Her lexicon is pure entertainmentese. She describes the small Connecticut town where she grew up as ”like Mayberry,” her family as ”very You Can’t Take It With You.” And when the piano player at her first big audition told the actress, then 17, that she was singing ”Maybe This Time” in the wrong key, she argued it this way: ”No, I’m singing in the right key, the key of Liza.” Of course, Illeana Douglas got the part.
It’s that willful exuberance that first won Douglas, 27, the admiration of director Martin Scorsese. Douglas’ resume now reads like a Scorsese road map: She dubbed a blood-curdling scream in The Last Temptation of Christ, had small roles in New York Stories and GoodFellas, and is now making her mark in Cape Fear as the forbidden apple of Nick Nolte’s eye and the object of Robert De Niro’s creepy barside flirtation. Douglas appreciates the chemistry involved: ”With Marty and Bob,” she says, ”the possibility for greatness is in the air at all times.”
The granddaughter of the late Melvyn Douglas, the actress considers herself ”a complete contradiction — very proper and very Italian.” And though she’s shy about discussing her three-year relationship with a New York City book publicist, she says she’s a ”very Howard Hawks-ish” type of gal. ”I hung out with the guys,” says Douglas. ”I don’t know how to be the girl with the great body and a lot of hair. To me, having a sense of humor is very sexy.”