Bijou Phillips is yet another example that somehow, if you’re the daughter of a rock star–in her case The Mamas and The Papas’ John Phillips–then you’re genetically predisposed to be a beautiful aspiring model/actress. I’m not making this up. And unlike most of her fellow rock princesses, Phillips no longer aspires. She’s achieved. With roles in Bully, Choke, Hostel II, and most recently, the bizzaro noir musical Dark Streets (which opened last week), Phillips has built herself a respectable acting portfolio to go along with her musical dabblings. Admittedly, Phillips has yet to elevate herself to Liv Tyler level, but with upcoming roles in at least three movies, none of them National Lampoon’s straight-to-dvd clunkers, her career has yet to plateau. Here the actress muses about L.A. cougardom, her infamous New York party days, her love of Michelle Obama, but not that dress.
You wrote in our Black List that you hate that in L.A., you’re considered a cougar when you’re thirty. So, you’re two years away from being a cougar. That’s so funny that you say that. I renamed my hot tub “Cougar Lagoon.” And that’s been an argument with me and my friends cause they’re like, ‘You’re not a cougar at 30.’ And I’m like “Yeah, you’re a cougar at 30!’ And I’ve also decided that because I’m 28 and I’m not a cougar yet, I’m a pre-cougar, I’m a bobcat. I’m a bobcat now, and I’ll be a cougar in two years.
So what are you when you’re 20 years old? At 20 I think you’re like a kitten. And then in your mid-20s, you’re like a shelter cat, or street cat. That’s what it is. It’s kitten, shelter cat, bobcat, then cougar. And then in your 40s, you’re a lioness. And then in your 80s, what are you? You’re like a jaguar. No? Not good? Okay, you’re a lioness until the day you die.
You don’t make it to 80 in L.A. Yes you do. You make it to like your mid-hundreds. We’re so healthy out here!
You also said you hate Ed Hardy. Ed Hardy clothing, I know. Isn’t it horrible? It’s so depressing. You know I had to make like five lists for that because you kept rejecting them. My first list was like, I hate McCain and Palin, and world hunger. Everything was so serious. And you guys were like, can you maybe just make it a little bit lighter? So I just went all out. My first list was very political, and it was right before Barack got elected. So I was watching CNN for like five hours a day.
Are you an Obama supporter? I was for Hillary until I heard about Barack. I saw Michelle Obama speak at a big rally in L.A. It was before they calmed down Michelle Obama, and she just said what she wanted to say and it was awesome. Before they toned her down. She was just saying some real shit, and she was amazing. And I was like, “I want to vote for Michelle Obama!”
Maybe you can in ten years. Oh my god, I so would! She should have run for president. She would have been amazing. But I love Barack. He’s strong and says what he needs to say, but his wife is the same way. He doesn’t have one of these wives that’s just like, “I’m smiling and I have blond hair.”
And she’s a really good dresser. She’s an amazing dresser.
And that’s the most important thing. Sometimes she’s on the fence with the dressing, but she’s definitely better than the rest.
What did you think of the hoopla surrounding her Narciso Rodriguez dress during his acceptance speech in Grant Park? It made her look fat. It wasn’t her best dress. It didn’t fit her properly. And she can look awesome. She needs stuff that’s cut on the bias, and that dress wasn’t.
And we’re gonna print that. No, I love Michelle Obama. If you print that you need to print that I would have voted for her. And that I think she’s a great dresser, except for that one dress.
So what was worse, giving Sam Rockwell a handjob in Choke, or getting maimed by a saw in Hostel II? I think getting maimed by the saw.
Not giving Rockwell a handjob? It was pretty awesome, I have to say. Giving air a handjob. I felt like I have to act like I’m really doing it. And my hand’s going, and it’s on his crotch, obviously, but he had his pants on. And sometimes I would just be into what I was saying, and it would be a fist I was making, and it would slam into his crotch. And he would just be like “OW.” It was horrible.
So I saw Dark Streets the other day. What did you think of it?
It was very bizarre. I don’t know what cut they’re showing. There’s one cut I really like, and then there’s one cut I don’t like.
What did you love about this film? Obviously I loved the music portion most. The whole movie is breaking every rule on so many levels. From the camera we used, the lens we used, no one’s ever used that lens before for an entire movie. They just use it for scenes. People are like, “Ugh, I can’t handle the lens, I just want to see you guys.” But I think the lens is amazing. I think it just takes you to a different place. And the movie is so rich, the colors, the wardrobe, and the set.
How did you get involved with this project? I got sent the script and I really liked it. And the music was very different when I got involved. I got in there and had my one song, and they needed another song that they were gonna have the writers write. And I was like, why don’t I just write something? So I wrote my last song for the movie. It’s called “Let’s Be Nice and More,” which is sort of based on what’s going on in the film.
Do you have to audition for roles, or do you get offered parts? It’s a mix between the two.
Do you like to audition? I love auditioning. I’m actually one of the rare good auditioners. I don’t get nervous. I look at it like with this job, you’re not working all the time, you work like twice a year maybe. For a while, I was working like five times a year. But now I just do it two or three times a year. You just get to act here and there. When you started acting you were like, going to your teacher, going to your acting class, and you were going there two or three times a week. It was something that was a big part of your life. But as you start to make more movies and you’re not in acting class anymore, you don’t act as much. So I always think of auditioning as a time when you’re like can go and act.
As someone who’s already famous, is it strange to audition alongside unknowns? You’d be surprised. I walk in there, and there’s already every other celebrity who’s way more famous than me. I walk into auditions, and there’s Kirsten Dunst and Christina Ricci, and I’m just like “Oh okay, well I’m not getting this part.”
Are you still looking for the role that will set your career on a different path? Yeah, of course. I feel like that’s what everyone’s looking for. Everyone’s just sort of waiting for their indie movie to become like the biggest movie ever. And then they’re getting paid like ten million a movie. So that would be nice.
What was it like living on your own in New York when you were 14? You were practically on your own. It was really really boring. And I lived in a models’ apartment, and either the girls were from the Midwest or they listened to Tool, cut themselves, and didn’t talk to anyone.
A models’ apartment? Yeah, a models’ apartment. We were all 14. Or they didn’t speak English. We literally would be going to photo shoots, going to castings, and eating cheeseburgers and BLT’s, or whatever gross thing I could find. I didn’t start going until I was like 16. And then at 17 I made my record and I stopped going out. And I didn’t go out for a long time, and then I got single and I went out for like a year. And then I got into a relationship again and that was the end of it.
What places did you go to? I went to Bowery Bar. I went to Spy Bar. I went to Wax.
And they’d let a 16-year-old girl walk in? Oh yeah, totally. Sometimes it would get in the paper that I was out having fun, then Spy wouldn’t let me in, and I’d be banned for like two weeks. But then I’d sneak in with a wig.
Do you look at someone like Cory Kennedy and think, “That was me ten years ago”? I don’t know. Cory Kennedy is here all the time, she’s a very sweet girl. We do look a lot alike. It’s definitely a lot of fun, and it’s a total roller coaster, but at a certain point you get to a place where you’re like “Okay, I need to work. I need to have something of substance to show for my life. And I can’t just be going out all the time. And I came to that realization at 17. One day, I feel like people will stop asking me about that.
You don’t mind talking about your past? I don’t really mind. It’s like for a while, I wasn’t open to talking about it. But it was all people would talk about. It was like, “Oh, you went out a lot when you were young. It was on the internet, and every writer who’s going to write a story Googles me or Wikipedias me, and that’s going to be on there and that’s the first thing they ask.
Like I’m doing right now. Exactly. So it just happens because they do their research, and that’s what they find and so they talk about it.
I read somewhere that it’s affecting your career. It is to the point where people think I’m bad. So they don’t want to hire me because they think that I’ll fuck up somehow, or won’t show up to work, or I’ll be out partying all night. Which is crazy because I haven’t done that in years.
That’s Lindsay Lohan, not you. Exactly. And I’ve never been arrested, and I’ve never gone to rehab or anything.
Have you had dust-ups with former directors like Larry Clark? No, Larry and I got along really well, I loved Larry. Alright I have to go because everyone’s waving at me.
Really quickly, where do you like to go in New York? I know I’m supposed to say a bunch of my friend’s places but I really can’t think of any of them.
The Beatrice? Yeah, I go to the Beatrice sometimes. That’s fun.
What about restaurants? I love Mexicana Mama on Hudson. They have like the chicken burrito there and the habanero salsa is unbelievable. You have to go and get the chicken burrito, it’ll change your life. It’s literally unbelievable. And I love Coffee Shop still. And I love Black & White, the bar.