As a boozing, promiscuous truck driver in the independent film Trucker, actress Michelle Monoghan delivers the finest, fully-realized performance of her career. Sadly, in a year of buzzworthy female performances from the likes Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, and newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, the actress is likely to be omitted come Oscar nomination time. Nod or not, the actress delivered this year, and as I found in an interview last week, the Iowa native found the Trucker experience thoroughly rewarding. Here's what she had to say about the film, her career, and what lies ahead.
You're working with Robert Downey, Jr. again in the comedy Due Date. What was it like working with him again after Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang?
It went really great. It was a lot of fun.
Having worked with Robert before his career reached unbelievable heights with Iron Man and everything that's come after, did you notice a change in his demeanor this time out? I mean he's a huge movie star now.
No, I don't think so. I don't think Robert is that way. He has a real approach to acting. He loves to improve, and have a lot of fun. Directors and actors trust him.
You seem, and maybe I'm just reading into this, that you go from comedy to drama to comedy. Is it easier to take a break from darker material?
Of course. I'd be the biggest basket case if all I did was drama. I try to show all aspects of my personality. I really like action, for example, and I hope I bring something unique to it. It doesn't matter. My main objective is always to do something challenging and different - even if it's a bigger film or a smaller film.
That's the other thing about you. You make a smooth transition from blockbusters to indie flicks. It's clearly just the material for you - no matter what. Right?
It should be about material. I'm in it for the long haul. Any decision that's not a creative decision and not about the material, I don't think is the best decision.
What do you find people notice you for most?
There are the Maid of Honor group of people or Patrick Dempsey fans, but, I don't know, people love Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. It continues to live on. People also come up to me for Gone Baby Gone andEagle Eye. I get that a lot.
Do you have a personal favorite?
That's hard. I mean Kiss Kiss is right up there because that was my first opportunity at a lead role, and I learned so much from Robert and acting and personally had a great time. Eagle Eye was fun... Heartbreak Kid. I like them all. Trucker, too.
What drew you to Trucker in the first place?
For me, it drew me in unlike anything I had read before or had the opportunity to play. I knew it was going to be a challenge, and I was just so up for it. As an actor, you just have such a thirst for things like this. It's not the thankless girlfriend role you know? I knew it'd allow me to really push myself and that was sort of daunting and frightening but completely necessary.
When you do a movie like this, you don't do it for the money or the glory, you do it because you absolutely love it.
And because of that, I bet you really don't mind promoting it. It's not like a blockbuster or franchise like an M.I.3 where you know there's a built-in audience.
Unfortunately like so many indie movies, it's hard enough to get money to make the movie never mind struggling to market the movie. But, I will pound the pavement for this film until the day I die. We don't have any money behind it so it's really word of mouth and that's mostly mine. I really believe audiences will like it if they can find it, and now they can, because it's on DVD.
You come from a television background - would you ever go back?
I don't know. If I did, it would be something really far in the future. When I did TV with Boston Public, that was incredible for me starting out but the hours are really, really long and when you make a film, you really create a character and let it go. To do that a couple times a year is more appealing for me now than doing a TV show.
I have so say this. Chi McBride, who was in Boston Public, is on a different TV show every year. He's awesome, but that's nuts.
I guess he must like it...love that medium. He's such a great actor, and a big teddy bear.
Is there anyone out there who you'd kill to work with?
Sean Penn. Clint Eastwood... the Coen Brothers. There are lots of people. Maybe I'll ask the Farrellys if I could be the fourth Stooge.
You could probably pull that off. Is Rick Moranis underrated?
Well, I figured everyone asks you the same 'who would you work with' question.
[Laughs] They do. I appreciate the question. Rick Moranis...sure he's great.
Lastly, is there one character you've played that personifies who you are?
I don't know. There are different elements of Kiss Kiss, Bang, Bang that's me. The Heartbreak Kid - the tomboyishness is a lot like me. They've all got little bits of me. Everybody has different facets. It's just a matter of exploring them on film. It allows for people not to put you in the box.
Monoghan will next be seen in the comedy Due Date with Downey and Zach Galifianakis, Sofia Coppola's Somewhere, and will soon shoot Source Code opposite Jake Gyllenhaal and Vera Farmiga.