CS Interview: Cathy Moriarty on But I’m A Cheerleader 20th anniversary
In honor of the cult classic’s 20th anniversary, Jamie Babbit’s satirical rom-com But I’m a Cheerleader has finally received its long-awaited director’s cut and in glorious 4K and ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to chat with star Cathy Moriarty to discuss her work in the film and its long-lasting legacy.
ComingSoon.net: So after 20 years, how does it feel to see the film getting its director’s cut re-release in its new 4K imaging?
Cathy Moriarty: Well I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m excited to see it [laughs]. I had a great experience making the movie and when they were having the screenings and premieres for it, I was a little busy giving birth, so I didn’t see the movie for years and years and a couple of years ago I finally got it see and I was very pleased. It was above and beyond my expectations and Jamie was pretty amazing.
CS: Do you remember what first initially drew you to the project?
CM: Well it wasn’t the money [laughs], no, no I’m just teasing, I loved the cast of these new, aspiring stars. It’s a while, I mean it’s 20 years, right, and to work with them, I liked the premise, I liked how she addressed it, I loved the script. I had a couple of weeks off, so it was great.
CS: We’d seen you play villains before Cheerleader, but what was it like getting to the heart of your character in this film?
CM: I tried to make her as unique as possible and believable, that I actually believed in what I was doing and what the character set out to do. Once I put the suit on, I was off to the races [chuckles]. Working with the talent in the movie, these kids, well they’re not kids anymore and they weren’t really then, they were exceptional. They were heartfelt, they were just exceptional, but it was like such a joy to go to work every day and I had such a great experience doing the movie and the outcome of it and I’m excited to see all of the new stuff.
CS: Coming into the project, did you find you had to do additional research into the subject of conversion therapy camps?
CM: I didn’t do any deep research in the conversion therapy, I had a great understanding in spirituality of what life is and it was just totally against everything I thought of in terms of the camp and treating teens as human beings. So I kind of used that and played her so hard and I think somewhat believable, too, that she thought she was doing the right thing, that it wasn’t just a money-making scam. I kind of grew up in a family very accepting of other races, religions, sexuality and anything like that and I’ve taught my kids the same, that we’re color blind, that you respect the human being, you don’t judge. So this particular character believed in a certain way and I just played it like that, I hope it was okay, it looked okay to me [chuckles].
CS: How has it been for you to see the cult following and multiple academic analyses in the years since its release?
CM: It was kind of incredible to me the fact that it had such a cult following and people were buying the DVDs and asking me to autograph them and stuff and I think it was because I hadn’t seen the movie, I was just there doing it. So when I finally sat down and watched the movie, I was like, “Now I understand why it has such a cult audience,” because it is a really good movie and the acting was really great on behalf of all of the kids that were in the camp and working with Clea DuVall and Natasha Lyonne and just everybody, it was just such an enjoyable experience. I’m not as surprised anymore at the following for it because it’s light-hearted yet had a message and I like that.
CS: One of the things I love about the film that hasn’t aged a day is the production values in the set and costumes, what was that like for you going to those sets and outfits every day?
CM: The set design was remarkable, I’d walk in in the morning and be like, “How the hell did you do this from last night to today?” For me, it made you feel like you were in the moment, the production value just went above and beyond, the costumes, the wardrobes, it was ideal in its own sense that it felt very individual. It helps you with the acting when you’re in the right setting, also, and they did that, the production value of what they did with what they had was truly incredible, they were really talented people, it was a labor of love. We were all there because we wanted to be, it wasn’t like, “Okay, I’m gonna do this and then move on to something else,” we were very dedicated to the project while we were there.
CS: So in addition to this year being the 20th anniversary for Cheerleader, it also marks the 25th anniversary of Casper, so what’s it like for you looking back on the popularity on that one as well?
CM: It’s like an anniversary year, somebody called me last week to do an interview and it was the 40th anniversary of Raging Bull, I didn’t even know it was the 25th of Casper, there you go, I thought you were going to hit me with Raging Bull [laughs]. Casper was a totally different experience, I wanted to live in the mansion that they just immediately tore down the day we were done. I was like, “Why would you take this down, why don’t we all just live here?” I think that’s the big difference between big budget and production value.
CS: Casper and Cheerleader both feel like the ultimate testaments to films using their production budgets to their full potentials, what was it like immersing yourself in that world?
CM: It was such an honor and a privilege and watching Steven Spielberg come down and Brad Silberling, in watching the animators that were on set with us and Silberling and Spielberg working together on every little detail and coming up with rollercoasters inside the place, it was just awesome, just so amazing. Those were long days and long hours, a lot because we were working with children and they kind of shoot them out first, but I really do also think that But I’m a Cheerleader got a lot of bang for their buck in production value. The feel of both movies and their worlds were what made the movie.
This whimsically edgy comedy, directed by Jamie Babbit, follows teenager Megan (Natasha Lyonne),whose suburban existence filled with friends, cheerleading and all-American fun is upended when her straight-laced parents suspect she may be a lesbian. In a panic, they send her to True Directions, a“rehabilitation” camp run by the strict and prudish Mary (Moriarty), to mount an intervention led by counselor Mike (RuPaul Charles). Megan dutifully follows the program—until she develops feelings for another camper (Clea DuVall) in this timeless, satirical romantic-comedy about self-acceptance and love also co-starring Melanie Lynskey, Eddie Cibrian and Michelle Williams.
Special Features for the Director’s Cut Include:
- Audio Commentary with Director Jamie Babbit, Costume Designer Alix Friedberg and Production Designer Rachel Kamerman
- “But I’m a Cheerleader Class Reunion”
- “Making But I’m a Cheerleader…In 1999″
- “But I’m a Composer…A Chat with Pat Irwin”
- Student Film: Discharge
But I’m a Cheerleader is available on Digital 4K now on AppleTV and anywhere you buy movies online!