Monday, September 7, 2009

Anna Chlumsky on 'My Girl' Memories, James Gandolfini Stories & 'In the Loop'

5 Questions With the Former Child Star

In the early '90s, Anna Chlumsky was one of the most recognizable child stars in America. Her turn as the unforgettably named Vada Sultenfuss in 'My Girl' had wowed critics and won the hearts of filmgoers (don't even pretend you weren't choking back tears during that funeral scene). And then, suddenly, she just disappeared.

But don't worry: Chlumsky did not become another washed-up child-star casualty of the Hollywood machine. Instead, she gave up acting to focus on her education, earning a degree in International Relations from the prestigious University of Chicago before going on to a career in book publishing.

Thankfully for fans, the lure of the screen was too much for Anna to ignore, and the now 28-year-old is back on the big screen as a sultry, seductive, very un-Vada-like State Department assistant in the BBC political satire
'In the Loop.' In an exclusive interview, Anna reveals why she's giving acting another go, reminisces about 'My Girl' ... and shares her favorite James Gandolfini story. -- By Tom DiChiara

1. You just returned to movies after a long time away. What got you back into acting?
About five years ago I was working at Harper Collins Publishers -- I was an editorial assistant for science fiction and fantasy -- and that's a very fun job, in my opinion. I love words, and I love goblins and princesses, so it was a blast. However, I was still crying everyday because I was very unhappy. And I think when you go through that, you kind of have to take inventory of all the signs that the universe or God or whoever you want to call it [is giving you]. And I just realized one day that I need to try this again, because I couldn't let go of it. The little Jiminy Cricket that had been on my shoulder for so many years, you know, through college and for those first two years in New York, was very loud and unignorable, telling me I had to get back in -- so I did! I trained over a summer at the Atlantic [Theater], and I never looked back. I did tons of theater, and I still love to do that as well and, you know, I just kind of started beating the pavement again. And here we are five years later!

2. And what was it that drew you to 'In the Loop' specifically?
Oh, gosh! I got the breakdown and went out for the audition, and when I saw BBC Films, my heart leapt a little because I have this kind of irrational fascination with Masterpiece Theater and BBC [laughs]. My father brought me up on [Hercule] Poirot mysteries and Inspector Morris and Dickens miniseries, and I always thought that was unreachable for me because they would very rarely use Americans. So when I saw that I was actually auditioning for something that was put out by the BBC, I was like, "Oh my goodness!" So, that was the first thing that I was excited about. And then the second thing is it was about somebody in the State Department, and when I went to college at the University of Chicago I studied international -- well it was international studies -- but ultimately that's international relations and, you know, I was like 10 minutes away from taking my Foreign Service Exam to work at the State Department. That was the track I was going to go on. Then I was looking at the material and I was like, do I really want to do this? [Laughs] But I thought it was just amazing that I was finally, after all these years, going to put some of my academics to work.

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