Baumbach, on the other hand, is more inscrutable. The eldest son of former Village Voice film critic Georgia Brown and New York novelist Jonathan Baumbach, he is polite and thoughtful, but he doesn't smile much. He tends to interrupt himself mid-sentence, as if in a constant state of self-editing. And he seems to relish silences that last just long enough to register as uncomfortable. He'll simply fix his big brown eyes on you, and say nothing at all. ''He's very, very, very private,'' notes his mother-in-law, Turner. ''He doesn't say anything unless he has something to say, I've found.''
Still, there are moments when Baumbach lets down his guard. When asked how his wife inspires him, he opens right up, praise rolling off his tongue. ''Even before I met her, I'd always admired how fearless Jennifer was, how she'd just throw herself into things,'' says the filmmaker, who coscripted 2004's The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou with his friend Wes Anderson. ''When I met her, I was writing Squid and getting to a point in my life where I didn't worry what other people might think of me. The timing was interesting because she had been doing what I wished I could do as an artist [all along].'' He thinks for a beat. ''Jennifer is my better self.''
Baumbach turns to Leigh. ''Was that good?'' he asks, smiling.
Leigh nods contentedly.
Before the conversation winds down and the couple go pack for an early morning flight to L.A. the next day, Leigh addresses the most baffling aspect of her career: the fact that none of her performances not her feral portrayal of a heroin-addicted singer in 1995's Georgia (which her mother wrote), nor her wrenching depiction of a 1950s prostitute in 1989's Last Exit to Brooklyn have earned her an Oscar nomination. ''I don't think you can control that stuff,'' she says with a shrug. And though there are prognosticators wondering if Margot could be the film to finally catch the Academy's attention, she remains cautious: ''It could happen. It could not happen. But it's nice that people are saying it.'' As for her place in the Hollywood food chain, she doesn't fret about that, either. ''Sometimes I wish I had certain opportunities that maybe I don't always have like seeing better scripts,'' she admits. ''But at the same time, I really like my life. I like the level of fame I have. It doesn't get in the way too much, but it does afford me a nice table at a restaurant with short notice,'' she laughs. ''So that's good.''
Leigh recently wrapped Charlie Kaufman's latest mind-melter, Synecdoche, New York, playing Catherine Keener's best gal pal. Much as she relished the rare chance to flex her comedy chops, she's not done tackling the dark stuff. ''I'm always gonna be interested in what makes people say horrible, scathing things to each other under the guise of love,'' she says. That's good news for Baumbach, who's already working on his next script. Though he won't divulge any details, it's likely there will be a juicy part for his wife. ''I know that whatever I write, Jennifer can play,'' he says. ''She's like the nuclear bomb that I can drop at any point.''
Well, almost any point. In full deadpan, Leigh retorts: ''Before I'm 38.''
See more from the EW 2007 Holiday Movie Preview:
Inside the making of Sweeney Todd
Johnny Depp: EW's extended Q&A with the Sweeney Todd star
Beowulf: High stakes for a 3-D epic
First Listen: The title song from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story