By: Alexander Watson
I first got a glimpse of this gorgeous, fiery redhead in the 1998 film Urban Legend. A few months later, I was stunned when watching David Lynch´s Dune and saw that the eerie little girl, Alie, in the film was in fact Witt. My first thought was, “Damn, that kind of talent just can’t be taught.” Throughout the years, I have seen her work with Hollywood´s elite–both actors and directors–and to say she held her own would be a gross understatement. In preparation for this article, I found out she is actually much more than just an extremely talented actress. She graduated from high school at the age of 14, and she is a classically trained pianist as well as a singer and a song writer. On top of all that, her mother, Diane Witt, held the Guinness World Record for eight years for having the longest hair (in the world). Now I have no idea what that has to do with Alicia, but damn–it just sounds cool.
I had a chance to listen to one of her songs (that she both wrote and performed), and I have to tell you my first thought was “Why oh why hasn´t this girl put out an album?” Her voice is smooth and sultry and carries with it the many facets of emotions that make you connect with the music immediately.
I recently got a chance to talk with Alicia about her music, film, and television careers.
Alexander Watson: We are an Internet magazine, so my first question is: Are you computer savvy?
Alicia Witt: I´m pretty computer savvy.
Watson: In case you were wondering, Blackberry´s kind of count.
Witt: Yeah, I´m very Blackberry savvy. I love my Blackberry. I also use my computer quite a bit. I use Garage Band to record stuff, just really rudimentarily.
Watson: So you are a Mac girl?
Witt: Yeah, I am a Mac girl.
Watson: Do you blog?
Witt: I don´t really blog, although I am considering writing something, but I´m not doing the journal entry type thing because that is a very public. Most of the people on there are people I have never met. It’s not really for real friends. A lot of musicians use it. It’s great for musicians. It’s great to let people know when you are playing gigs, but I don´t really use it to keep in touch with people. I am getting so frustrated with the election right now that I am considering writing something and asking people to pass it along because I just feel so frustrated with the number of people I am meeting right now who are telling me they are planning to not vote if they don´t get the Democratic candidate that they want. I have actually heard it both ways. I have heard it more with Obama, that if Hillary is chosen as the Democratic nominee, they won´t vote. And last night, I actually heard somebody say the opposite. He was a Hillary supporter and doesn´t like Obama´s economic plan and doesn´t plan to vote, or he will vote for Nader.
Watson: Are you a Clinton or Obama girl?
Watson: Did you get to do any campaigning?
Witt: I wasn´t able to. I was out of town. I was in New York doing press. I really wanted to do some campaigning here, and I didn´t get to make it to Pennsylvania either.
Watson: Chris Noth´s character on CI was known as a notorious hothead. How fun is it to play a character that, at times, makes him look like a cool-headed diplomat?
Witt: So fun! I feel so lucky to have gotten to play that part. I just loved that they welcomed what I wanted to do with her. I mean, obviously it was a character created by Warren Leight, but then the way that I wanted to play her they were happy with and they didn´t try to calm her down at all. I mean, she was a real character. She wasn´t just a filler in for a few episodes and definitely wasn´t a shadow at Logan´s side. I really liked their relationship, and I wholeheartedly loved doing it. I had a great time. I have one episode remaining to film that we didn´t get to do before the strike, so the idea is that we will probably shoot that in June or something.
Watson: In your film out now, 88 Minutes, you play opposite Al Pacino. You have worked with John Waters, Richard Dryfuss, and a lot of people considered Hollywood´s elite. Do you ever get nervous when you are working with an actor like Al Pacino?
Witt: Well, I was nervous when I first realized I was going to meet him because I had to audition with him twice before I got the part. I was definitely nervous, but as soon as I met him, I wasn´t nervous anymore because he was just so easy to be around. He´s got this incredible presence about him, and obviously it’s hard to look at him and not be overwhelmed by the magnitude of work that he has accomplished in his life and the incredible performances that have changed cinema; but he doesn´t act that way. He doesn´t treat other actors as though they should be hanging on his every word and doesn´t behave like he is always right or that you have to be subservient around him in any way. He is just a real pleasure. I liked him even more after I worked with him than I liked him already from all of the work that I have seen.
Watson: You have such a diverse resume; other than the paycheck, of course, which do you prefer as an artist–studio or independent films?
Witt: I think it really has to do with the project. Like right now, I don´t know what I am doing next and I am looking at both studio films and independent ones. It´s always about the characters and the director for me. Also who I get to work with in the other actors. I think there are both good things and bad things about both studios and independents. I also think the lines between the two are blurring a lot more now than they ever did before. Like, 88 Minutes was technically an independent film. It was made as an independent film and then sold to Sony later. A lot of other films that are made as indies are made but they have more of a mass appeal tendency about them. So even while the film is being made, they kind of know it’s probably going to end up being bought by a studio and become a studio film.
Watson: You do a lot of films, and a lot of them are on location. Do you enjoy the travel, or are you more of a, “Damn, I wish it was shooting here” kind of girl?
Witt: I haven´t worked in LA in years. I don´t know the last job I had here in LA. I´m always traveling, I love that. It’s fun to work in LA, though, too. I love all of it.
Watson: I heard a couple of your songs on your MySpace page, and I have to tell you they are amazing. You are playing here in LA next week at The Mint on the 29th. Do you play in New York as well?
Witt: I played at the Rainforest Action Network event Chris Noth was hosting and asked me to play along with Jimmy Webb. So I basically got to open for Jimmy Webb at that. [Laughs] …At my first ever gig. So I played three of my songs. It was amazing. Then I played a gig at the Bitter End in December, and then I actually just played at The Cutting Room about a month ago.
Watson: Who were your musical influences growing up–both vocal and instrumental?
Witt: I love Billy Joel, Rufus Wainwright, Ben Folds, and all those guys are really skilled pianists. Definitely Rufus Wainwright had classical piano training. Ben Folds might have as well, I am not sure. Fiona Apple is another one that I loved. Erroll Garner and Hoagie Carmichael are people I loved…like Fats Waller and Peter Nero–those guys are great. I love listening to jazz.
Watson: And my final question that I am sure everyone is dying to know (because you are a musician): How are you at Guitar Hero?
Witt: Not too bad, but I don´t know how to play the guitar so I guess I would be better if I could.
After speaking with Alicia, I liked her even more then I did before. She is humble about her music while still carrying the confidence she has when she performs it–something rare for someone whose first gig was six months ago, and opening for Jimmy Webb no less. An actress that is not only extremely talented but also mindful of her choices; an artist that, by any definition, is a true performer on all fronts. Although I do have to say I was happy to hear that she couldn´t play the guitar. Finally something she can´t do.
I know we will be seeing much more of Alicia on the Silver Screen, and hopefully hearing much more of her music as well. In the end, my thoughts of her were that of her thoughts on Al Pacino. It was just a pleasure. –Alexander Watson
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ALICIA WITT PERFORMING LIVE AT THE MINT IN LOS ANGELES–TUESDAY, APR 29