Cursing the heavens Monday, The Observer spent the day sitting inside, watching from our window as the urban dwellers below suffered the unwanted ablutions of a peripatetic summer storm.
What to do on such a waterlogged evening? We brainstormed two rainy-day pursuits and resolved to both before the day was through. A movie and a museum, it was to be, though not in traditional fashion.
First, we traipsed to the Lower East Side for the premiere of Red Lights, a new psychological, paranormal thriller starring a clairvoyant
Robert De Niro, Cillian Murphy and Sigourney Weaver—who was to become a theme of our outing. As haphazard cloudbursts continued to dampen spirits and sidewalks outside, we spoke with the assembled moviegoers.
Rodrigo Cortes, who wrote and directed the movie, has not personally experienced the paranormal. “I’m afraid my life is exemplary boring. I’ve never lived any of those things,” he explained. “I’m interested them as background, especially as the way they affect people’s psychologies and beliefs.”
Neither is Mr. Murphy a great believer in the supernatural. “I’m definitely a skeptic, you know, but I’m not a cynic. I’m curious, but I’ve never seen anything that I can’t really explain,” he said.
Evidently, he had not yet seen Ezra Miller, who inexplicably entered the theater with a plastic toad in his breast pocket, an antler protruding from his pants and a book of Aristotle’s poetry.
He offered the following as an explanation: “You know, the first imperialist Western white people in the Americas, we killed all the fur animals. We killed like wolves, foxes, coyotes. So now, things like deer and elk and bucks, they have no natural predators,” he said. “So, sometimes a vegetarian will be like, ‘You shouldn’t’ hunt,’ or ‘ You shouldn’t kill,’ but its actually like, I think, it’s kind of moral to kill a deer or to kill one of these frogs,” he said, pointing to his anuran companion. The toad is an invasive species wreaking havoc on Australian wildlife, we soon learned.
Mr. Miller went on to express his sympathy for Aristotelian economic philosophy. “Aristotle opposed central banking. And he’s one of the main people like Julius Caesar, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Madison, who thought that the worst thing that could possibly happen in a republic, a democracy, a plutocracy, anything, was there would become like an issue of a ruling central bank, which is of course now the Federal Reserve.”
Hannah Bronfman, however, was much less loquacious. Has she ever had a paranormal experience? “I have not,” she replied. Is she afraid of the paranormal? “No.” Does she believe in the supernatural? “Possibly.”
Having enjoyed the film, and a massive bag of popcorn, we headed to the second stop on our rainy-day docket, the tropically humid Morgan Library and Museum.
Ms. Weaver, who hadn’t been at the Red Lights event, deigned to stop by this premiere—for her new USA television series, Political Animals, in which she plays a power-brokering, ambitious U.S. secretary of state who was married to a popular, philandering southern president. (In the fictional version, the Clintons—we mean the Hammonds!—are divorced.)
However, she shied away from the press, weaving her way past reporters on the red carpet and at the afterparty for the series, during which she sat on a couch, protected like a rare artifact by maroon-suited Morgan Library guards.
Linda Powell, who plays the national security advisor on Political Animals, said that her father had offered his services on interpreting the role. Dads always want to get involved, but especially when they’re former Secretary of State Colin Powell. “He was like, ‘I was also national security advisor.’ Like I’ve forgotten! I was like, ‘I know!’”
Ms. Powell called her father “my biggest fan,” though he was not as supportive of her research methods. “I read Condoleezza Rice’s book, which I don’t think sat so well with him.” We chuckled as Ms. Powell then walked back any insinuation of intra-Bush administration rivalries. “I didn’t go to my personal source!” she explained.
Willie Garson, longtime Carrie Bradshaw-confidante on Sex and the City and current star of USA’s White Collar, reached across the red carpet to adjust our collar. “You’re a frickin’ mess,” he muttered, tugging at our rain-dappled ensemble. So much for our notion that we’d dressed up for the evening!
Did Mr. Garson consider himself a fashionisto? “I never was! And then I became this weird sort of fashion icon. I was wearing $80,000 worth of clothing every time I walked out the door. And now I know every designer on the planet!”
Who is his favorite designer? He leaned in confidentially. “Actually,” he whispered, “I wear the most of Hugo Boss.” He used the same tone to tell us his favorite power-bitch in politics: “Other than that she plays for the wrong team, I love Mary Matalin.”
Political Animals costar Ellen Burstyn explained the series’ relevance to the current election. “I think it shows the way the controlled face of politics affects the authenticity of people—the price you pay for having to hide your true self,” she expounded.
It was hard to escape the notion that she, like everyone, was really talking about Hillary Clinton. We asked Chris McCumber, co-president of USA, whether Elaine Barrish Hammond, Ms. Weaver’s character, had been based upon Hillary Clinton. “How could she be?” he replied. “She’s a secretary of state who was married to a two-time president with a problem with philandering but a world profile—she’s not like anyone we’ve ever met!”
Of course, we wanted to ask Ms. Weaver the Hillary question, but she was posing, silently, away from our recorder, with the two actors who play her sons—looking at once content, unruffled by the weather and more powerful than anyone in the room she surveyed.