Jennifer Jason Leigh captured at the 1997 Toronto Film Festival -- Chris Wahl, Sun

Toronto Film Festival 1997

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Saturday, September 13, 1997

Leigh comfortable with square role

By BRUCE KIRKLAND -- Toronto Sun

 With her haunted eyes, pursed lips and penchant for plunging into the murky dramatic depths, Jennifer Jason Leigh has carved out a Hollywood career defined by wounded desperation.
 From the drug culture victim in Rush to the psychologically damaged daughter in Dolores Claiborne to the flame-out genius Dorothy Parker in Vicious Circle, Leigh has re-defined what it means to be a dark and dangerous woman on screen. Just don't mistake that for Leigh herself. She is not the off-screen embodiment of her characters, she says.
 Unless, of course, you want to talk about Agnieszka Holland's Washington Square, the new adapation of Henry James' classic novel. The film made its debut as a gala in the Toronto film fest last night.
 Her wallflower character who blossoms after a romantic disaster "is in certain ways much closer to me than many of the characters I've played," says Leigh yesterday of her Catherine character. "The others, they're much farther removed from me -- and therefore enticing. Catherine is much closer to home, with her shyness and her awkwardness and her lack of confidence. All that kind of stuff, I understand that."
 Leigh chuckles about meeting people who might confuse her with the women she has created in her previous roles. "People will be so disappointed," she says, a sweet smile curling up on delicate lips. "I really do wish I was a lot more like Dorothy Parker but there was a price to pay for that."
 There is a price to pay for pursuing a Hollywood career, too, and Leigh has been careful not to make the mistake of becoming "a careerist" who is more concerned with fame and fortune than with roles that stimulate her as an actress. Acting is her key to the world, Leigh says. Acting is her search for independence and womanhood.
 "Absolutely -- because I can be all kinds of people when I'm acting.
 "I'm very internal and introspective. I'm a homebody and I love my dog and I like to take really long hikes and I like to read and I have a really close group of friends. I'm certainly not a partygoer." She is not a paparazzi target either -- to her delight.
 Leigh, who also will be seen in A Thousand Acres with Michelle Pfeiffer and Jessica Lange, is now working on Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, a project she is not allowed to talk about.
 It's a prestige project, not a star-making vehicle, like Washington Square. "I'm much more interested in characters I care about," she says of pursuing fame.