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UGO.com Idina Menzel – Ask the Dust Feature

Interview by Daniel Robert Epstein, contributing editor

Idina Menzel was in the original cast of Rent and Wicked on Broadway. She is making the transition to Hollywood with the big-budget version of Rent (now available on DVD) and Robert Towne’s Ask the Dust. In Towne’s film, Idina plays Vera, the deformed young woman who’s gunning for the romantically inexperienced Bandini’s (Colin Farrell) affections.

UGO: I read that you really worked hard to do this role, why was that?
IDINA MENZEL: Robert Towne and his enthusiasm for me doing it. I hadn’t even read the script yet. I just knew that Robert had come to see me in Wicked and he saw me as this woman and was excited. Then I read the script and said, “Are you serious? This is cool.”

UGO: Are you a fan of his?
IDINA: Yeah, for the most part. I know you’re supposed to say Chinatown is your favorite movie of his but my favorite is Tequila Sunrise because I’m an ’80s girl. I wanted to be treated like that by Mel Gibson in a whirlpool.

UGO: It’s a guilty pleasure. Did you tell him that was your favorite?
IDINA: The first time I met him I told him that and he just shrugged.

UGO: [laughs] I don’t think it’s his favorite. Was there discussion of just how deformed your character would be?
IDINA: Yeah, there was. We did a lot of yucky research and Robert wanted it to be shocking for that split moment in the film that you see it. Every day we’d try diffeRent things. Sometimes it was makeup. Then we’d try sticking on these diffeRent prosthetics and these two guys are l molding them on my ass every day.

UGO: Is she as deformed in the book?
IDINA: Yeah. I love the book so much. She’s even more volatile, more explosive in the book. The original books are so amazing for the actors. They give you all these adjectives and little things to keep in mind for characters.

UGO: How tight is Robert Towne with his script?
IDINA: He won’t change his lines like a lot of actors do on film sets. But he would change his own lines; he came in and corrected himself or rewrote things.

UGO: You’re a big star on Broadway; do you want to do more movies?
IDINA: Yeah, I would like to.

UGO: How difficult is it for a Broadway star to make that transition?
IDINA: It depends. Everyone’s path ends up being different. It’s not to say I don’t want to do theater, I will always come back to doing theater. I really actually like the balance of it but the Broadway stuff just burns me out after a while with eight shows a week and the discipline it takes. It’s nice to leave for a period of time and do film. It’s not as hard in that way to me. It’s hard in other ways.

UGO: Were you disappointed with how the movie Rent did at the box office?
IDINA: A little bit. We didn’t really care that much because we had the most wonderful experience together doing that film. The fact that we were hired in the first place was a great thing. But I was surprised. I thought there was a great energy in the movie and that all of us really translated very well. It’s a little bit of a mystery to me.

UGO: What do you have coming up?
IDINA: At the end of April I’m doing this movie called Enchanted with Amy Adams. It’s a big Disney movie. It starts with eight minutes of animation, where Amy is this princess and James Marsden is the prince. Susan Sarandon, who’s the stepmother/queen, doesn’t want her marrying James Marsden, so she pushes her down this well and she ends up in Times Square and it becomes real life. Also, I’m writing music. I just got signed to Warner Bros. so I’m making a non-Broadway album. I’m going to give it a go, doing a classy, sophisticated, soulful pop record working with Glen Ballard and other producers.

UGO: Would you want to do television?
IDINA: Yeah. I didn’t do anything this pilot season because I wanted to focus on this album. I really wanted to apply myself. But I would love to do that, especially since I want to be a mom eventually.

UGO: What’s your audience going to be for your album?
IDINA: That’s a good question, because right now my audience is 13 year old girls and gay men. I think the record label will be surprised at that.

UGO: Are you looking forward to touring with the album?
IDINA: Yeah, that’s my deeply hidden dream. A great tour bus, my band, the guys and singing my own music. I always thought my music was my destiny.

UGO: What’s the best music concert you’ve ever been to?
IDINA: I saw Lenny Kravitz when he was at Madison Square Garden. That was really cool. He’s so hot.

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