it's a bad connection!" But if Sebastian calls me and says, "I want you to do something," I would say yes every time. Before I even met or worked with him, I saw one his films and it was a moment when I was questioning if I wanted to be an actress, and I was like, OK if people are making movies like this then I want to keep acting.

How much of Crystal Fairy was improvised?

The whole thing was improvised. The day that [Silva] had an idea he called me and Michael, he wrote a 12-page outline, and it was specific, and he knew what he wanted, but it was just plot points. The characters were these sketches that we filled in together, but the dialogue was improvised.

We all know Crystal Fairies--well-meaning, head-in-the-clouds, eerily nice hippies. Was yours based on anyone you know?

God forbid the day I have to do Shakespeare or some shit like that, because I approach every character the same way, and it's because I've never trained as an actor; it's all instincts. Sebastian and I talked a lot about her, and we would all go out for dinner every night and get drinks and spend all day in the office just fooling around. But most of the time, even if somebody sends me a screenplay for an audition, I just usually have an instinct about who somebody is. But yes, we all know Crystal Fairy and there were a lot of people who came to mind. I never knew what she was going to say or do, but I knew how I wanted her to be. [I knew] how I wanted to make people feel. Michael's very different form his character and I'm very different from mine, but we kind of were taking that trip, the five of us. So it wasn't a big transition.

Your older movies like Now and Then still resonate with so many people. Having taken a break from acting, do you still feel a connection to them?

With me, no. I loved Now and Then because I had so much fun making it, but I don't think I've seen it in 20 years. I don't have a relationship with the product; it's always about the process. It's really fun to go watch a movie that you've done and just have so much fun watching it, but with the movies I was making as a kid I didn't really care about acting and wasn't involved in my career.

How different is your approach to acting and taking on new roles now, versus when you were a kid?

When I was a teenager I decided I wanted to make more indie movies because they were more fun and interesting than studio movies. Now, every job you pick is for a different reason. First and foremost it's the writing, or in this case Sebastian. But there are other reasons. I've definitely decided to make a movie because [I've thought], Oh that's a nice location. But usually it's like, Do I want to say these words and be this person and be with these people in this place?