Dana Delany had a lot to show for her tour of duty as a smart, cynical Army nurse on ABC’s China Beach: an Emmy award (and three nominations) for Best Actress, a romantic relationship with the show’s creator, John Sacret Young, and enough footage of herself in olive drab to last a lifetime. ”I was offered television parts after China Beach was canceled, and I turned them down,” says the Connecticut-born Delany, 36. Instead, she accepted a pair of meaty, wildly diverse supporting roles in the movies: This summer, she’s a former drug user who falls hard (in every way) for Willem Dafoe in Paul Schrader’s somber drama Light Sleeper, and she’s a pearls-and-plaid preppie wooed by Steve Martin in the lighter-than-helium comedy Housesitter.
Delany, who lives in Los Angeles, was in New York when Schrader asked her to read with Dafoe. She didn’t flinch at Sleeper’s semi-explicit bedroom scene. ”Paul explained every shot,” she says. ”And Willem was very comfortable with his body.”
On the subject of Housesitter’s love scene, Delany is considerably gigglier. ”Steve has done so many comic bits, it was hard to find something new. I sucked on his finger, and he said, ‘No, no — Kathleen Turner sucked my finger in Man With Two Brains.”’ Nonetheless, the two actors groped their way to a comic climax in which Martin shyly executes either the most inept bit of foreplay or the most oddly timed breast examination on film. ”What was he doing to me?” Delany asks, dissolving into laughter. ”I still have no idea. You’d have to ask a 14-year-old boy.”
Delany will soon be starring in two movies for ABC (one of which she’ll produce). First, though, she’ll play a femme fatale in the Oliver Stone-produced miniseries Wild Palms, based on a savage movie-industry comic strip. ”Believe me, I have nothing against TV,” she says. ”It lets women do things they rarely get to do in movies. Like star in them.”