Gwyneth Paltrow hasn’t played a movie lead since she shot Proof three years ago. Married to Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, Paltrow’s been busy caring for their kids, two-year-old Apple and 10-month-old Moses. In a September 2004 cover story in EW, she hinted that she might be gone from acting for a good long while.
But now she’s back. At the Sundance Film Festival last week, Paltrow sat down with EW to discuss her decision to return in a high-profile movie — an adaptation of the comic book Iron Man — and why she thinks she’s ready to act again. We also talked about her supporting role in The Good Night, the writing/directorial debut of her brother, Jake Paltrow, which tells the story of a man (the British Office’s Martin Freeman) who falls in love with a woman (Penélope Cruz) who happens to exist only in his dreams. At the premiere of the film at Sundance, Gwyneth teared up when she took the stage with her bro for the Q&A.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Who do you play in The Good Night?
GWYNETH PALTROW: I play Martin Freeman’s longtime girlfriend, the one he gives up for the ”dream” girl. The movie’s about what happens when you don’t choose to make your life as good as you can make it, while you’re living it.
This is Jake’s first feature. What else has he done?
When he was 19, he did a short that was really great. It played here at Sundance. And then he was hired by studios to write more stuff. And then he wrote [The Good Night], and people really responded to it. Jake said he wanted to cast Martin Freeman, and some people were like, ”No!” [Laughs] It’s not like saying you want to cast Johnny Depp. But as soon as he got Martin, he started putting this great cast together, and I asked, ”Can I please be in it?” [But] Jake kept resisting. He thought, ”It’s my first film, and I don’t want it to be associated with you.” Slowly he [realized], ”My sister’s a really good actress, and if she wants to be in the film, I might as well [let her].”
Your dad directed you in Duets. So now you’ve worked with everyone in your family, right?
Yeah, I’ve worked with everyone in my family. I’ve worked with my mom [Blythe Danner] a bunch of times. And my dad. I would love to keep working with my brother.
Seems like you’re taking on more projects than you have in the past.
Well, I hadn’t worked in a long time, I was really committed to being home. Then I finally just agreed to do this movie Iron Man. I reached a place in my life where I thought, ”It’s okay that I have a passion for something besides my family.” I love making films. If I do one thing that makes me fulfilled, then I’m a more interesting woman for my children. And then I got this call, and I thought, I love Jon Favreau [who’s directing Iron Man]. And the cast was so good. This feels right to me.
Is it a big movie? It sounds like it could have an ”indie” sensibility.
It sounds like it does, but it [has] a huge budget. [Laughs]
Who’s your character?
I play Pepper Potts, who’s Iron Man’s assistant. They have a very charged dynamic.
When do you start Iron Man?
And what do you do to get ready?
Pump it up! [Laughs] I’m exercising.
So why Iron Man?
You know why? Because of the people involved. It had nothing to do with the size of the budget. It was like, if I got a call that there’s a six-million-dollar movie, and these are the people, I’d do it. I’ve always wanted to work with Robert Downey Jr. He’s a genius, and I had never been asked to do a film with him before. I’m really excited that it’s Iron Man because I’ve never done anything like it. I’m really thrilled.
When you take that much time off, do you see other performances or films that make you want to go back and do it?
It’s funny. I felt so outside of it all for such a long time, that when I saw movies, I felt like I was never even involved in the business. I feel so lucky that when I felt like I was ready to go back to work, there was something ready for me, [that] I wasn’t completely forgotten about. And you know, I really thought I would be! And I figured that that would be okay too — I’d just fight tooth-and-nail.
Was there anything you tried to get that you didn’t? I can’t imagine you get turned down a lot.
Well, it wasn’t so much that I put myself out there and was rejected. Which would’ve been okay. But it wasn’t like I was getting, you know, thousands of offers a week, when I was nine months’ pregnant or nursing babies, either. I also think I had projected, ”I’m out of the business. I live in London and I have my kids.” And yes, that is an aspect of who I am, but I’m also a person who’s very passionate about my art and film.
When did you decide to come back?
Well, I sort of fake-decided to come back probably six months ago. But it was only a few weeks ago that it really, really washed through me. It’s only been recently that I thought that this is a part of me that if I don’t nurture, I’ll be a worse human being [for it].
Will your family be separated then?
We will be, a bit. My kids will be with me. And my husband will be recording a record, so unfortunately he’ll have to travel. But he’s supportive of my working, so we’ll just make it work.
Do you know what you want to do after Iron Man?
I’ll definitely take the rest of the summer off to be with my family. And then I’d like to do something really character-driven. I’ve got the Marlene Dietrich story in development at DreamWorks, and I would really love to do that. And also my best friend Mary [Wigmore has been] writing the feature version of Dealbreaker, which is the short film we did last year. It’s really a bawdy kind of comedy. So we wanna do that, and I would be in it.
How do you think work will affect your parenting?
I’m not going to work like I did before I had kids. I want to call Kate Winslet and say, ”Can you tell me how to do this?” Or call Cate Blanchett and ask her to describe [her day] from 7 a.m. on. But it’s not going to be back-to-back films.
I got the sense that you were tired of the attention you were receiving from the world when you were working. Do you worry about that, as you come back into the public eye?
Yeah, that’s such a funny thing. You want to be an actor. You don’t want to be in [the] tabloids. To me, those worlds seem mutually exclusive. And I fully understand that for whatever reason I’m one of those people where there’s an interest, if you will, in my personal life. But I do think people are kind of bored. I’ve got a couple kids, a husband; I’ve just been at home.
Do you want have more kids, or could you be back for good?
I think I’m done. I think so. I feel so lucky that I’ve got one of each, they’re both healthy, thank God [knocks on the wooden armrest of her chair], and I don’t want to push it. I don’t think I would have more. You never know — but not anytime soon.
Are there movies, music, or books that have recently inspired you?
There’s a lot of music in our house. Especially when I’m in England, the music scene over there is so vibrant. Bloc Party — I love their new single that’s coming out. And the Secret Machines. And I’m really excited about the new Arcade Fire album coming out [in March]. I’ve heard their single, ”Intervention.” I find them so inspirational. And what else? I really like Juliette Lewis’ band, Juliette and the Licks. Their newest one is so good. And this Brazilian band CSS, do you know them? They’re this punk-rock girl band. And I’ve been reading this book called Heat [about working in chef Mario Batali’s kitchen at Babbo in New York] that I’m obsessed with. I love to cook, and cooking was where all my creativity went while I was a housewife for two years.
What about actors and performances?
I was really killed by Babel, I loved it so much. Especially the two women, Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi. And what else? Maggie Gyllenhaal in Sherrybaby. She’s my favorite, she’s the best actress working. I’m obsessed with her. I think she is the real deal.
Meanwhile, your husband’s recording a record?
Because I heard a rumor that he was taking years off and it would be a long time before we heard a new Coldplay album.
I think it won’t come out soon, but I think it’s going to be their best one. It’s going to be insane.
Is he writing 100 songs again, only to winnow it down to 12, like he did the last time?
No, he’s done it differently this time. I mean, he doesn’t really like it when I talk about him, but I will say I think he felt that he had so much pressure on him for the last album, that he feels like it was a product of a lot of different energies, and this time he’s got a laserlike precision. It’s incredible to watch. [I’m] like, [meekly], I’ll just be over here.