Minnie Driver says she doesn't care whether people refer to her as 'actor’ or ‘actress’ - she’ll just power through either way. Minnie was responding to Ryan Tubridy’s careful choice of words in their recent interview about her memoir, Managing Expectations:
"You can call me Bob if you want. I’m going to do me, no matter what you call me."
The multi-award-winning movie star, podcaster and writer spoke about being misunderstood as a child, the writers who ‘raised’ her, getting to know her parents late in life, why mistakes are important and her difficult encounter with Harvey Weinstein.
Speaking about career and personal challenges, Minnie says she tries to acknowledge problems when they arise, but still find a way to emerge with her head held high:
"When obstacles are put in your way, it’s not that I had a feeling that this is unfair or this is unequal, it was really, well, how am I going to continue to triumph? How am I going to triumph anyway?"
One obstacle she triumphed over was being described in a deeply degrading way by the producer Harvey Weinstein during the casting for the 1997 film Good Will Hunting. Minnie says she was initially very excited about the audition:
"When I auditioned for Good Will Hunting it was a powerful, amazing moment. I think auditions are extremely powerful; I was as much auditioning them as they were auditioning me, and we had this great, dramatic conversation with the director and the actors and it was amazing."
Minnie says she was happy with how things had been going until Harvey Weinstein announced that he didn’t want her in the movie. The reason given by the executive producer was his personal assessment of her worth as a sex object. Minnie and Ryan had a back and forth about what phrase Harvey Weinstein actually used and they agreed the word would be beeped out later; and so Minnie continued:
"Harvey Weinstein said that he wasn’t going to hire me for this movie because I was [beeped out] in his words, and he was very open about this. And he said this to the casting director and to my agent and ultimately to me."
To be publicly humiliated in front of potential colleagues by such a powerful producer at the age of 26 stayed with her, Minnie says:
"To have this powerful man bring this word down on my head, on my body, on myself, was terrible. It was terrible and it was something that I would sort of negotiate with in my head for a really long time afterwards."
Even as she was reeling from shock and distaste, Minnie was already considering her options for making the best of the situation. She says she had enjoyed the audition process up to that point, and she decided that Harvey Weinstein’s de-humanizing language wasn’t going to take that away from her:
"There was weirdly part of me that was like, well if that was it and I’m going to be cancelled for nobody wanting to, and I’m gonna swear again, to **** me, then so be it. In a way I was weirdly OK with living in that world because that was nothing to do with me. That was everything to do with a male gaze, a male perception. Even at 26, I knew that that was not where any kind of evolution that I was interested in lay."
In the end, the artistic team fought for her and stood up for her against Weinstein. She went on to star in the movie:
"It took men standing up, it took the writers and the actors and the director and the actual man who produced the film to stand up and say ‘No, this is the person that we want.’"
Ryan wanted to know where the mental strength came from, for that inner resistance? In response, Minnie reeled off a list of powerful female writers:
"It came from the books that I read. It came from having read Angela Carter and Jane Austen and George Eliot. It came from Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison and Jeanette Winterson. It came from the women I had grown up with, in my heart and my soul."
She says that her school had a brilliant library and books had always been a source of comfort when she was younger, especially when the adults in her life didn’t get her. Minnie says her parents were emotionally shut down, particularly her father, for reasons she only understood years later. Driver describes herself as an emotionally expressive child in a family that didn’t always welcome public emotions:
"I was difficult to handle; not because I was difficult to handle; but because they couldn’t handle who I was. It’s so long been presented that I was a difficult child: I don’t think I was difficult - I think they were difficult."
Minnie speaks very movingly about getting know her parents late in life, understanding more about how their choices affected them and ultimately hers. She talks how about intolerance of mistakes in society may be preventing us from learning and evolving as we should; indeed she says that making mistakes is the foundation of her life and her book:
"That is what my book is about, how mistakes turn into your life – they are your life."
Driver also chats to Ryan about her love of laughter and of nature and about feeling instantly at home in Ireland ever since filming Circle of Friends and Ryan’s appearance in the movie as an extra in the full interview, which you can listen to here.
Minnie Driver’s memoir Managing Expectations is published by Bonnier Books UK and is out now.