Inveterate Runaway Minnie Driver on How She Learned to Spend the Actor’s One True Currency
This Week on the Talk Easy Podcast with Sam Fragoso
Illustration by Krishna Bala Shenoi.
Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso is a weekly series of intimate conversations with artists, authors, and politicians. It’s a podcast where people sound like people. New episodes air every Sunday, distributed by Pushkin Industries.
On the heels of her debut essay collection Managing Expectations, Minnie Driver discusses the role of luck, her bifurcated upbringing, and how it shaped her view of motherhood.
As we walk through the 1970s, Minnie describes discovering acting in boarding school, her proclivity for running away, the story of her performance, the aftermath of Circle of Friends, an unnerving series of commercial auditions in her 20s and what they taught her about misogyny in Hollywood.
On the back-half, she tells a tender story from the making of Good Will Hunting, the media pressure she faced following the film, finding refuge in songwriting, and how having her son, Henry, changed her course. To close, we sit with her mother’s final days and how she defines love at age 52.
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From the episode:
Sam Fragoso: There are many occasions in which you run away throughout this book, Managing Expectations. We’re going to get to some of them, but before we do that, I want to talk about you, nine years old, participating in your first audition, singing a Barbra Streisand song.
Minnie Driver: I sang “Evergreen” from A Star Is Born like a male chorister because I didn’t know what she was talking about.
Sam Fragoso: You were auditioning for a protest song about a tree that was going to get cut down?
Minnie Driver: It was a protest musical. They were going to build a bypass at this freeway that was going to cut through the grounds of our school. The environmental impact was huge, and the impact on the school was going to be massive. So, these teachers wrote this amazing musical that the kids then performed as a protest, and it was actually instrumental in staving off the building of this road for 13 years. It was the late 70s, so this was still in protest decade. I was just white knuckling it on the branch of this tree, singing the song that they wrote called “They Said It Was My Tree,” and I did it on the news.
Sam Fragoso: In the book, reflecting on this first big performance, you write, “I could not separate the powerful feeling of effecting change with being acknowledged as a performer. Understanding the conflation of responses, both my own and others, will be a knot I will struggle to unpick for the rest of my life.”
Minnie Driver: What do you think that means?
Sam Fragoso: Well, as the writer of the book—
Minnie Driver: [Laughs] Acting was never empirical; it was never this desperate need to be famous and be known. It was so inspired in this incubator of this school and realizing that I was good at it because I loved it so much. I loved working on a text and being directed and rehearsals and the practice, and then the performance and the sharing. I still love all of that and what it puts into the world. However pretentious it sounds, as actors talk about putting good stuff into the world, I don’t see their function other than that. You know how to articulate emotion, and that is your currency.
Minnie Driver is an English and American actress, singer, and songwriter whose films include Circle of Friends, GoldenEye, Big Night, Grosse Pointe Blank, Sleepers, Ella Enchanted, The Phantom of the Opera, and most recently, the Amazon Original film Cinderella. For her role as Skylar in Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting, she was nominated for both the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and a Screen Actors Guild Award. She has also starred in several television series, including The Riches, for which she received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, Speechless, Will and Grace, and Amazon’s Modern Love. She has also recorded three albums, Everything I’ve Got in My Pocket, Seastories, and Ask Me To Dance all of which received considerable critical acclaim. She lives in Los Angeles.
Sam Fragoso is the host of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso, a weekly series of conversations with artists, activists, and politicians. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, and NPR. After conducting seminal interviews with icons like Spike Lee, Werner Herzog, and Noam Chomsky, he independently founded Talk Easy in 2016.